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What To Do After Getting Hit With a Google Manual Slap

Discussion in 'White Hat SEO' started by t0mmy, Apr 11, 2016.

  1. t0mmy

    t0mmy Jr. Executive VIP Jr. VIP

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    What To Do After Getting Hit With a Google Manual Slap

    There is nothing worse than waking up, opening up your favorite rank tracking program, and seeing your rankings crash and burn. Seeing previous top three positions showing as N/A is the worst feeling in the world. Then, you open up Google Webmaster Tools and see the dreaded message, alerting you that Google has assigned a manual penalty to your website.

    You are fucked. Your traffic disappears overnight and you are left in panic mode. People always say, "Oh, just stay calm and figure out a plan to remove the penalty." Yeah, that's easy for someone else to say, but the person that just got fucked by Google has just lost everything. No rankings means no traffic. No traffic means no sales. No sales means no revenue. No revenue means you better figure shit out FAST.

    Manual penalties are handed down by the thousand every week by an internal team. They have an entire manual team that responds to requests submitted to them (basically tips from competitors that are too big of pussies to try to outrank) and also uncovers offenders after discovering a link network or one of the many "private" (I am saying this with a heavy dose of sarcasm) blog networks out there.

    You have to remember one thing about manual penalties: they are given out by real human beings. There isn't some algorithm that flags your website and then you get slapped. Someone is manually looking at your link profile and poking around on your website before they drop the hammer. Because of this, I would say that 99.9999999% of manual penalties are justified. They aren't just dishing them out to mess with you. You violated their guidelines and they are taking action. It's as black and white as that.

    So, when they slap your website you can be certain that they have very detailed notes on files as to why they assigned a manual penalty. They keep a record of why it was assigned and what date it was assigned. There is no avoiding the fact that removing the penalty will take time. It isn't going to go away overnight, and I will explain WHY in a moment. But first..

    YOU MUST HAVE MULTIPLE SOURCES OF TRAFFIC!

    Read that again.. and then again. Engrave this in your mind, because if you don't have other sources of traffic and you get hit with a manual penalty.. it's game over. You aren't going to recover anytime soon. This is why you need to master social media, PPC, guest blogging, etc. Have as many traffic sources as possible!

    ..ok, now back to WHY you will never get a manual penalty removed quickly. If you immediately submit a reconsider request they will look at the date it was assigned and deny it, because they know there is no way you could have performed what was necessary to fix the issue.

    Most of the time a manual penalty is tied to link schemes. Cleaning up a link profile is a very time consuming and tedious task. Trust me, Google is very aware of this. You have to first completely audit your link profile, attempt to get websites to remove the bad links, and then submit the rest in a disavow file.

    Warning: DO NOT just load up all the bad links into a disavow file and submit a reconsider request. This makes you look so guilty and Google is very unlikely to just remove the penalty under this situation.

    The manual penalty team wants to see you sweat. They want to see you work your ass off to try to fix the situation. They aren't going to hand you a removal on a silver platter without you putting in the work. I have no proof to back my thinking, but I would be willing to bet that any time a reconsideration request is submitted right after a penalty is handed out that Google notates the file, making it even more difficult in the future to ever get that penalty lifted.

    TL;DR: if you are too lazy to put in work, just scrap the site and start over. After a manual slap it's going to take a lot of work and even then there is no guarantee the penalty will ever be lifted.



    [​IMG]


    Steps to Take to Remove a Google Manual Slap

    Anyone can do this. You don't need to hire an agency IF you have the time to dedicate to do it right. Most people don't have the time to do it and the reason that agencies charge thousands of dollars (with no success guarantee) is because it takes time. It takes a lot of time, actually. If a website has 10,000 links in their profile and thousands of internal pages think of how much manual work that is to go through everything with a magnifying glass.


    Determine WHY your website was slapped

    The most common manual penalties involve:


    • Unnatural links

    • Thin content

    • Redirects

    • Keyword stuffing

    Now, if you get a message alerting you that you were penalized for something other than unnatural links your "clean up" will be much easier.

