How did the Search Engines’ webmasters manage the “unnatural links” ?

For years, Google’s webmaster guidelines have noted that attempts to manipulate Google’s algorithms with artificial external link profiles.. paid links, link schemes & the like, are violations and that Google may take action by removing the site from the index or lowering its site ranking.┬áThis year, Google starting alerting site owners with “unnatural links”, recommending that they remove them. Google also launched a new algorithm called Penguin, aimed at flagging sites that attempt to manipulate Google’s guidelines with spam techniques such as artificial link profiles.

One of the recommendations Google has given for recovering from Penguin is to have spammy links removed, but what if that’s not possible? Some in the SEO community are worried about negative SEO. If spammy links pointing at your site can hurt you, then can’t competitors just buy a bunch of them & point them at your site? However.. Google says they work hard to prevent this.

The idea of “disavowing links” links has been discussed for years, but Google’s recent focus on links has put it in the spotlight. At SMX Advanced, Google’s Matt Cutts said that "disavowing links" was something that had been asked for a lot that they were thinking of making available in the coming months.

Recently on 27th June 2012.. Bing (MSN) has implemented a new feature called “Disavowing Links” in their webmaster tools.

disavowing links

This is another clear indicator that Bing is desperately trying to appeal to the SEO community (hopefully to steal important market share away from Google), & kudos to them for beating Google to the punch. However, numerous questions are still unanswered.

Now that webmasters are allowed to disavow links, does that mean the quality of their link profiles will receive even more scrutiny? As many in the community have argued, search engines should simply devalue “bad links” (as opposed to penalizing for them). But now that webmasters can explicitly disavow those links, does that mean search engines will expect webmasters to diligently police their link profiles?

Also, many people have openly wondered how easily this new functionality can be gamed. If search engines use disavowed links as a spam signal, what protections are in place to prevent spammers from disavowing legitimate links? One would hope that search engines are intelligent enough to verify the existence of links before they are allowed to be disavowed, but at this point, we obviously don’t know for sure.