Getting in trouble as a kid was so much easier. You’d get a slap on the wrist or have to sit in the corner for what seemed like eternity (i.e. five minutes). As mean as your parents might have been, I promise that Google is a much stricter parent and much harsher punisher. I’d promise to eat vegetables with every meal for a year if it meant that I could prevent the Google ranking penalties for the clients that come to us with penalty recovery requests. With Google’s punishments come potential for loss of indexing, traffic, leads, sales, reputation, and more.
When a client comes to us at Blue Corona trying to lift a penalty from Google, it usually means that their company, or an unethical SEO company working on their behalf, has participated in “black hat SEO” in attempt to manipulate rankings. Because of keyword stuffing, link farms, low quality link building, cloaking, duplicate content, and other unethical SEO tactics, a company may find they have been penalized by the search giant through:
A drop in organic rankings
An unfound site when “site:examplecompany.com” is searched on Google
A decrease in organic search traffic or leads
An alert message in Google Webmaster Tools declaring a penalty
If you’re monitoring and can actually translate your Google Webmaster Tools messages, that last bullet point (an alert from Google) is almost a beacon of light for SEO professionals. No, it’s not masochistically inspiring that Google has penalized the site, but it’s hopeful that Google has provided what exactly the site is penalized for and usually has given some examples.
With that key piece of information, it’s time for you to begin your journey of a successful reconsideration request. Let’s begin.
Step One: Don’t Write that Reconsideration Request (Yet)
“But, Hannah, you just promised successful guidelines in submitting reconsideration requests to Google…” you may say. Well, if you want to be successful in earning back rankings and indexing on the search engine, put your pencils wireless keyboard away. The first thing you need to do is clean up your website.
That might mean:
Removing all low quality backlinks
Condensing pages of duplicate content down to one, quality version
Remove on-site links that pass Page Rank unnaturally
Lucky for you, or your expert SEO campaign manager like myself, Google has told you what flagged a penalty and you should know exactly what needs fixing. There’s no get-out-of-jail-free card or batting your puppy eyes at Google to get out of penalties—you have to fix your SEO mistakes.
Step Two: Tattle & Brag to Google
While my German babysitter Heike would have sat me back in the time-out for tattling on Sean for stealing an extra handful of marshmallows, Google is okay with tattling. If an unethical SEO company used tactics that resulted in this penalty, let it be known.
Remember, with manual penalties, a real human is most likely reading your reconsideration request, so be candid and honest. Showing that someone else went against the quality guidelines and now you both understand and have fixed those errors shows Google that you’re ready to take the reins toward white hat SEO.
With your newfound white hat tactics, brag to Google about all that you‘ve done. Think of it as trying to get back on your parents’ good side by telling them how well you cleaned up your room and toy shelf. Be sure to include screenshots, sample emails, tracked link removal requests, webmaster contact information, copies of all improvements, and more.
Step Three: Give a Good Faith Assurance
The more you show Google, the more they know that you put in a good faith and ethical effort to fix the original problem and that you’re on the right track to managing your website within their guidelines now.
Since Google is such a search engine powerhouse, they call the shots. Don’t think they won’t give you another penalty or fail to remove the current penalty if they don’t truly believe that you’ve removed all your unnatural links or completely cleaned up your site. With my parents, I always knew that I really would still get Christmas present, despite the threats. Google doesn’t play that nice. Appease them.
Step Four: Submitting Your Reconsideration Request
Okay, so you’ve followed the previous three steps and are ready to earn back your spot on Google’s search results. Let’s review quickly to make sure you included everything in your reconsideration request. Did you:
List exactly how your site violated the quality guidelines?
Explain how these violations were made?
Explain who is responsible for this penalty?
Describe (in detail) what you have done to remove the violations (including example emails, screenshots, Google Docs tracking your efforts, etc.)?
Provide Google with a detailed list of all contact with webmasters?
Already use the Disavow Links tool?
Give Google good faith assurance and reasoning that this will not happen again?
Describe your plans for continuing to follow Google’s webmaster guidelines?
Actually ask for a reconsideration request?
After getting through that list, you may be doing one of three things: (1) thanking my boss Ben for allowing us to publish such expert advice for free on our website, (2) giving up and moving to someplace where they don’t have internet or manual penalties, or (3) picking up your phone to call Blue Corona at 301-591-9397—because we’re clearly experienced in removing ranking penalties and writing reconsideration requests. We can provide Google penalty recovery services in addition to all your SEO needs. Contact us today!
About The Author: Hannah is the SEO Team Lead at Blue Corona. If she's not busy daydreaming about the training session for her team, you can find her improving client conversion rates and planning her next trip.
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