    If you got hit for thin content you need to delete all of your content and replace it with high quality content. Invest the money in a quality copywriter to re-write your page copy and then find someone to re-do your blog content. As you replace each page, make sure Google crawls it and monitor it in your Google Webmaster Tools dashboard to see if they naturally re-index. After you re-do your content on the entire site submit a reconsideration request.

    If you got nailed for redirects and doorway pages just remove them. If you are doing this you probably don't have a need for a website that follows Google's guidelines, so there is a good chance you will just move onto a new domain in this situation.

    A keyword stuffing related slap requires you to re-write your content again and follow the same steps as a thin content penalty.

    Unnatural links are the cause of most manual slaps, so keep reading if this common manual action applies to you...


    Download your entire link profile from multiple sources

    Before you even think of figuring out what the offending links are, you need to gather the largest data supply of backlinks pointing to your website. I would suggest using the following tools:






    These will pull a lot of duplicates, but you will also uncover a lot more links by running reports with all four, as some will turn up links the others do not. This part requires no manual work, as you simply enter your URL into the tools and let them extract the data. Save the data in Excel CSV files.


    Remove duplicates and create one master file to work from

    Now that you have four Excel files, turn them into one. Just copy and paste three of them into one that you chose. This will put all of the data into one file to work from. Now, sort the data A-Z so it is all in order.

    Copy the file so you maintain the original incase there is a mistake made and you need to start over. Then, follow these steps:


    • Click on the "Data" tab in the toolbar.

    • Select the column that you want to check for duplicates. Click on the number or letter at the top or side of the column to select the entire column.

    • Click the "Remove duplicates" button in the data toolbar.

    • Find how many duplicates are in your selected cells. Click the "Remove Duplicates" button at the bottom, if the program has found duplicate as well as unique values.

    • Save the modified file.

    Now you have a list of every link to your website that these tools found. Remember, no tool will uncover every single link, so there will always be some that aren't located using this method.


    Identify all low quality links

    This is where you are going to need to use a little common sense paired with some SEO knowledge. Do not base your evaluation on domain metrics, because those can easily be manipulated and they don't tell the whole story.

    You are going to have to manually visit each URL that has a link to your website if you really want to do it right. Also, this Excel worksheet that you are using will serve as proof to Google that you attempted a valid clean up effort, so be ready to be very organized.

    After you visit each URL you are going to want to assign it either:


    • Quality link (keeping it)

    • Spammy link (request removal)

    I just highlight the good links in green and the bad ones I will be attempting to remove in red. Go through your entire spreadsheet and assign red or green to every single URL. Take shortcuts when you can. For example, if you have 50 links from Forbes.com you know they are all good, so just highlight that entire block green and move on. Use common sense when you can. It will help save you time.


    Start manual outreach removal requests

    This is where the process gets tedious and time consuming. You literally have to manually identify a way to contact the website owner of every site that is pointing a spammy link to your website.

    You can look for an email address listed on the site's contact page, a contact form, or an email address from a ‘who is' reverse search. Some will be easy, but some will be near impossible. A rule of thumb: the spammier a website the harder it will be to contact the person that owns it.

    Keep it short and sweet. You are more likely to get a positive reply and outcome if you are honest. Don't lie and don't throw out threats. Something simple like:

    "Hey, there is a link to my site here (include URL). Would you mind removing that for me? Thanks!"


    If they reply and do remove the link, change the color to something else that signifies that it was removed via outreach. If you don't hear from them change the color to something that signifies an ignored request. Document it all, as this will play a big role when it comes to a reconsideration request.


    Wait 30-60 days and perform outreach round #2

    After the first round you will see some removals and a lot of ignored requests. Send another request, but this time mention this is a follow up. A lot of people will ignore you the first time but not on purpose. They get busy and simply forget. Including a note that it's your second attempt to contact them will see more deletions.

