Options after Penguin hit. 17000 unnatural backlinks.

21 replies
  • SEO
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A client recently came to me for help. His site has recently got a warning from Google for having unnatural links. Obviously, his site got penalized and it bombed in the rankings for his main keywords( in an extremely competitive market) His previous SEO was using black hat methods to get links (blog comment spamming, article spinning, social bookmarking, all the sorts). I used Open Site Explorer and realized there was up to 17000 links pointing back to the site, 90% of which was to the homepage, using exact match anchor text.

Options include,
-manually removing those links (extremely crazy)
-using Google disavow tool (low chance of success I presume)
-starting over with a new domain name.

I am open to suggestions about what I can do to help him. Would removing those links be a good idea, or is starting with a new domain be better? Is there anyway i can preserve the PR and good links from the previous domain?
#backlinks #hit #options #penguin #recovery #unnatural #unnatural links
  • Profile picture of the author online only
    Surely start over with a new domain, preferably buy an aged domain to start all over again.
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  • Profile picture of the author Austin E Anthony
    Sometimes, using a 301 redirect does work but it's not guaranteed. Sometimes penalty will pass on and sometimes, it won't. Best bet is just to start over again, I know it's not easy starting from scratch but it is what it is.
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    • Profile picture of the author hadtic
      Start with all onpage factors on the site including w3 validator and reducing the keyword density a bit then start to build links to the site and inner pages using non money keywords and longer tail keywords which will reduce the 90%. It will take time but far better than starting a new site
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      • Profile picture of the author scottmacair
        The best thing to do in this case is get a list of all the links - Use Google Webmaster tools for this. Open Site Explorer will not nearly show all of the links.

        Once you have the list of links downloaded from GWMT sort them by anchor text; the artificial links will become quite obvious at this point.

        Also run this toxic link diagnostic tool to highlight any other links that may be an issue - you can use it for free if you click the tweet button further down the page: Link Detox - Quickly Diagnose Bad Links - Clean up your Link Profile Link Research Tools

        Then load all of these links into the Google Disavow tool and then apply for reconsideration explaining the actions you have taken.

        Google should get back in about 3 weeks hopefully informing you that the reconsideration has been successful.

        I've recovered a few sites now from the dreaded unnatural links penalty and this procedure works.

        When you see the message in GWMT notifying you that the reconsideration has been successful, in my experience it takes about a month from this point to see rankings start to come back for brand and non competitive keywords.

        Once that's done stay out of the BST sections of forums and don't buy any links from Warrior Forum - pure spam that will land you back in the same place!
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  • Profile picture of the author MikeFriedman
    I would do all 3.

    Try getting as many links removed as possible.
    Throw the rest into the disavow tool.
    In the meantime, start with a new site.

    Worst case scenario, you get the new site ranking. Best case, the new site is ranking and the old site comes back later. Now the client has two sites taking up more real estate and getting more traffic.
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  • Profile picture of the author Icematikx
    I've read about a LARGE site recovering by 301 redirecting the inner pages to a new domain, while leaving the root url non-redirecting. This site in particular had 1million visitors/month, and they got away with it. I'd try it. Move the content to a new domain and 301 the pages/posts. Don't 301 the categories/home.
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    • Profile picture of the author Mike Anthony
      Originally Posted by Icematikx View Post

      I've read about a LARGE site recovering by 301 redirecting the inner pages to a new domain, .
      Problem with that is the same underlying problem is there. so if you do find yourself ranking with good traffic and you are scrutinized again say by a competitor reporting you (because they can see the redirect and the links) you are back to square one.

      For those recommending the disavow tool .....I guess if there is alot of work to rebuild the site but for a lot of Wf sites I see its a walk in the park to rewrite stuff and be ready to roll in a few days. IF the site has just a load of garbage pointing at it anyway you are stills tarting from scratch with link building so the only thing you are saving is whatever work to reconstruct the site under a new domain (with rewritten content).
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      • Profile picture of the author scottmacair
        Originally Posted by Mike Anthony View Post

        Problem with that is the same underlying problem is there. so if you do find yourself ranking with good traffic and you are scrutinized again say by a competitor reporting you (because they can see the redirect and the links) you are back to square one.

