Can You Relate to this? • You’re a website owner that works Really hard • Over time you have built up good traffic and SERPs • Then One Day its all gone – Your order file is empty – Traffic is nil – Rankings are gone – You Panic
What Happened? If you have employed “link building” methods that are not compliant with Google’s webmaster guidelines, there’s a good possibility that you are paying the consequences for engaging in what Google classifies as LINK SCHEMES
What ‘s a Link Scheme? Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.
Examples of link schemes: • Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link • Excessive link exchanges (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”) or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking • Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links • Using automated programs or services to create links to your site
And there’s more: Non-editorial Links Text advertisements that pass PageRank Advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles that include links that pass PageRank Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites. For example: There are many wedding rings on the market. If you want to have a wedding, you will have to pick the best ring. You will also need to buy flowers and a wedding dress. Low-quality directory or bookmark site links Keyword-rich, hidden or low-quality links embedded in widgets that are distributed across various sites, for example: Visitors to this page: 1,472 car insurance Widely distributed links in the footers or templates of various sites Forum comments with optimized links in the post or signature, for example: Thanks, that’s great info! – Paul paul’s pizza san diego pizza best pizza san diego
Prevent PageRank from passing by • Adding a rel=”nofollow” attribute to the <a> tag • Redirecting the links to an intermediate page that is blocked from search engines with a robots.txt file
Link Schemes = Double Trouble Manual Penalty or… Penguin Algorithm Found in Google Webmaster Tools:
What’s the Difference? Manual Penalty or… While Google relies on algorithms to evaluate search quality, they’re also willing to take manual action on sites that engage in link schemes by demoting them or removing them entirely from search results. Penguin Algorithm Penguin is the code name for a Google Algorithm update aimed at decreasing search engine rankings of websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines – specifically link schemes. Websites impacted by Penguin are not technically penalized, but rather feeling the impact of this link based algorithm.
How Can I tell If My Site is Affected? First, check for a Manual Penalty On the Webmaster Tools Dashboard, click Search Traffic. Click Manual Actions. • Two types of actions are displayed on the Manual Actions page. • The Site-wide matches section lists actions that impact an entire site. • The Partial matches section lists actions that impact individual URLs or sections of a site. It’s not uncommon for pages on a popular site to have manual actions, particularly if that site serves as a platform for other users or businesses to create and share content. Check for an Algorithmic Penalty: Compare traffic drops in Analytics against Penguin Rollout Dates • Penguin 1 – April 24, 2012 • Penguin 2 – May 26, 2012 • Penguin 3 – October 5, 2012 • Penguin 4 (AKA Penguin 2.0) – May 22, 2013 • Penguin 5 (AKA Penguin 2.1) – October 4, 2013 • Penguin 6 (AKA Penguin 3.0) – October 17, 2014
Penguin Penalty Checker Tool Powered by http://www.reconsideration.org
Oh, nooooooooooo – I’ve been Hit! Now what?
If you don’t already have a GWT account, sign up for one
The Backlinks that Google discloses are a “sampling.” • GWT data is most important when you are looking to recover from a penalty. • EVERY link that falls outside of the webmaster guidelines must be cleaned up via link removal or the disavow tool. • Only in the most extreme cases is it necessary to gathering link data from 3rd Party tools. (Moz, ahrefs, Majestic, etc.) • A third party tool will, however, be useful to properly analyze the Link Data • Pro Tip : Don’t Rush • Fight the urge to do a quick reconsideration request within hours or days of a penalty. Those who don’t take the proper time and steps to address a penalty can expect the following notice from Google:: • “Removing links takes time. Due to the large volume of requests we receive, and to give you a better chance of your next reconsideration request being successful, we won’t review another request from this site for a few weeks from now. We recommend that you take the necessary time to remove unnatural backlinks to your site, and then file another reconsideration request. “
Focus on the following link characteristics •The URL of the page linking to you •The URL on your site that is being linked to •The IP of the URL linking to you •The anchor text used •The Percentage (Mix) of Anchor text •The follow/nofollow status of the link •A measure (rank) of the link’s trust & authority To Determine which Links to remove
Post-Penguin Link Audit Considerations Keep in mind that Penguin is just the latest anti link spam algorithm rolled out by Google. They are hammering websites built on link schemes and rewarding sites with a natural backlink profile. A natural profile contains an assortment of link types, pointing to a website. Your audit should turn up a good mix of: Brand links: Variations include: Your Domain, YourDomain.com, www.YourDomain.com, YourDomain. Exact-match anchor text keyword links: These anchor text links should point to the most appropriate page on the website (the one you are optimizing). Partial-match keyword links: It’s important not to over-optimize with exact match keywords, otherwise you could trip a phrase based filter. Generic Links: Like “Read More” or “Click Here.” Keep in mind that good content should fill this need with little if any work required on your part. Page title links: Some of your links should be the same as your page title.
Paid Links These kinds of links are the ones most likely to draw a manual penalty. When attempting to recover from a manual penalty, every paid link must be removed. No exception. The Google spam team spends time every day rooting out paid links. After awhile, spotting a paid link becomes second nature. That juicy link that you are certain that you can slip by Google will stick out like a sore thumb to the trained eye and will only prolong the agony of a manual penalty.
Exact Match Anchor text links (EMAT) • These kinds links , in quantity, are very likely to trigger the Penguin algorithm. • The practice of using EMAT links in non-editorial “link building” is self defeating.
Links that appear on a domain that isn’t indexed in Google
Links that appear on a website with a malware or virus warning
Links that overtly or covertly appear on the same page as spammy, unrelated links http://ticonderogarealty.com/community-links/ But wait… what’s wrong with this page – these links look beautiful.