    I usually wait at least 30 days to give them some time. There is no rush, because you want to wait at least 60-90 days from a manual penalty before you submit a reconsideration request. You want Google to think you spent a few long months really working on fixing the problem. There is no quick fix solution with this.


    Disavow remaining links

    After you go through two rounds you should have a very detailed Excel spreadsheet with three remaining colors: one for links that are high quality and you left alone, one for the links that were deleted at your request, and a final color for those links that remain because your deletion request was ignored.

    Take all the bad links that remain and upload them into a disavow file. If you don't know how to create the file, read this here. Upload this and then wait 5-7 business days before moving onto the final step below.



    [​IMG]


    Submit reconsideration request


    After you submit the disavow file you will want to return to your Google Webmaster Tools dashboard and go back to the penalty message. You will want to click on ‘Request a review' and tell Google why the penalty should be removed.

    You never want to admit to anything. Don't say things like, "I learned my lesson and won't use black hat links again." Never say anything like that. Keep it short and simple. Something like:

    "Please see the attached spreadsheet. You will see the action we took to have all of the low quality links manually removed. We attempted to contact website owners multiple times. The requests that were ignored are marked, and those links were submitted as a disavow file on (date). Our website now complies with Google's quality guidelines."


    Then you sit back and wait. There is nothing you can do but wait at this point. I have seen penalties lifted with minimal work done and I have seen penalties stick after removing thousands of bad links.

    Your results may vary, but if you do want to attempt it, use the tips listed here to improve your chances of getting the Google slap removed.


    Conclusion

    You have three choices if you get slapped with a Google manual penalty:


    • Accept defeat, let the domain die and flip your effort to a brand new domain and start again.

    • Pay an agency thousands of dollars to attempt to get the penalty removed.

    • Roll up your sleeves and be prepared to do a lot of manual work in hope that you are rewarded with a lifted penalty.

    No matter how you look at it, there isn't an easy solution.

    If you have any specific questions about attempting to remove a manual penalty drop them below in the comments. I will do my best to answer your questions and help you any way I can. Until next time.. Ciao for now! ;)
     
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    Last edited: Apr 11, 2016
  2. hekke

    hekke Senior Member

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    Great post! Just want to add something. Make sure to not get too bothered unless it is a really important site. I am making affiliate sites and one of mine (from the journey of mine) was slapped because of "thin content". The site was totally free of plagiarism and filled with more content than any of my competitors. Long articles as well. Sometimes manual reviewers just decide to call it "thin content" without any reasoning and you put a lot of money into remaking the content when the cause is actually something different. Just a tip of mine.

    I guess t0mmy talks a bit more about client websites or "more important" sites as I like to call them. If I get a penalized site I just re-upload the content on a new domain and start over. You cannot really do it for a business or a client of yours. :)
     
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  3. virtualbyron

    virtualbyron Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    Thanks for posting another great thread T0mmy!

    One question : The manual reviews are totally random or only for the high competition keywords or because a competitor report the site to google or other ?

    Thanks!
     
  4. The Curator

    The Curator Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    Very on topic, been seeing this subject pass on the radar the past 24 hours
    In addition to this guide Tommy gave, Moz had a good case-study guide that was pretty inclusive.
     
  5. t0mmy

    t0mmy Jr. Executive VIP Jr. VIP

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    Very true, they can be ruthless at times. Obvious affiliate sites they can simply take a disliking to.. it can be luck of the draw really. Your competitors just got lucky not to be reviewed (I'd guess you were making more gains than them) that time round, or they're the ones that reported you in the first place. Affiliate sites which they dislike, they'll slap any reason on and be done with it. It's brutal and we hear those tales all the time, but that's how they operate.

    However yes, the article here is talking about aged sites, sites which have been around for some time, which simply can't afford to be left. Actual businesses built up over time, on which restarting from scratch would be a complete nightmare.

