The advanced guide to GOOGLE penalty removal

Recovery: Where to Go From Here


Recovery: Where to Go From Here

Your site has seen been through rough times, but you have now learnt from these and your long-term performance will be better for this. If this is your first experience with SEO, getting a penalty revoked will have seemed like a baptism of fire, a pretty unpleasant crash-course in the best and worst practices of internet visibility.

Hopefully you've received a positive result from the Google Webspam Team, or will do shortly. Either way, it's crucial that you ensure your rankings return to where they were before, and you continue to build-on these into the future.

Why Are My Rankings Lower Than Before?

We don't want it to come as a nasty shock - but it's likely that your rankings will not spring back to their former glory the moment your penalty is revoked.

Why's that?

Simple. Your spam links were working, before they were discovered!

It may be difficult to accept that all the money and time you invested in that dodgy SEO campaign has gone to waste, but at least you now know exactly why it was dodgy, and have a clearer understanding of what to avoid in the future to make sure this doesn't happen again.

But that's not good enough on its own, right? You don't just want to avoid another penalty, you want to thrive in the search engines from now on, in complete safety and assured sustainability.

It's time to reinvent your SEO strategy!

1. How to Play the Search Engines' Game

Please searchers.

This is the prime objective of any search engine.

Google originally rose to prominence thanks to one key feature - they presented their users with better results than their competitors.

None of the search engines will happily allow site owners to trick their algorithms into ranking them highly when clicking on their link is only going to mislead or disappoint their users.

It's simply not good enough anymore to have a passive approach to site design, organisation and functionality. To get to the top of the search results you have to strive to be the best site in your vertical.

That means you have to look fantastic, offer extensive information and guidance, be useful, have brilliant functionality and tools. Give people a reason to link to you - create linkable assets and make sure your industry influencers are aware of them. If you can get to the point where your site is genuinely excellent then you'll find you start picking-up great quality links without having to pay, spam or manipulate.

2. On-Site Optimisation: The Fundamentals

Optimising your pages and structuring your site correctly should always be your first priority. There's no good linking back to page that Google doesn't see as totally relevant for the keywords you want it to appear for.

1. Site speed

As an often-overlooked ranking factor, site speed is an easy way to get an edge on the slow, clunky sites of competitors. For larger sites especially, making improvements to the site speed can heavily influence the number of pages you can get indexed. However, it can sometimes take some heavy changes to the site, so talk it through with your developer before changing things around.

Server processing speed accounts for about 10-20% of total site speed factors. Look into how efficient yours is at retrieving the data needed for your content.

If possible, keep Javascript and CSS files as small as possible, and link to them from your pages, rather than having them written as inline HTML. Keep as few of these files as possible for each page. More files means more data has to be retrieved, which slows everything down.

Compressing files is another way to save bandwidth and speed up your site. It allows files to be as much as 10% their original size, making data retrieval much faster. Click here for a more in-depth guide into zipping site files for speed.

2. Page Optimisation

Make sure that the following elements contain either your target keyword or synonyms of your target keyword.

Don't overlook the importance of diversity here! Remember you want to avoid over optimising your pages or stuffing everything full of keywords. Using synonyms and variations of the target keyword will improve your optimisation without risking another penalty or turning visitors of with bad copywriting.

3. Magnetic Content & Virality

Quick Sprout has made a science out of highly effective content marketing, and as a result they're always high in the search results for topics that they've covered.

In this article, Why Content Marketing is The New SEO, we learn how much cheaper effective content marketing can be when compared to poor quality SEO. They have produced and promoted 47 infographics at the time of this guide, which cost have cost them $28,200 altogether. In return for that, they’ve received 2,512,596 visitors, 41,142 backlinks, 41,359 tweets, and 20,859 Facebook likes.

If they had bought all of those results using paid links, Quick Sprout estimates it would have cost them a total of $1,072,905.80.

Now, of course it's easy for them to gloss over the countless hours of work gone into their brand, their reputation online, their network of professional contacts in the online marketing space, and everything else that goes into such an immensely successful content marketing campaign, but the point is still completely valid. The fact is, when you have something of genuine value, people will want to see it, and it will then be Google's interests to push you up in the search results.

For a full reference of excellent resources on how to create magnetic content, refer to the content section of chapter 5.

Promoting content can get just as in-depth as the rest of this guide. For excellent tactics for high-level outreach, check out this article:

Blogger Outreach: How to Get Influencers to Promote Your Content for Free

4. The Perfect Link

Any link campaign needs careful execution these days. If we're going to stick stringently to Google's Webmaster Guidelines, we'd probably prohibit any link building whatsoever. However, paying a teenager on for a slew of blog comment backlinks is a far cry from building up a relationship with the webmaster of another high quality site, and finding legitimate reasons to link to each other.

In essence, true white-hat SEO is just good networking and having high quality linkable assets.

It takes time, so let's be sure you don't spend months cultivating relationships with poor quality sites. You'd be better off associating with webmasters who could benefit from you and who you could benefit from offering them something useful in return. You do this by making sure the webmasters you make contact with have sites that are both relevant to yours and influential in your verticals.


As we've covered in past chapters, a fairly good way to tell a spammy backlink from a genuine one is if the site linking to you has absolutely nothing to do with your subject area.

The opposite is also true. The closer another website is to your niche, the more authentic it looks to have it linking to you. These don't have to be so relevant that they are your direct competitors. They could be hobbyists, industry news blogs, trade publications, or tangential products and services.


