In Order to FIX a Google Penalty, You Have to FIRST Know WHY You Got Hit?
So today I want to talk about Google penalties.. I think we can all agree that they suck. They can stop your website traffic instantly. They can make all sales disappear overnight. But.. they are a REALITY and you always run a risk of getting hit with a penalty if you are doing ANY kind of SEO. Black, white, gray, etc. There isn’t any form of SEO that is safe, no matter what the bullshit artists tell you.
Using some SEO methods means it’s just a matter of WHEN you get slapped, not IF you get slapped. A bitch slap from Google can mean your website falls from the top way past the top 300 positions that the most thorough rank checkers search out. We all know that being off the first page is a death sentence, so there really isn’t a difference being slapped to #50 or #500. Either way you lose traffic and that means less monies.Now, not ALL penalties are caused by sloppy SEO. What if someone decides to attack your website with negative SEO? (and YES.. negative SEO works and will always work!)
It doesn’t matter how you got the penalty.. once you get nailed your online business is FUCKED and the sooner you can bounce back the better chance your business has of surviving. Someone doing IM as a hobby or part time source of income will feel the sting a bit less than a huge e-commerce retail giant that receives 95% of its traffic from the organic results. Imagine if Amazon got hit today and their site was penalized and removed from the Google search results? They would lose millions of dollar by the minute. It could literally ruin their business.
How do I know if I have been hit?
The most obvious indicator is a sudden drop in traffic. While sometimes it can be due to a new data refresh or a pending rollout, a sudden loss of traffic is a good indicator that Google just slapped your site. You can also do a quick “site:www.yoursite.com” search to see what that returns. If it is zero results that means Google has completely de-indexed your website, removing it entirely from their search results.
There are TWO types of penalties that Google can nail your site with..
Those damn Pandas, Penguins and Hummingbirds really know how to ruin a good thing. There are two decent online resources to help you determine the likelihood that you got nailed with an algo penalty. The first is the Moz algo change history:
The SEO “content is king” crew keeps this updated with official news and even some updates that Google didn’t officially confirm. There are so many SEO blogs, forums and hubs online that news of a penalty spreads quickly. As soon as it is certain this will be updated.
Then there is this tool:
This penalty indicator is from a friend of mine Thomas Smale’s company.. you may remember I’ve mentioned this tool before in past threads. If you enter in your URL it will compare organic traffic data from SEMrush against confirmed penalty dates. If you see a traffic drop when a known penalty was released you get a good indication of what the problem could be. Take the SEMrush data lightly. I would suggest comparing your actual Google Analytics traffic to the penalty dates to get a true picture.
Know all the sales threads in forum market places that offer PBN links? You know, PUBLIC BLOG NETWORKS…
Well, if you are buying them you are basically pulling your pants down and asking Google to come fuck you.. Right in the ass.. No lube.. Raw.. They won’t even buy you dinner first! Google used to go after known networks publicly and make a big scene. They even went after some networks on forums in the past. If you don’t think they are snooping around here every week looking for ways to find sites to nail, you are crazy. They are 100%.
If you notice your traffic comes to a stop then log into Google Webmaster Tools and see if there is a nice love letter from Google telling you that they handed down a penalty. Sometimes it can take a few days for a message to show up in GWT, so if you don’t see one right away don’t think you are in the clear just yet.
Google assigns a time to each penalty, but they won’t tell you. It could be 90 days.. it could be 2 years.. heck, it could be 10 years. You never know and you will never find out.
The good thing is that most penalties can be corrected or removed, as long as you clean up your act and beg Google for forgiveness (I’m not even joking about that part.. more on that later down below).
Use Common Sense: What Caused The Penalty?
OK, nothing bothers me more than when someone says, “But why did I get a penalty? I was using white hat SEO!” Yeah, that so called white hat service used crap content, crappy PBN links and pure crap. Nothing is safe from a penalty, and the sooner you pull your head out of your ass and understand this the quicker you can start to dig yourself out of the sandbox.
Common causes of a penalty…
SPAM ATTACK: I’ve seen so many local sites get nailed by a few Fiverr gigs. It’s sad, but if a site doesn’t have a lot of authority to begin with a couple blasts can royally fuck it up. Exact match anchor of the main keyword can trigger a penalty. Some negative SEO attacks will actually move a site up but then it will eventually be handed a penalty. You could blast authority sites all day and they won’t budge. The little guy gets screwed all the time when dealing with negative attacks. A quick ahrefs scan can identify this disaster.
CRAPPY CONTENT: Don’t throw cheap content up. Don’t fall for the “hand written” line of BS. Content needs to be real. Written by someone with a brain that is also going to format it for the reader. Don’t you think Google is smart enough to be able to differentiate between blocks of useless text that are just thrown there to act as “content” and real content that is formatted, has bullets, headings, etc.? Yes.. they are. I know many people successfully scrape by with crap content but I like to sleep at night knowing I’m not going to get roasted for something so easily avoided. I have a simple rule: only post content that you would be 100% fine with a Google employee reading. Simple.