    Well the general consensus is that they can be random, they could also fall under routine checks, they could be the result of a jealous competitor reporting you, they could be caused by you making fast gains, or other reasons.. we can only assume really. Google isn't the most forthcoming with information.
     
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    Last edited: Apr 11, 2016
  6. artemis42

    artemis42 Regular Member

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    Don't know why people haven't read this, but I'll keep these points in mind. I'm starting soon with my own stuff, so I'll just remember these as a reminder and note to self. Great stuff OP.
     
  7. ChanzGrande

    ChanzGrande Elite Member

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    And Tommy strikes again with a hugely valuable contribution ... I'm glad I hate G so much I abandoned that Beeyatch long ago. Screw all that temperamental pay to play BS.

    However, since of course some of my contents do rank on G this will come in handy if I ever need to take steps to resolve a manual penalty, so thanks again Tommy!
     
  8. JokerSEO

    JokerSEO Power Member

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    Great post t0mmy, thanks for the share
     
  9. onlineonly

    onlineonly Power Member

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    The "thin content" penalty can also be a link penalty and might have nothing to do with your content.
     
  10. SEO FOX

    SEO FOX Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    Another Great post t0mmy. Nice share.
     
  11. jamie3000

    jamie3000 Supreme Member

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    Really nice share man, as always! Personally if I had a site that got slapped I'd just let or die, after the slap you'll be under so much scrutiny and I bet thresholds for auto slaps will be set lower then as well.
     
  12. look_nohat

    look_nohat Newbie

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    made a tiwib (thisiswhyimbroke) style site and got my pure spam slap because of too many affiliate links on a page after 2 years with no problem.
    is it recoverable by removing affiliate links and re-write or replace the content with high quality one (more like thin content/keyword stuffing penalty)?

    really big thanks for this actionable guide, those manual reviews are pain sometimes.
     
  13. LatteGrande

    LatteGrande Jr. VIP Jr. VIP Premium Member

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    Thanks for the tips. I have one potential site that slapped by google a year ago and I have submitted a reconsideration request myself but rejected. Then I use a service here on BHW but after 3 times submissions and wasted 2 months, the result is the same. In the end, I gotta let it go in Google battlefield. The funny thing is, the site is still number #1 on both Bing and Yahoo up until now and managed to make a decent money monthly. Lesson learned: never ditched any of your sites. :)

    Anyway I've heard that it's getting harder or almost impossible to rank the site again after the penalty lifted. Did you get the same issue with this Tommy? Or is it just a myth?
     
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  14. Bleght

    Bleght BANNED BANNED

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    A lot of valuable and detailed information with a pretty universal morale: hard work pays off and shortcuts should be used with cation.

    This point can't really be emphasized enough. Any traffic source can die overnight and if you don't have other resources and revenue streams, it becomes much more difficult to recover. And while you are looking for additional traffic sources, sooner or later you stumble upon an untapped goldmine, so it's kind of a future-proofing strategy. Whoever keeps changing and adopting continues to succeed and whoever stays complacent withers away.
     
  15. browsejobs

    browsejobs Registered Member

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    Great Post
    please include more ?
     
  16. Aatrox

    Aatrox Supreme Member

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    Great stuff again t0mmy. I had 3 sites hit. 2 of then were unnatural links (SAPE - I was blasting away and just starting to use those types of links) and one of thin content. Since they were low competition with 5000 searches per month I just dropped them and built new sites. One of them got thin content. Man, that was a fucking wake up call. I had most of my sites on thin content and after that penalty, I started updating my sites and doing ever since. So I'm probably safe on that side.
     
  17. bobmoran

    bobmoran Newbie

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    Great post thanks.
    Didn't think about the thin content penalty.
     
  18. Furious Man

    Furious Man Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    thanks for the information buddy
     
  19. charliebrooker

    charliebrooker Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    Really great post. Lots of work involved though so it really is only for those money sites you want for the long term.
     
  20. Aty

    Aty Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    Appreciated, though I don't believe in reconsideration request. Never had success.