Back in April 2012 my main site was hit by the most evil penalty Google has ever dealt, Penguin 1.0. At the time I was devastated, it was a lead generation site where I got paid per lead. It was a seasonal niche where the best month was July and the worst was December. In July 2011 I had earned over £10,000 (about $16,000), times were good, but the following April my income was slashed by more than 80%. In the following 12 months I barely earned as much as I had done in the single month of July 2011. I soon learned that this was a Google Penguin slap and recovery was going to be very very difficult. I had the ‘Unnatural Inbound Links’ warning in Google Webmaster Tools, this is as bad as the Google Penguin slap gets, this is the worst message you can ever see, other than being dropped from Google’s index completely.
I knew the problem, I had been building backlinks with badly spun content using every method possible, SENukeX, Unique Article Wizard, Traffic Geyser, Nuke4Me, LinkIt Pro and a lot of other weird and wonderful programs. I was also getting a team of guys in Hyderabad in India to build link wheels of web 2.0 properties like free blogs and Squidoo lenses and then link 100s of social bookmarks to them. Looking back, this was total madness, but at the time – it worked and it worked well and there seemed no reason to stop.
After the Google slap I couldn’t work out anyway of undoing this mess, the internet was covered with my junk and none of it ranked anymore. The introduction of the Google Disavow tool at the end of 2012 seemed like the answer to my prayers. I spent weeks in December trying to compile a huge spreadsheet of dodgy links that I could disavow. I thought I knew what I was doing, I hired an SEO guru to help me, I bought various info products from places like the Warrior Forum and in January 2013 I confidently submitted my disavow file and then sent in my reconsideration request. 10 days later it was turned down – bummer! I made a second attempt, deciding to disavow by domain rather than individual URL, but that was turned down.
During the summer of 2013 the seasonal nature of my niche helped the site limp along, mainly being driven along by Bing and Yahoo searches as well as some long tail phrases in Google. In September 2013 the traffic naturally died off a bit and I thought it would be a good time to try another disavow and a reconsideration request. It was turned down again, but now Google had changed its answer slightly, they gave 3 sample links that violated their quality guidelines. The 3 sites stunned me:
- The first was a Weebly blog, that was ranking quite well on its own and had unique non spun content
- The second was another one of my sites in a similar niche, it was completely clean with original content
- An EzineArticle written by me, an article that I was actually very proud of
So what the hell was going on? I’d built some crap in my time, but these three didn’t seem that bad compared to all the other rubbish I had sprayed all over the internet. How could this be? At this point in time I realised I was going to need some serious help to get any sort of recovery from the Penguin slap. This was when I discovered the wonderful tools provided by Link Research Tools in Austria. I decided to take their ‘LRT Associate Training’ and learn these tools inside out. One month later the penalty was lifted and my traffic is now recovering.
In a weird way I am actually pleased that my site was penalized like it was, sure the financial hit was horrible and my family has suffered. Having said that we have all learned to live more frugally and as a consequence we are spending more time outdoors, cycling rather than driving and eating healthier. But enough is enough it is time to take the stress away. I never felt good spamming the internet to get links, I knew it would end one day, but even so I wasn’t ready for it. Now I have learned more about on page SEO and how to protect my site against bad links and negative SEO attacks. Life is better now.
I have devised a step by step method to clearing a Google Penguin Penalty, whether it be a manual spam action like mine or the slightly milder, but not so obvious, algorithmic penalty. If you would like me to email you the step by step guide, just leave your email address below and I will send you a copy. If you have any questions please get in touch, I’m happy to answer any questions.