Your website was receiving a lot of traffic then suddenly – it stopped. You have no idea why. You login and observe your analytics and realize that many of your other websites are experiencing the same exact treatment.
This is not temporary – it is a permanent state known as the Google Manual penalty. The great news is this: There is a way to revive your website’s traffic and return it to its former self.
You will have to pivot your approach, dump all gimmicky black hat SEO tactics, and embrace the following techniques.
Did I Experience a Manual or Algorithmic Penalty?
Before you go about doing anything, you need to know which penalty you have experienced:
• Algorithmic – If you experience this type of penalty, the symptom of such is a drop in traffic because of Google algorithm changes. You will not have to submit a reconsideration submission; however, you still want to apply the steps used in the following guide.
• Manual – Someone from the big Google themselves has actually went over and analyzed your website + the linking scheme associated with it. The length of your website being banned usually depends on the severity of the rules broken according to Google’s quality guidelines.
PS – Keep in mind that it is very possible to experience both. In fact when webmasters are hit with the manual penalty, they may see algorithmic changes as well.
Why Did My Website Get Penalized?
Before you act, it is highly recommended that you discover exactly reason why Google has penalized your website. Here are some of the following reasons:
• Paid Links – Anytime you pay for someone to link to your website, you are putting your long-term traffic at risk. Google has a way of seeing if specific websites are accepting payments for links out and if your website is receiving “backlink juice” from the respective website – you may experience penalties.
• Link Exchanges – There are many complex link exchange programs in which webmasters go onto a message board or community and exchange links. These types of schemes are easy for the Google algorithm to target and can lead to lower traffic and penalties in the future.
• Automated Link Building Methods – Using blackhat tools that provide mass blog commenting, web 2.0 spamming (posting spun content on websites like Squidoo or Hubpages and linking back to your website), spam blogging tools, or even a human back linking service that uses black hat methods can be fatal for your website. The reason why these tools are spotted in the long run is because they are characterized by viral link growth with a sudden, unnatural “stop”.
• Scraped Content – If you have a scraper website that simply takes unique content from other websites and posts it on your website as excerpts or spun content, it will be violating Google’s quality guidelines.
• Hidden Text or Links – If your website has text or links that are hidden from search engines, this could mean penalties in the future.
• Overloading Affiliate Links – Affiliate links are not bad at all. If you have high quality content and link to a product that compliments the content and further adds value to the visitor’s experience – you are performing a duty. However, when the sole purpose of your website is to simply get people to click on affiliate links – your website will be penalized.
• Cloaking – This is one of the most serious violations that one can commit because it can lead to ultimate low quality results. The google web crawlers will search the website and will think the website is about “A”; however, when the visitor gets there, they will see “B”. Matt Cutts uses a very specific example of this when he explains that some users are searching for Cartoons or Disney – and Google brings up these results; however, when the visitor gets to the website – the content is mature in nature, like pornography or violence for instance. Cloaking is not as prevalent today; however there are still violators.
It is best to go check the Google Webmaster Guidelines and see why your recent website may have experienced a penalty.
What Steps Should I Take?
If you think your website has been penalized, here are some of the steps that you should take:
- Go to Google Webmaster tools.
Add your site & verify.
Navigate to Search Traffic > Manual Actions
Here you will receive a message indicating if you have received a manual penalty
I Checked and I Have a Manual Penalty, Now What?
If you are sure that you have a manual penalty take the following steps:
- Download all the data from the Google Web Master Account.
Use other tools to further analyze your backlinks
Gather the reports of any person you may have paid to build links for you.
Look for common patterns that might lead to spamming indications (same anchor text, duplicate content, same website links – different page)
You may find the following steps to be tedious. Taking down links can be just as hard as putting them up. The great news is this: you have the option of repairing or simply starting a new. If you want to stay with your current website, it is recommended that you try using paid link analytic tools such as: Link Detox, Link Risk, Linkquidator, or Remove’em to see what low quality links you may have.
What Low Quality Links Do You Have?
Here are some of the links that will want to be aware of:
• Link directories
• Spammed forum profile links
• Non-indexed links
• Spammy blog posts
• Links that are part of a network scheme
• Social bookmark spam
• Low quality content website (even if the website has a high page rank)
If you find these types of links you should remove them as soon as possible.
Use the Disavow Tool to Your Advantage
Google’s disavow tool is extremely powerful when trying to counter spammy links. We do not recommend using this tool without professional assistance or knowledge as it can dramatically hurt the future traffic of your website. Here are some three things to avoid doing:
- Do not accidently upload your “good” links, because the tool will disavow them.
Disavow entire domains, not individual web pages.
Make sure that the links are properly formatted.
Also, if you want to further remove some links, you can also go about reaching out to other webmasters who may be actively linking to your website. You can find out who is linking to you by using a WhoIS database look up tool and searching for that owner’s contact information.
Submit Your Reconsideration Request
If you have experienced a manual penalty and you have successfully completed the previous steps – it may be due for reconsideration request. You want to include as much detail as possible about
• Link building operations you have performed in the past
• Changes that you have performed
• Your white hat link building strategy of the future
After you have sent the request, it may be a little while until you hear a response – Google is always receiving and reviewing submissions. When you do finally receive your first response, keep these things in mind:
• First requests are rarely approved.
• If approved, do not expect your results to be instantaneous.
• If declined, ask for specific examples of what they are expecting in the future.
You may have to follow these steps multiple times as the key is persistence. It is very important to determine whether your not your website is worth the effort. Many webmasters never get their websites successfully reconsidered because they find this challenge as a pain. However there are companies who offer a penalty recovery service.
Instead, look at this experience as an opportunity to pivot. The challenge should be embraced more so than anything because you are on your way to deliver high quality results. Both you and your website will be much better with this experience.