Link building: how to recover from Google labelling you a spammer

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google broken magnifying glass

Life is great for you at the moment. Your website is ranking well and gaining momentum as each day passes by. Right now your site is getting close to 1000 unique visitors a day and you’re happy. Time to close up business for the day and head on home. It was a good day with some good deals made.

The next day you come in still on a buzz from yesterday — but something is wrong. Your site isn’t ranking. Why? What has happened to make your site lose visibility overnight? You ignore it for now, hoping that it was just a bug in Google.

Two weeks later, still nothing. You look into analytics and you realise that your traffic has dropped by 80%. Panicking, you have a look at webmaster tools to see what is going on and there right in front you is the dreaded message from Google: “Your site has violated our Quality Guidelines…”

Google manual spam action
This what it looks like in analytics:

Google manual spam action analytics

How on earth do you recover from this action?

Step one is assessing how bad the damage is. Some penalties target particular pages and others the entire site. This is generally the case. One you have established the damage it’s time to think of an interim solution to keep your business going.

If you are running Pay Per Click, I strongly recommend using it and using it well. Then look at your social platforms, on Facebook, build in an application to promote or sell your products directly from there and again turn to paid advertising.

Once you have the above set up and running, it’s time to turn to the issue at hand, which is the manual action placed on your site. Google will tell you what it’s about. In most instances it’s link building.

Why link building?

Google generally goes after link building because it is the most obvious indicator of fabricating authority. In other words, you hire a team and tell them to build links to page A using one keyword.

Looking at Page A could, for instance, show that it has 3 000 links using one key term whereas the rest of the site only averages 200 links to each page using brand terms or other key terms. It just looks unnatural and is begging to be slapped with a manual action.

I will dig a bit deeper about how to avoid the unnatural link portfolio in another post, but in the meantime have a look at this post on some link building tactics that can help you.

How to recover and remove the action

This is essentially step two. You need to run a massive painstaking audit to assess you link portfolio. To do this I suggest the following tools:

  • Opensite Explorer
  • Link Detox
  • Webmaster Tools

Step 2.1 — These will help you gather all the links that are currently pointing to your site. Use Link detox to see which are toxic and export those to a disavow file for the time being.

Step 2.2 — Once you have established all the toxic links, create a Google Drive Spreadsheet and import all these links. Copy this sheet onto a new sheet within the same workbook.

Step 2.3 — Now it is time to find the website owners. To do this you need to use Whois. Place all the contact information alongside your second sheet.

Finally craft a generic email template requesting the Webmaster or owner to remove the link. Add in the relevant information to the relevant owner and send the email.

Copy all mail correspondence relating to the link removal requests into a new sheet in the above workbook. This is to help show Google that you have made several attempts at getting the links removed.

After the above steps have been completed and you have received responses and had links removed, it’s time to update the disavow file by removing the links that have been manually removed already.

Ready to submit your reconsideration file

So by now you hate links completely and have sworn to never, ever build another link and are ready to submit your reconsideration request. Before you do this you need to craft a very soppy (just for Google) email stating what went wrong, how you identified the solution and what steps have been taken to never ever let it happen again. You should also include a link to your Google Drive Spreadsheet (make it public). Google requires this, because it will help it decide if you actually mean to keep your site within its quality guidelines.

Once you have done the above, submit your disavow file and then submit your reconsideration request to Google.

I have done all the above, now what?

The next step involves waiting. Google can take up to a month to get a response to you. To keep on the honesty path, it may take doing the above several times to get the action revoked, but if you keep to the above steps the likelihood of getting the action revoked in timeous fashion increases.

I hope that if you have an action placed on your site, that you will soon receive a message like this from Google:

Google manual spam action reconsidered
This post is mainly aimed at link-building actions placed on a site, as it is generally the biggest culprit in terms of manual actions. I will be creating series of articles as to how you can recover from various other manual actions.

If you have had any experiences with manual actions please share them in the comments below.

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