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Google’s Matt Cutts recently posted a new video where he addresses—in a roundabout way—a notorious SEO incident involving UK company Interflora. Back in February, the popular flower website suddenly dropped off the rankings for key terms like “flowers” and “flower delivery.” Most damaging was that Interflora no longer ranked for its own name.
Based on the severity of the penalty, SEOs at the time speculated that Google was penalizing Interflora for link-buying. But amazingly, Interflora was back on track just 11 days after Google hit it. That kind of recovery is almost unheard of, especially for large companies. For example, J.C. Penney got penalized for three months after being caught buying links. And Google even punished its own Chrome browser for 60 days for a paid blog post campaign violated the company’s guidelines.
How Interflora Got its Groove Back
So how did Interflora turn into the comeback kid? Well, Cutts won’t answer directly. In the video he explains, “We typically don’t call out specific companies very often.” You know, except for that one mid-range department store and that browser… Who makes that, again?
However, Cutts goes on to outline a scenario that looks pretty similar to Interflora’s. “It would be interesting if, for example,”—he says, totally hypothetically—“If a company were to go back and disavow every single link that they had gotten… That’s a pretty monumentally epic action.” The kind of action, Cutts implies, that gets your reconsideration request noticed.
And although he presents the same caution here, saying, “I wouldn’t necessarily recommend going the route of [disavowing] everything for last year or everything for the last year in a half,” that warning is followed by a crucial “but”: “But that’s the sort of large-scale action, if taken, can have an impact whenever we’re assessing a domain within a reconsideration request.”
Convincing Google You’ve Gone Clean
It appears that Google, like 19th century Romantics, prefers grand gestures. If you’re in the rankings dog-house, the fastest way out is to throw out the baby, the bathwater, and probably the tub. You might also consider moving, growing a moustache, and changing your name.
Speed really is the most important factor here. If you’ve received a manual warning from Google and it’s not hurting too bad, you might not want to employ the kind of scorched earth campaign Cutts is outlining. After all, you’re likely to lose plenty of good links along with the bad. Better to disavow piecemeal by targeting the “low-hanging fruit” of obviously bad links. When you hit the threshold Google has in mind, you’ll be back in their good graces. It just might take a while.
But if your poor rankings are hurting your bottom line and you desperately need to recover, mass-disavowal is certainly the quickest route to having your reconsideration request approved. And if you have been acquiring black-hat links, the fresh start might even be good for you, especially as Google continues to tweak and improve its algorithm.
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