As an SEO and webmaster, receiving a message from Google’s webspam team regarding manual action is probably the most dreaded thing to happen to you. Manual action is Google’s way of denouncing and demoting webpages or even entire domain from the search ranking.
Recovering from Google penalty could be a long, arduous and time consuming job and even when you file for reconsideration after all those long hours, there is no guarantee that Google will approve your reconsideration request and revoke penalty from the affected pages (As I found out to my horror).
Here’s the lessons I have learned and an effective (tried and tasted) guide to recovery from Google’s manual penalty.
After the initial shock of penalty gives way to reality of site being penalized, a natural reaction is to hasten the process of link removal and filing of reconsideration request to get the penalty removed as soon as possible. Don’t do this. Rushing thing will lead to something like this. And this will be even more dreadful then the first warning.
Step 1: Do the Link Audit
Take your time. Do a thorough link audit of your backlink profile. Analyze the pattern of anchor text, quality of the incoming link page, no of links in the existing page as well as positioning of the link (body, footer, widgets etc.). The very first step would be to download the entire backlink profile of your domain from Google’s Search Console. Get both domain data as well as linking pages to make it easier for you to prepare the reconsideration request.
The master sheet (as I call the Excel file where most of the action will take place) should then be divided into separate sheets.
First one is where you should ideally put referring domains and in the next all the linking pages. Then I would go on and prepare 3 more sheets for future purpose of creating the disavow file and use basic functions like ‘CONCATENATE’ to get the work done effectively and consuming the least possible time. Automation is the key to save your precious time and Excel works wonder. You can download my magic sheet here:
Step 2: Use a (or more if you could afford it) Tool other than Google Search Console for Link Auditing
Believe me, just getting your link audit based on Google’s search console might not actually work. As I found out to my disbelief, Google’s search console sometimes don’t give you the full picture of your backlink profile. There may be several reasons for that. When my reconsideration request was rejected by Google it cited domains which were not there in the link profile that I downloaded using Google’s search console. Hence it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Use a free tool like Majestic SEO to further examine your backlink profile. What is so wonderful about this free tool is that it not just gives you a larger picture (once combined with Google’s link profile in your master sheet) but it also give you a better picture of anchor link profile, IP addresses (viola you could now see if there are links coming from some network/same IPs). Just use common sorting functions and watch the magic unfold right before your eyes. First I’ll sort by IP and then Anchor crosscheck it with the anchor which was given as example by Google and thus assign either of 2 value: ‘To be Disavowed’ or ‘to be Kept’ this should go in your first workbook of master sheet.
The do ‘NoFollow’ Note:
Earlier I used 3 heads. The 3rd was NoFollow which required no action but since Google cited a nofollow link as reason for rejecting reconsideration request, I now give equal weightage to them while doing the link audit, especially those with suspect anchor text.
So the link types that you will encounter would be like this:
- Natural, organic links: Keep
- Link network: Should be disavowed
- Spammy Anchor Text: These are the top culprits when it comes to Google’s manual action. Ask for link removal. Disavow if you receive no reply.
- Links not found: It might be that your link was on the 3rd page which has now moved to 4th page hence the status. Better to add to disavow list.
- Page Offline: Given the time, these pages could become live again. Always safer to disavow these links
- PR Links: Get it removed if you control them or add to disavow
- Articles: Get it removed or add to disavow
- Nofollow links: Request for removal if its exact match anchor. Keep if not.
- Spammy Pages: Porn, pills, casino, sites with low authority and large number of external links, SEO directories, and link building sites with no PR etc should be removed or added to disavow.
Step 3: Outreach to Webmasters through Email/Contact Form
This is probably the most time consuming thing when it comes to filing reconsideration request. There are only so many emails you could send a day and you’d like to reach webmasters more than once in case they don’t reply just to assure Google that you have genuinely tried. And you won’t be sending them 2-3 email daily so you’d need a gap of 4-5 days before reaching out again. Ideally, I won’t contact a webmaster more than thrice. So the total time consumed in this step would be:
Day 1 (or 2 depending up on number of linking domains that are linking to you) to find out contact email or contact form of the linking domain.
