Pre-Penalty Boom: April of 2010 – April of 2012 (2 Years)
|Business Type: A signage designer and manufacturer with aspirations of nation-wide search engine visibility and massive organic lead generation.
Results: Impressive Per the chart above from SEMRush.com, by January of 2012, this website had experienced a massive increase in organic search traffic, and was enjoying over 5,000 visits/month just from Google’s organic search result.
|SEO Tactics Used: A variety of strategies including basic On-Page Optimization work and a mix of link-building techniques including:
Downfall: April of 2012 – October of 2013 (18 months)
Key Events noted in chart from SEMRush.com above:
- April 15th, 2012: Unnatural links warning received through Google Webmaster Tools
- April 24th, 2012: Penguin 1.0 Update – Story
- October 5th, 2012: Penguin 1.2/3 Update – Story
- May 22nd, 2013: Penguin 2.0/4 Update – Story
- October 4th, 2013: Penguin 2.1/5 Update – Story
|Summary of Impact: During this 18 month period, between the impact of Google’s algorithmic changes to how they rate and evaluate inbound links (Penguin updates) and the impact of a manually assessed penalty due to the “detection of unnatural links to the domain,” the site lost roughly 95% of it’s inbound traffic from organic search queries in Google. Outside of the brand name, the domain no longer ranked on the 1st page of Google for virtually anything.||Visits from Google Organic Search (from Analytics Data): Numbers below are based on historical data from Google Analytics for the volume of visits from Google organic search to the domain in specific calendar months:
Clean-Up: October of 2013 – September of 2014 (1 year)
Key Stats from clean-up of link profile and Disavow process:
- Links removed from roughly 300 domains over a 12 month period
- Hundreds of personalized emails sent to individual webmasters requesting removal of (or addition of nofollow tag to) links
- Roughly $416 spent on payments to webmasters in exchange for link removal (not everyone agrees with conceding to payments, but if the price is reasonable, we recommend it)
- 747 domains disavowed via Google Webmaster Tools
- 4 unsuccessful re-consideration requests sent to Google
- Manual SPAM action revoked after 5th request on April 3rd, 2014
- Declines stopped, but no improvement in visibility seen in search during six months following manual penalty removal
|Summary of Tactics:KickStart Search used a variety of tools to evaluate the inbound link profile and ultimately isolate the links that were most likely to be deemed unnatural by Google. Tools used included:||Results: Despite an on-going, increasingly comprehensive effort to Disavow and/or eradicate all negative links to the site, including the ultimate removal of the Manual SPAM action placed on the site by Google, the level of monthly visits from organic search remained anemic:
Recovery: October of 2014
Following the Penguin 3.0 update on October 18th, 2014, this client at long last saw a significant “pop” in their search engine visibility. Multiple pages that previously had been effectively de-indexed from the Google search results began appearing back in the 1st few pages of results for high traffic, non-branded keywords. Over the 10+ days following the update, there has been steady upward progression in visibility. While this is but a single case study, the evidence does support the theory that sites in violation of Google’s Guidelines who have suffered from one (or more) Penguin updates are likely to see little or no return on their efforts to clean-up their link profiles until the next Penguin refresh takes place.
Ultimately this client has seen but a small fraction of the traffic they were enjoying at their peak return to their site. However based on the strategies being used at that time, they probably didn’t deserve that level of visibility. Today the client can look forward with a relatively clean slate, and hopefully will benefit from utilizing accepted SEO techniques like proper on-site optimization, testing of site components and upgrades made based on user experience, page load speed optimization, content development through original blog posts hosted on their site, etc.
Morals of the Story:
- Clearly a site hit by Penguin once can get hit again, several times even. It can always get worse evidently.
- Cleaning up links is a long, time-consuming, and largely unrewarding process at times
- Removing a manual penalty may have little or no positive impact on site traffic (if accompanied by Penguin-related factors)
- Even a client that has engaged in a very high volume of very unnatural link-building can come back given enough time and effort
- If you’re done your due diligence to clean up your links mess, a Penguin update can be a happy day instead of a sad one
- Shortcuts in life (and in SEO) are typically “Fool’s gold”. Short-term gain can lead to long-term pain.
Thanks for reading and feel free to submit your comments or questions!