Yes Ma’am – Until you look at the source code:
Links that appear on a domain and page with Google PageRank that is gray bar or Zero This usually signals poor quality or low trust, but it could also indicate a new domain and / or page that hasn’t been updated in the PR bar. Gray PR is not the same as PR 0 (zero). The graybar is sometimes a quality indicator, but doesn’t necessarily mean that the site is penalized or de-indexed. Many low quality, made for SEO directories, have a gray bar or PR 0.
Links coming from link networks Link networks are a group of websites with common registrars, common IPs, common C-blocks, common DNS, common analytics and/or common affiliate code.
Sitewide Links – especially blogroll and footer links
Watch for exceptions to the rule • After a manual review, I am able to determine that at least one sitewide link found in the tool is natural and there is no need to remove it An example of why human intervention is necessary to get a link audit right.
SPAM TLDs • This one has geographic implications, but the most common are .ru and .cn. It’s very rare that an English website would naturally attract massive numbers of links from non-english websites. Find ‘em at Fiverr
Penalized Domains Links pointing to your site that reside on a website that has been penalized algorithmically or manually send a poor quality signal
No Value Links • Links not Found: No link could be located on the page. Disavow. An argument could be made that if the link isn’t there, there’s no need to disavow it. My view is that it’s better to be safe than sorry and prevent damage from a spam link that might somehow reappear. • Page Offline: Links on pages that are no longer on the web. Disavow using the same rationale as above. • Scrapers: Links on spam sites that copy their content from other websites. Disavow – the likelihood of getting a response to a removal request is almost nil.
Set Up a Dedicated Google Drive Account • Now it’s time to drop link data into a Google Drive spreadsheet with the following info: • Link From URL: URL where the link resides. • Link to URL: The page (URL) on your website the link points to. • Email contact: For the “Link From” website. • First Link Removal Request: Insert date of removal request. • Second Link Removal Request: Insert date of removal request (One week after first request). • Third Link Removal Request: Insert date of removal request (One week after second request). • Link Status: Live or removed. • Keep meticulous records on this spreadsheet. This is the supporting documentation that you will be submitting with your reconsideration request to prove to Google that you have made a serious effort to resolve the problem.
Request Link Removals • There is a growing level of link removal fatigue among webmasters. Some have gone so far as to add email filters that send link removal requests directly to the spam folder. • In order to break the link removal request fatigue, it’s extremely important to write an effective link removal request. Keep it short and specific:
What is the Best Email Approach? • Some prefer to use an email address associated with the penalized website: Joe@example.com. The thought is that a domain based email provides maximum credibility. My concern with this approach is getting a domain’s email torched by having it marked as spam. • My preferred method is to use Gmail from the Dedicated Account created for the link removal campaign. A cc to Joe@example.com seems to add sufficient credibility. By having all of the email outreach documented there, it’s easy to share with Google. Using Gmail canned responses further adds to the efficiency.
Start Emailing • Using the information on your Google Drive spreadsheet, add the personalized details to your emails and begin sending. Record the date of every link removal request sent. In some cases you will need to submit a web form in lieu of an email – remember to also record these form submission dates on the spreadsheet. • Record every link removal and remember to stop emailing webmasters after links are removed. After five days have passed, send a “second notice”, to those who failed to respond the first time. • Once again, record every link removed. Stop emailing those webmasters that comply. After five more days, send a “final” notice to any holdouts. • The last step is to wait five more days to allow responses to the third round of emails. Any links still remaining, after three removal requests, will be added to the “Disavow Links tool.“ • Yes, this is a lot of work, but failure to show a good faith effort to resolve the problem will only extend your penalty time.
Disavow Links • Log into Google Webmaster Tools, go to the Disavow tool, and select your domain. • Clicking Disavow Links prompts a menu asking you for a file containing the links you want to disavow. This file should include all of the links initially targeted for disavow plus any links targeted for removal, that were not. Upload the file and you’re done.
Submit a Reconsideration Request • When filing your request, here are some key points to consider: • Be specific: Carefully review Google’s webmaster guidelines. • According to Google, the following activities are link scheming: • Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. • Using automated programs or services to create links to your site. • Linking to a site for the sole purpose of getting a link back. • Building a link network for the purpose of linking. • Large-scale article marketing or guest posting using keyword-rich anchor text. • Buying advertorials or articles that include links that pass PageRank. • Creating and distributing press releases with optimized anchor text • Disclose all activities that you were engaged in that fell outside of the guidelines • Confess Everything: You must be completely honest and upfront. You need to provide as many details and specifics as possible. A simple: “My site now adheres to the guidelines.” won’t fly. If your link building foundation is built on SENuke and blog networks, then say so. You won’t be telling Google anything they don’t already know. If you fail to disclose a paid link you think Google “can’t detect,” then you’re just wasting precious time and burning trust with Google. • Accept Responsibility, Promise it Will Never Happen Again: Explain what you’re doing differently now and why it will never happen again (e.g., you fired the person who was doing your SEO or you’ve changed your policy). If the spam team doesn’t get the sense that you have made a serious effort to clean up your backlink profile, they won’t believe that you are serious about change. • Being a Huge AdWords Client Won’t Help: The spam team couldn’t care any less about your PPC budget. To them, it’s irrelevant.
Key Takeaway: Penalty Revocation Equals Permanent Probation Google penalties get more severe for repeat offenders After being penalized you have no choice but to strictly adhere to the Google Webmaster Guidelines. This will be a hard pill for many to swallow as the revocation of a penalty is just the first step in what is likely to be a long recovery period to regain traffic and rankings.
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