Day 2: First Contact
Day 7: Second contact in case there was no response
Day 12: Third contact
Now update the master sheet accordingly: My master sheet reads something like this:
Column 1: Ref Domain; Column 2: Link Action (Keep or Disavow); Column 3: Contact Email; Column 4: Date of 1st Contact; Column 5: Date of 2nd Contact; Column 6: Date of 3rd Contact; Column 7: Remarks (It could be a 404 error, webmaster asking for money, domain suspended, link removed or any such message that you get)
Don’t forget to create a Gmail ID as well as a Canned Response for the purpose of outreach. Will save you loads of time. Remember automation is the key to save your valuable time.
And when contacting through forms, make sure that you take a screenshot of the page and save it for the purpose of reconsideration.
Step 4: Preparing Disavow Sheet
Since you have to prepare disavow file in notepad prior to filing reconsideration request, the more domain that are linking to you, more tedious the task. Here’s how Excel once again works magic.
What you need to do is to copy all the domain from the first worksheet and paste it into a separate sheet (Let’s call it Disavow). Then go back to first sheet and copy contact dates and paste it in this disavow sheet. Now in insert a column left to the domains and write # Tried to contact owner of. Similarly insert a column on the right side of domain and write on. Now this column will be followed by 3 more where you’ll insert the contact dates from master sheet. This will be followed by another column where you’ll write #to ask for link removal but. And in the final column copy paste the response that is on the Column 7 of your master sheet. Now use this function:
And drag it down to apply in all cells and you are one step closer to filing your reconsideration request.
Now, create one more sheet in this workbook and let’s call it disavow rule2.
In this you need to copy the final column of the sheet we had named disavow. It will read something like:
#Tried to contact owner of spamdomain.com on 25th Sep 2015, 30th Sep 2015 and 7th Oct 2015 #to ask for link removal but Got no response.
In the next column write domain:
And in the final copy and paste all the domains that you are going to disavow. In the final step, write the function again which would go like this:
And apply the rule in all cells. And bang you are almost done.
Just copy paste this entire column in a notepad and use ‘Enter’
For quick disavow sheet preparation, copy everything you have in the above notepad and paste it in a word doc file. Now use the simple replace formula and replace
And congrats your disavow sheet is ready and so are you to file a reconsideration request. Upload all screenshots and get the Link to Share from Google doc and mention it in the disavow request along with the steps you have taken to ensure that you don’t violate Google’s guideline.
In case your first reconsideration request was rejected like mine. Start by downloading disavow sheet. Copy paste it in Dreamweaver run the formula replace (CNTRL+F). In the Find box paste:
Leave the Replace column empty, select Use Regular Expression check box and hit replace all. You’ll be left only with domain. Now rinse repeat and start first by auditing nofollow link as you might have ignored them during your first link audit.
Let me know if you received something like this or not.
- Always disavow on domain level as you never know how many pages from a single domain are linking to you especially in case of blogger and WordPress, sites with canonical issues or any blog platform for that matter.
- In case of blogspot, it’s safer to disavow once again at domain level instead of subdomain level i.e. blogspot.com instead of example.blogspot.com. Remember to always use .com level and not TLDs like blogspot.co.uk or blogspot.co.in and do mention it in when filing your reconsideration request.
- Add any domain to disavow sheet who is asking you for money.
- I also used paid tool Cognitive SEO which gave me additional 100+ referring domains that were not detected by Google’s Search Console or MajesticSEO, The reason I went for it that it was affordable and not to my dismay I found out that it is very effective too in case you use it wisely.
Now that you have successfully recovered from Google’s manual penalty the next question to ask is when will I see increase in traffic if any. Well its complicated. Here’s an eye opener at MOZ:
- Google’s Manual Action & Penalties
- Google Penalty Recovery Using the Disavow Tool
- How to Deal With Google’s Manual Action Penalties
- How to Recover from a Manual Action
- What Do Historians Do: Twitter
- 16 Free SEO Tools for Search Marketers