Put a website in Open Site Explorer and look at its Domain Authority (DA), a number out of 100 which gives an indication as to how authoritative Google may believe this site to be. We certainly wouldn't be basing whole campaigns around single metrics, but having an idea of metrics like DA, Toolbar Pagerank, link equity and social media engagement metrics will give you a good idea of which industry sites are the most influential and engaged.

Guest Posting

As opposed to simply asking or hoping for an appropriate link, posting an article on their site is a widely used form of online outreach. Of course, common courtesy dictates that you provide an article of high quality, and link back to your site only where relevant.

We see so many requests for guest posts that add absolutely nothing original to any conversation, and are rife with links back to the writer’s site. Treat others how you would like to be treated, and provide an amazing guest post with a little bio at the bottom including a link back to your site.

Make sure the anchor text you include either your name or your brand's name. Google have made it clear that they are willing to penalise manipulative practices with guest posts, especially at scale, so make sure that you're focusing on good quality content on good quality engaged sites.

5. Social Search

Search is becoming more social every year. It's to our advantage that our potential customers and clients are interacting with our brands within a social context.

Research shows that people are twice as likely to buy something if it's recommended to them by a friend than if they're advertised to.

Search engines recognise the irrevocable pull of social interaction and have taken serious steps to incorporate it into their results, although Google have made it clear that they aren't (yet) using social metrics directly in the algorithm.

Google+ Authorship

By linking up your Google+ profile to your website, you will have the benefit of a profile picture appearing next to your links in Google's search results, which has been shown to attract more clicks than straight text.

Despite being a shameless attempt at enticing webmasters onto their social media platform, Google Authorship can give your website an immediate bump in traffic.

Click here for a tutorial on how to set up Google Authorship for yourself.

Social buttons

Give your visitors the opportunity to share your content with only two clicks. This is possible with social buttons.

Mashable do this very well, with proud share-stats at the top, next to the main share buttons:

These buttons follow you down the page in a non-intrusive hovering ribbon:

And each image has its own attractive pad of sharing options (particularly enticing for Pinterest users!):

Adding social buttons to your pages will not only give good indications of positive user experience, but should help to increase social engagement and drive additional traffic from social platforms.

Content Shared Socially

When social media sites first started rising up out of their previous iteration, forums, they were considered fairly useless for SEO due to the fact that links from them were generally "nofollow" by default, meaning they wouldn't pass on any "link juice" to the sites they were linking to.

However, times have changed, and with the new focus on socially relevant search results, the engines are now tracking how much attention you're getting from Facebook and Twitter, as well as from your fellow bloggers. Social links on their own are not hugely powerful as an SEO metric, but can generate traffic an attention which can then lead to links from other downstream sources.

6. Rich Snippets

Any additional data you see around the main link of a search result is what's known as a "rich snippet".

They range from reviews and ratings ...

…to maps… 

…to wikipedia entries.

The visual benefits to Google+ Authorship mentioned above are rich snippets themselves.

Most rich snippet advantages come from either long-established authority in your niche, or Schema markup, or both. Markup is a way to specify content on a site so that the search engines know exactly what it is. We human beings take it for granted that we can understand the context of what we see without trying. The algorithms sometimes need a little help.

Find a full introductory guide to Schema markup by clicking here.

If you're a big deal in your niche, you're likely to be awarded some rich snippet benefits no matter what you do with the markup. Site links are an example of this. You can’t mark-up for site links, unfortunately.

Dominating Google is not just about getting to page one anymore. It's also about how you look and how your site is presented next to the other search results.

7. Authority Signals

Google+ Authorship

I know we keep banging this drum, but it really is a swiss army knife of SEO benefit. It's a social signal, it imbues your search result with an image, and it is a sign of authority.

Your G+ profile can also be linked up to other social media sites. Make sure they all make you look authoritative in your niche, and you'll see the brownie points reflected in your traffic.

For every article you write, or that your company publishes, especially if published on another site, be sure to link it to your central "about us" page, (the one linked to your Google+ profile), with the rel=author tag. This helps Google get an idea of what you've done around the web, and if it's reasonably consistent, the more your write and the more popular your writing is, the more authority signals you'll win.

Produce Diverse Content

Don't keep strictly to the written content. Allign your name and brand with videos, infographics, podcasts. The more content you author, the more of an author-ity you're likely to appear (although the quality and popularity of the content also matters).

Get Linked to By Other Authorities

Lastly, that network of peers, news sites, journalists and bloggers really comes into its own when signalling authority to Google.

Realistically most of us, mostly B2B service providers and marketers, simply aren't going to get a service-relevant piece of content to go viral, and that's okay.

As long as we're progressively linked to by more of our peers, other webmasters in the same and related niches, industry resources and listings we will be rightly recognised as a valuable asset to our industry, and gradually recognised as an "Authority".


This concludes the most in-depth guide you're likely to find on the topic of recovering your website after a Google penalty.

You now have a very sizable knowledge of SEO in general, and how to effectively protect your online assets against any potential future disasters.

Google may one day fall as the dominant search engine. Perhaps it will be Bing that replaces it, or perhaps it'll be a startup that hasn't yet emerged. No matter where your traffic is coming from, the best strategy will always be based around providing well-structured and useful content that drives and incentivises sharing.

Organise your process, focus on linkable assets, and enjoy the rewards of consistent, safe, and ever-growing visitor numbers, engagement and ultimately revenue.

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