I am happy to report that I received a fantastic message from Google today. This is the quick headline:
MANUAL SPAM ACTION REVOKED
Yes! After a few months of trying to clean up this manual spam penalty I received back in April which you can read about here, I finally was able to have the penalty revoked.
I will show you the final letter I sent to the Google Spam team that lifted this penalty, and give you some tips that I was able to find from various SEO experts in this field.
QUICK BACKGROUND INFORMATION
As I mentioned above, you can read about how my Google Penalty started. To summarize, I had purchased a website that had an existing penalty.
The message from Google in the Google Search Console said “UNNATURAL LINKS TO YOUR SITE.”
I disavowed spammy looking links and also reached out to webmasters of those sites to attempt to have my link removed.
After being rejected by Google a few times, I decided to reach out to several experts in the field. And the most insightful help came from the Google Forums. Duh!
DID GOOGLE MISCLASSIFY MY PENALTY?
So one thing that makes my situation a little unusual is that a second email that I received from Google said that my site had “Quality Issues” and was “Pure Spam.”
This is the email that was in my INBOX:
However, when I went into the MANUAL ACTIONS section, the only penalty that was showing up was the UNNATURAL LINKS PENALTY.
Why was I getting a different penalty classification? It was strange.
FIXING THE PURE SPAM ISSUE
So on this last round, I wanted to make 100% sure that there wasn’t anything spammy about my site. I realized that I had over 100 posts on the site that maybe could be duplicated content. Since I didn’t create this site, I don’t know how the previous owner obtained this content.
I determined that those posts, weren’t really helping out my site. I went to Google Analytics and saw that really none of them were giving me any traffic from Bing or Yahoo. So I went ahead and deleted all of them! I 301 redirected them. You want to make sure you 301 redirect them just in case someone does find a page so they don’t end up on a broken page.
So the lesson here is, make sure you don’t have any duplicate content. And if you do have content you are suspicious of and it isn’t helping out your site, then delete them with a 301 redirect. By the way, the YOAST plugin makes it very easy to 301 redirect a page.
ADDRESSING THE UNNATURAL LINKS PENALTY
The site suffering from this penalty didn’t have many links pointing to it. In fact, there were less than 35 linking domains. As I reached out to several experts, they were also scratching their heads. How could a site with so few links have a link penalty?
On the forums, an expert jumped in to help me out. He took the time to go through my site and pointed out several things that Google could see as a red flag. The one that really got me thinking that he mentioned was the use of outbound links.
The expert basically said that any link that could be seen as promotional, you should “no follow” that link. In the eyes of Google, they could think that you are getting paid to link to other websites for promotional purposes.
He was right. Even though I was NOT selling links on my site, there were sections that could be seen as promotional. How would Google know that I wasn’t getting paid for these links? So in order to make sure of this, you need to “no follow” these types of links. I use the Ultimate NoFollow plugin to easily add nofollow links.
I went through my site, and anything that I saw as promotional, I “no followed them.”
On top of what this expert told me, I also found a very interesting article written on the Screaming Frog Blog that also gives a great explanation on outbound links. It turned out they were right.
MY FINAL APPEAL TO GOOGLE
I had cleaned up content, deleted over 100 pages, reached out to delete links, disavowed links that I couldn’t get deleted.
Once I had done that work, I wrote the following letter to Google:
June 10, 2015
Dear Google Spam Team:
I am applying for reconsideration once more. You will notice from my previous reconsiderations how I have attempted to clean up this penalty.
I wish to remind you, that this is a brand new site to me. When I purchased the site, it seemed the penalty was already in place.
Ever since I took over, and submitted the site into the Google Search Console, I became fully aware that there was in fact a penalty on the site. I have spent countless hours and weeks attempting to fix the situation. Below, I will explain everything I have been doing.
The message I received inside my MANUAL ACTION LINK said I had an “unnatural link penalty.” Not being too familiar with this, I believed that the penalty was due to external links linking to me (backlinks).
As I looked over my link profile using programs such as the Google Webmaster links and Open Link Profiler and Ahrefs, I’ve been baffled that for the few amount of links that were created, that this website had incurred this penalty.
Nonetheless, I began to clean up this link profile and reached out to the external links. You will see that I had 1 response from my outreach. Proof of this response is from a screen capture and you can look at it here: I LINKED TO A SCREEN CAPTURE ON GOOGLE DRIVE.
The other links I believe to be bad I have disavowed them. And you can see all the links and domains I had disavowed from the upload I did to Google.
Aside from all this, I have been documenting this penalty on my blog to try and show others how to deal with a penalty like this. You can find my documentation here as I also get detailed with this penalty:
So on 5/31/15, after receiving the last rejection, I went on a research spree and have reached out to several professionals for advice.
One of the most helpful places I found help was on the Google forums. You can see my question and the answers from several top experts that I asked for help on 6/9/15:
I LINKED TO FORUM POST
Top member contributor looked at my site and mentioned that it’s possible that the penalty is not actually from links coming in, but from links going out.
I never thought that a link to a Shopping Center, where I am not making an affiliate commission or even getting paid for the link would be a problem. But a member on the Google forum pointed out that any link that could be viewed promotional and has a “ DO FOLLOW” link is something Google really scrutinizes.
As I did more reaserch on Google, I also found a blog that also mentioned a very similar problem as mine. http://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/when-google-gets-penalties-wrong/
I also want to point out that I believe there may be a misclassification of my penalty. For some reason, on my email I received a PURE SPAM penalty, and then in the manual actions tab, I receive an UNNATURAL LINKS penalty.
HOW I HAVE CORRECTED THIS PROBLEM
It seems that my manual action penalty doesn’t have to do with backlinks, but with links going out. Also, it was pointed out that some of the pages have recurring sentences.
So this is what I did:
TO FIX OUTGOING FOLLOW LINKS
I have gone to my site and made links that could be viewed as promotional “no follow.” I ended up “no following” the majority of the links. Here are the pages I have no followed links:
- LINKS TO SPECIFIC PAGE ON MY SITE
TO FIX PAGES THAT MAY HAVE OTHER PROBLEMS
There were spammy looking comments in the Coupons page. So I have gone in and deleted ALL comments
Also, I noticed old content on the site and I have gotten rid of over 110 pages. I have 301 redirected all those pages. Here is the list of page links deleted from the site:
- LINKS TO THE 110 PAGES I DELETED
As you can see, I have spent hours and weeks attempting to solve this problem.I have researched on blog posts and Google forums. I have cleaned up my link profile by reaching out to webmasters and then also disavowing links.
I have deleted over 110 pages that could be deemed as spammy. And I have rewritten all the content on the site.
Again, this site was brand new and I just took over. I will not be building bad links to my site or linking out in an “unnatural way.”
I am hoping that all this work I did, will get rid of this penalty. And if for some reason it does not, I would love some guidance or advice on what I need to do to get rid of the penalty.
Thank you for your reconsideration.
Tackling a link penalty removal takes a lot of work. Just see everything I had to do. I’m glad a Google employee noticed.
When building out your site, be very careful to who you link out to. Also, monitor your incoming links.
Don’t copy and paste content! You have to write original content.
And if you are all out of ideas, head to the Google Forums, there are a lot of people out there willing to help out who know A LOT ABOUT GOOGLE!
Good luck, and let me know if you ever had to deal with a link penalty and were you able to have it revoked?