Marketers can't afford to wait until Google notices bad SEO. They need to take corrective action as soon as they notice anything spammy.

If a brand’s SEO is broken, it’s a marketer’s responsibility to make sure it’s fixed quickly. That was the takeaway from the latest Google Webmaster Help Channel video, in which Search Engineer Matt Cutts said it’s best to take action against black-hat SEO as soon it’s seen. Specifically, Cutts was addressing a question about whether webmasters should use the disavow tool to remove spam links before the site is subject to algorithmic or manual penalties.

The disavow feature is available in Google’s Webmaster Tools as a way to manually break links that come from sites with low domain authority or that might be considered spam. 

This guidance may clear up confusion about Google’s position on use of the disavow tool. Once recommended for last-ditch SEO efforts only, the search engine has since loosened its directions about when and why it’s appropriate to disavow links.

Brafton previously covered an update from Google, in which Cutts said the disavow tool should be reserved as a backup for link removal, after first contacting the domain responsible for questionable reference. If those sites did not respond or refused to remove harmful links, webmasters could then disavow the links themselves. Now, the search engine seems to be taking a more liberal stance on disavowing links.

“If you’re at all worried about someone trying to do negative SEO or it looks like there’s some weird bot that’s building up a bunch of links to your site and you have no idea where they came from, that’s the perfect time to use disavow,” said Cutts. “I wouldn’t worry about going ahead and disavowing links even if you don’t have a message in your webmaster console.”

On a surface level, this advice speaks directly to link removal best practices, but marketers should take a step back and see how this speaks to SEO at large. If webmasters notice something fishy about their sites, they can’t wait for Google to take notice and punish their search performance. They must take action independently, before penalties are issued, to rise in SERPs and fuel results.

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.