        For those recommending the disavow tool .....I guess if there is alot of work to rebuild the site but for a lot of Wf sites I see its a walk in the park to rewrite stuff and be ready to roll in a few days. IF the site has just a load of garbage pointing at it anyway you are stills tarting from scratch with link building so the only thing you are saving is whatever work to reconstruct the site under a new domain (with rewritten content).
        Good advice - if they site can be re-built quite easily and didn't have any natural links you want to preserve then easiest thing is to start again.
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  • Profile picture of the author Mike Anthony
    Number 3

    Because lets face it given what he was into number one is not going to happen. You can't undo most blog comments. Number 2 has the potential of doing even more harm plus its a requirement with Google to use it you should have at least tried number 1. Life is short and number one certainly would use up a ton or resources and time.

    I presume his present domain has no lasting presence on the internet ( or he wouldn't have been spamming and you would not be considering a new domain) so proceed with three . Anything else is a waste of time because when its all said and done the site is penalized and you are leaving yourself up to GOogle to release the site from that. Pick a new name even an aged one and you are back in the game immediately
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  • Profile picture of the author kaytav
    Originally Posted by MarcusSeoGoodGuys View Post

    A client recently came to me for help. His site has recently got a warning from Google for having unnatural links. Obviously, his site got penalized and it bombed in the rankings for his main keywords( in an extremely competitive market) His previous SEO was using black hat methods to get links (blog comment spamming, article spinning, social bookmarking, all the sorts). I used Open Site Explorer and realized there was up to 17000 links pointing back to the site, 90% of which was to the homepage, using exact match anchor text.

    Options include,
    -manually removing those links (extremely crazy)
    -using Google disavow tool (low chance of success I presume)
    -starting over with a new domain name.

    I am open to suggestions about what I can do to help him. Would removing those links be a good idea, or is starting with a new domain be better? Is there anyway i can preserve the PR and good links from the previous domain?
    Firstly, I would suggest you to go with Google's Disavow tool, and submit your site for reconsideration. If it doesn't help, you will have to remove the links manually. I know this is a slow and time consuming process, but it will help the website eventually.
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  • Profile picture of the author DNChamp
    You are getting a LOT of pointers here but here is what I did to a site that got hit back in April for just the same thing....over use of anchor text.

    Before April he was page 1-3 for 90% of his keywords then when Penguin came he got tanked to about page 200. He tried more links for a month after and never came back. He let it sit until around September where I performed campaigns for the site BUT used nothing but generic keywords to saturate out his over used keyword anchors.

    Come December he was back on pages 6-8. Since then he has gone back to using anchor keywords but at a rate of 1 kw + 3 generics (so if he was promoting 2 kw he would also include 6 generics). Im not saying this will work for everyone It just worked for him.

    It can come back but certainly not overnight
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    • Wow thanks a lot guys!

      Very good suggestions to think about.

      There were a few things I already considered.

      1)Google's disavow tool only accepts text files no larger than 2mb. For my 17000 links that came from hundreds of different domains, I am pretty sure the file would be bigger than 2mb. (Webmasters help even suggested if such a case existed, I would be better off starting a new domain)

      2)I would still have to wait for the next Penguin update to see the changes even if the reconsideration request is approved. Too long to wait in my opinion.

      3)Thankfully, my client already has another domain which he got years ago and had a somewhat similar domain name. (what luck!) So my advice is to start anew, 301 redirect SOME of the older pages to the new ones.

      4)we are gonna abandon the old site, but leave a page to inform that we have shift to a new site. The link will point to the new site, but it will be nofollow. at least I can still get some human traffic from my previous direct traffic.

      p.s. thanks scottmacair for the link detox tool. it will be helpful next time!
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    • Profile picture of the author deezn
      Originally Posted by DNChamp View Post

      You are getting a LOT of pointers here but here is what I did to a site that got hit back in April for just the same thing....over use of anchor text.

      Before April he was page 1-3 for 90% of his keywords then when Penguin came he got tanked to about page 200. He tried more links for a month after and never came back. He let it sit until around September where I performed campaigns for the site BUT used nothing but generic keywords to saturate out his over used keyword anchors.