PANDA: This has to do with low trust sites. Google assumes that a site with little to no content is not a site that is going to provide useful information to their users. They are right. This penalty also dives more into overall content. Low quality content, and duplicate content can also trigger the Panda to come out of hiding and ruin your day.
PENGUIN: This is set to identify link building that is trying to game the system. Thousands of links built in a day and then nothing for some time is a major indicator that something “unnatural” is happening. Another thing people forget about is diversity. If you only use sidebar and footer links don’t you think that looks suspicious? Or all SAPE links? When we take on new SpeedRank clients we always tell them to mix in a bunch of different link types to make the link profile spread out. Too much of one thing looks suspect and will stick out like a sore thumb!
Fix The Problems That Caused The Penalty
Once you know what caused the penalty you have to roll up your sleeves and get to work. There is no easy way around it. You have two options.. you can pay an SEO agency between $5,000 and $10,000 to try to remove the penalty or you can get very organized and try to clean it up and submit a reconsider request. I’m assuming you don’t want to drop ten grand (if you do you know where I am )..
If you have crappy content..
We all hear “500 words” as the magic content length. Do you know how easy it is to spot a shitty low quality blog? Just look at their posts.. if every one of them is 500 words you can bet that site will eventually get nailed. It creates such a footprint that so many people fail to realize.
You can delete all the content and start over fresh or you can re-write it and add to it. Make it longer, add videos, outbound reference links, video, graphics, etc. You know, make it GOOD
If Penguin uncovered your link Schemes..
You need to do two things before the next refresh (this algo update automatically refreshes so make gains before the next refresh to hopefully see your site bounce back up) and that is remove the really bad links and build more high quality links. If you simply just start deleting links that’s admitting to Google, “Yup, you caught me.. I was trying to game the system.. but I deleted them so we are good now!” If you have some really toxic links remove them but I would focus on buying solid links. This is the instance where Huffington Post type links will really help.
If Panda slapped you silly..
See the suggestion in the crappy content solution above. Panda automatically refreshes so you will need to pay attention and see if you move back up after the latest data refresh. Clean up your content from all angles and also take time to make sure your on-site SEO is perfect. Some spam sites don’t even pay attention to things like alt-image tags for images or non spammy titles.. go the extra mile to make sure it’s not spammy and done correctly. This matched with good content can get you back up.
If you received the dreaded unnatural links message..
This is common. It happens to the best of us.. instead of rehashing info go check out this post I did in the past:
#10 on the list explains how to gather all of your link profile data. You have to clean it up. Manual outreach is key. The last thing you want to do is just upload all the links into a disavow file. I’ve seen a lot of reconsider request honored and I have also seen a lot of them get denied. I have enough first hand experience to stress the importance of trying to delete as many bad links manually first.. before even attempting to upload a disavow file. I will only use that option if I have to delete hundreds or thousands of links form the same domain. In this case, in my reconsideration request I will note that it was a spam attack.
Ask (BEG) For Forgiveness
It is important to assume that you only have ONE shot at a reconsideration request. Do not even think about submitting one unless you have fixed all of the problems 100%. Google will only remove penalties if there is an obvious change. Think of how many requests they receive daily. Thousands every hour. 24/7. Most of them are shit. Most of them are ignored. Most receive a “we aren’t removing fuck all” reply.
During your clean up effort it is important that you document EVERYTHING. If you attempt to clean up your link profile make notes of what links you had removed, what webmasters you attempted to contact to remove a bad link.. including the dates you reached out and the means of contact. Then, when you say, “OK, we got XX,XXXX links deleted, which are highlighted in yellow on the attached spreadsheet.. the ones highlighted in blue were contacted but we never received a response from, so we included them in a disavow file which was uploaded on X/X/XX.”
You also have to explain WHY you got the penalty. NEVER admit that YOU did the SEO. In fact, never even admit that you know what SEO is. Want to know what approach I have seen get the best penalty removal rate? The “We hired this marketing company that said they would do some SEO and that it would make our website better samuel massey. We have since fired them as it just got us into this mess. We will not be hiring any of these types of companies in the future as this is not something we want to ever deal with again.” This is admitting you fucked up without taking full blame.
Penalties suck balls, but they are part of SEO. If you get hit, quickly figure out what kind of penalty it was and start working on cleaning it up right away. If you do it correctly, you can have the penalty lifted.. sometimes
That’s it for now guys. As always I hope you enjoyed the read. Any questions or feedback I’m sure you know the drill by now – fire away! Until next time..