As you know, I have helped numerous businesses and site owners respond to Google’s manual link penalties. And get those manual link penalties removed or revoked by Google. Every site is unique, every website has different links pointing to them, and some have more bad links than others. And not all sites have received manual link penalty messages from Google.
The first thing you must realize is that when your website traffic from organic search has gone down, you don’t necessarily have to file a reconsideration request with Google. I only recommend filing a formal reconsideration request if you have received a manual warning or penalty from Google. After all, Google receives over 5,000 reconsideration requests a week, and there’s no reason to bother them if you haven’t received a message.
If you have received a manual link penalty from Google, then you need to take it seriously: and respond to them with a Reconsideration Request. Only respond with a reconsideration request, though, after you have done everything you can to comply with Google’s webmaster guidelines, and made a valiant effort to remove the bad links pointing to your site.
I recently stumbled across a reconsideration request from a website owner. I have no affiliation with the site owner or the site itself. But, after reviewing this reconsideration request, I think the site owner did a great job, and did everything right. I unfortunately don’t know the outcome of this reconsideration request, but I suspect that once I publish this post the site owner most likely will let us all know if the reconsideration request worked or not.
Here’s the process that this site owner went through:
– Identified the links to their site
– Identified the bad links
– Contacted Site Owners in an attempt to get the links removed
– Documented everything in a Google spreadsheet
– Submitted the reconsideration request from Google.
Let’s take a look at this Google Reconsideration Request. The text from the letter to Google is below. It outlines everything that I would generally do in order to respond to Google and “request” to be re-included in the Google search index (or, in the case of a penalty, request that the penalty be lifted).
Dear Google Webmaster Team,
I have expended a great deal of effort to detect any links to http://www.XXXXXXX .com.au/ that might be considered inorganic and get them removed, and I pray that we have made sufficient progress toward satisfying Google’s desire to remove links that could lessen the quality of its search results, in order to get our penalty lifted.
When our site was first penalised, we sought to identify all the links that were of questionable origin or relevancy and began the laborious process of requesting their removal. We identified approximately 800 urls and began reaching out to webmasters on all those sites, requesting removal of multiple links.
All of the ‘un-removed’ links have been contacted at least three times, without having received a response of any kind. I have reported these URLS to the Google Spam Team, in accordance with the advice given by Google’s Webmaster Central Blog, here:
In addition to contacting webmasters of the subject sites via email addresses acquired from WhoIs records or via their sites, we also purchased four premium link removal tools/services:
Although these four offered very little benefit, with our own independent efforts and by our calculations, we have been able to reduce the offending link-count by approx. 85% (but only Google knows for sure), and if the spam reports are effective, the last 15% will then be eradicated, as well.
As you can see on the Google Docs spreadsheet below, we’ve made tremendous progress (spreadsheet may not be 100% up to date as links are being removed without confirmation from webmasters):
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=XXXXXXX#gid=0 (some of the links in this spreadsheet which are currently marked as ‘Webmaster ignored my requests’ may actually be removed, as many webmaster are removing links without notifying me).
As recently as 10-2-12, we are still receiving an occasional response, even after several weeks of waiting. Some of those that have responded have been cooperative, while others have declined to take any action on our behalf.
Only four have required that we pay to have the link removed. We considered the amount requested to be very reasonable, and paid the charge. The links were removed accordingly. If only they were all this easy!
The bottom line is, we have taken all possible steps to remove all the offending links, and in the process, we have probably lost many legitimate links, as well, by erring on the side of caution.
My family and I have now suffered many months of severe economic hardship as a result, and even if this penalty is lifted today, I don’t know if the damage can be undone.
As is often the case, even a disaster can offer some positive effects, however. As a result of digging deeply into our site, we found a number of on-page issues that deserved attention and implemented a number of changes:
1. Duplicate content issues resolved
2. Reduced number of internal links per page (category and state)
3. Improved page speed
4. Improved navigation
5. Optimized Meta tags and titles making them more natural
6. Added ‘if modified since’ to help Google crawl
7. Removed articles which were competing with each other and improved overall content.
8. Added a high quality ‘Business Wiki’ about Business in Australia:
New Pages: http://www.XXXXXXX.com.au/business-wiki
9. Created friendlier category and state urls. Example:
Old: http://www.XXXXXXX .au/buy_sell_business_search/127/Cafes/australia/0.php New: http://www.XXXXXXX .au/business-listings/cafe
10. Created a 410 page for all old, non-existent urls and invalid urls
11. RDFa rich snippets could have triggered spam filters, so I removed those from here http://www.XXXXXXX .au/business-articles/
12. I added the following code to my category pages for pagination issues (examples):
13. (added on the 24th September 2012) After many unsuccessful attemps to remove the inorganic links pointing to the following urls, I was left with no other choice but to point them to a 410 page: www.XXXXXXX .au/sellabusiness.php, www.XXXXXXX .au/buyabusiness.php an www.business-trader.com.au/smallbusinessloans.php . These urls have now been replaced with new urls which can be found at:
As of 10-9-12, a check for crawl errors on GWT yielded this result:
0 URL Errors
0 Server error
0 Access denied
0 Not followed
0 Soft 404
0 Not found
Also, for HTML Improvements we received this feedback:
Last updated Oct 2nd, 2012. We didn’t detect any content issues with your site.
On the 1st September I even took another approach and compiled a list of inorganic urls and asked Google if they could do a bulk ‘discount’, as seen below:
I have to assume that Google’s desire is for offenders to learn their lesson, clean up their act and keep it that way. If that’s correct, than you can rest assured that the goal has been achieved.
If there is something more that we can do to bring ourselves back into compliance with Google’s guidelines, please tell me what it is and I will do it immediately.
Looking forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience,
www.site dot com
Since this was indexed in Google, I am assuming that it is fair game–so I am publishing it here. I have, though, removed the actual site details or any other details that would identify this site. There is a link to the reconsideration request above, but if that link goes down (the webmaster might want to take it down at some point), I’ve cleaned up this letter above.
So, as you can see from this Google Reconsideration Request, the site owner did everything right. He not only identified the links, but went through the process of contacting each site owner of the links he wanted removed and then documented everything. Then, put it all the data in a spreadsheet where Google could then take a look at everything. In this case, he actually allowed everyone else to take a look at everything he did, as well.
If you have received a manual link penalty from Google, this the process that you need to go through. It takes time. If you have the time, great. But if you don’t, then hire someone who is competent and has the experience to get this done properly for you. This is, though, only half the battle: just because you go through this process doesn’t mean that Google will reconsider your site or revoke any penalties that they have given your site. In fact, you have to identify the right links that need to be removed. That’s where someone with a lot of organic SEO experience can help.