      Come December he was back on pages 6-8. Since then he has gone back to using anchor keywords but at a rate of 1 kw + 3 generics (so if he was promoting 2 kw he would also include 6 generics). Im not saying this will work for everyone It just worked for him.

      It can come back but certainly not overnight
      Exactly what's happening with one of my sites. Page 1 for my main keywords. Panda hit. Nothing. Penguin hit. Nothing. Penguin 2 (or 3 or whatever) hit and bam I was nailed. I think it was the EMD one. Started dropping slowly and then was gone. Page 10 for one keyword and unlisted for another major keyword (high competition).

      So I didn't abandon the site completely (I still get about 80% of my visitors as before, since most of my searches are long tail). This was a good quality site with over 100 pages of unique content. But I haven't added much to it lately and am working on another site instead.

      That said, I started pointing links at my old site. Generic keywords only. No keyword anchor text. Keyword #1 has stuck around page 10. Keyword #2 was delisted for about 6 months and just came back. I'm keeping my eye on it. Hell I don't care about rankings but if my visitors stay (and increase) I'll be happy with two sites getting me leads and clients.
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  • Profile picture of the author jgant
    Good plan ... start over. That's what I would do and am in fact doing for one site that tanked. I bought a 12 year old domain with PR2 that's very relevant to my industry and rebuilt it. Too early to see results, but I'm glad I didn't waste too much time/money on trying to rehabilitate a hammered site.
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  • Profile picture of the author howto
    When I first started out I sucked at SEO and made the mistake of spam links with same anchor text. I got banned for the main keyword text. Lets say it was "dog food" I instead started SEOing for "dog nourishment" instead. After 1 year I started ranking again for "dog food" and am ranking higher than I originaly was.

    If it is just a keyword ban then choose another and ride it out. Those backlinks will delete themselves as the sites go under (because theyre crap) or get deindexed. This will eventualy leave you with the best of the blackhat links. Also the algo bans you for a set period (mine was 1 year) if it was a manual ban then this is far more severe. Hope this helps.


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  • Profile picture of the author GeorgR.
    If THE LINKS are the problem, 301 will in all likelihood not work.

    With a 301 you are literally redirecting THE PROBLEM to the new site
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  • Well my clients decided to weather it out with the same website. I guess all i can do now is try to remove the bad links, and start building better, natural links to improve their backlink profile. I will make sure this time they vary their anchor text too. Thanks anyway!
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  • Profile picture of the author GeorgR.
    Originally Posted by MarcusSeoGoodGuys View Post

    Is there anyway i can preserve the PR and good links from the previous domain?
    If there is a serious penalty on it from an entirely screwed up link profile, what is there to "preserve"? Think again! Your PR is not worth squat if you have 17.000 "bad" links. Buy a good, high PR domain somewhere and recreate the site: Profit!
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    • I know. I strongly advised towards building a new site, but my clients were adamant about keeping their old one. The bad links keep piling on, perhaps because Google only recently found these low quality links from directories, low quality profiles, spam comments etc.

      Now I am tasked to remove the bad links and I seriously have no idea where to start. Is it even possible?
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  • Profile picture of the author gorrior
    I never trusted the disavow tool... But you guys made me curious, might try it out for some of my penalized sites.
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  • Profile picture of the author gazzerman1
    You have a few options. (I have recovered sites from this penalty)

    First of all, focus on Domains not links.
    How many Domains point to the site.
    Us the disavow file first then start to remove links as seen in this video (click red show video text not matt cutts video)
    Google+ Hangouts Office Hours for 26 April 2013

    Make sure you list domains in the disavow file.

    one very important thing to remember. Your site will not recover after your penalty is revoked UNTIL the next penguin update/refresh.

    This perhaps one of the most important clips from a Google employee
    Google+ Hangouts Office Hours for 07 June 2013

    It can take a very long time to recover, you could consider doing building a new site and doing the recovery at the same time.

    Here is Google answering your main question
    Google+ Hangouts Office Hours for 07 June 2013
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