In recent months I had to deal with a so called “unnatural links” penalty by Google. Now you think I’m one of those dirty SEO scoundrels and I deserved it but it wasn’t me, it was a client site I took over some time ago. I made it recover from a penalty originally by cleaning up its backlink profile and introducing a quality link building strategy. So you can understand my surprise when my client got that penalty instead of some ugly spammers who clog the Google SERPs.
The Slow and Painful Process
Then I had to literally work hard for months to get that manual penalty revoked. Fixing the backlink profile again was a tedious, dead slow and painful process.
This time I only knew that we didn’t do anything wrong on purpose.
The whole process took hours and days and weeks
as I do not work full time for clients. As the client got increasingly desperate I had to stop doing everything else and focus completely on fixing the unnatural links penalty. I have been watching low quality links every day on sites I didn’t even believe exist in that way anymore today instead of reaching out to bloggers, create quality content to earn links or organize give aways and other direct incentives to link to us.
I told the client that just by demolishing old, even faulty links, most of them have been natural anyway, just looked bad, we won’t regain our old rankings. We have to build or rather get new links to strengthen our position in Google. My client mistook that for giving up and instead got angry so I focused even more on the penalty.
Then one day, when I already almost have given up, the penalty got removed and the rankings… stayed the same.
While they were jumping back and forth or dwindling progressively prior to the removal they stabilized at a slightly higher level shortly after for weeks. Then we regained some of our visibility so that we have overall better rankings than while the penalty was on. Nonetheless we have just approx. half of the visibility of what we had before the penalty.
I can’t go into details too much as this is an ongoing client project so I won’t share stats etc. but what I want to share is my key take aways from this painful process.
Key Take Aways
Does it Make Sense to Remove Links?
So does it make sense to remove and disavow links? I’m not so sure. The time and effort spend on that process and the frustration felt both on the SEO and client side was crippling to the whole optimization process. We literally had to stop everything else to deal with this menace to the site.
Afterwards the effort seems completely out of the proportion given the outcome.
What would have happened had we invested the time and money into something that would directly benefit the site and business as a whole instead of paying attention to the gate keeper? Sometimes cutting out the middleman might be the better decision, in case Google decided to reroute traffic to your competition you might reconsider your reliance on the whimsical service.
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