For any site that edges on the border of blackhat SEO, it’s best to back away and make sure your space is a Google-approved zone. This is especially important when it comes to building links. The key to link building isn’t necessarily about quantity, but rather, the focus is on quality. The more, the merrier doesn’t apply here. If you’ve been notified of a link penalty, you’ll need to submit a Google reconsideration request, a formal submission which basically, addresses where your site went wrong and what you did to fix it.
Once you’ve been penalized, it has to be fixed to Google’s liking before you can see your rise from the SERP ashes. Just ask J.C. Penney who got struck hard for bad link building tactics in 2011 and didn’t start to crawl back into Google’s good graces until after 90 days. Although not all penalties may last as long (it depends on the severity of the violation), three months is quite awhile for your business to go without being found (or at least hard to find) online.
Despite your strategic best efforts and pure, whitehat performance, you may still face a Google link penalty. Before you panic, know there is a way to fix it and the sooner you address the situation, the better. You’ll receive an emailed notice from Google alerting you of the violation. From there, log into your search console and review the Manual Actions section to see what penalties Google has marked against your site.
In this section, you’ll be given detailed instruction as to the next steps to take in order to remove the penalty and have your site re-crawled. However, before you submit a reconsideration request, ensure that it includes: the exact quality issue on your site, the detailed steps you’ve taken to fix the issue, and documentation of your efforts. Your request is reviewed by a member of Google’s team and you’ll be notified whether it is approved and the penalty is lifted or denied.
Time is of the essence in the case of a Google link penalty, but you want to do a thorough job of cleaning up your site in order to address the issues as listed. Doing it right the first time is best.
Steps To Take Before Writing A Reconsideration Request
If Google suspects a violation, you will be penalized. The top two link penalties are manipulation of backlinks and selling links on your site. When it comes to SEO, the morequality links to your site, the better it looks in the eyes of Google and the more helpful it can be for the user.
The point is to have your site be looked to as a good resource of information. When you manipulate this in an unnatural way, Google doesn’t like it because you’re not giving the user an authentic experience.
So how do you get the bad links removed? You can contact the webmaster and request to get the link removed. This may be time consuming and ineffective, if they don’t respond, but you will want to capture screenshots of your emails and date your inquiries to provide as documentation when you submit your request.
The next solution is to disavow the links. This asks Google not to consider certain spam or non-quality links to your site when it’s crawled. To implement this, go to your Search Console page, go to Search Traffic, and click Links to Your Site. Under Who links most, you can click More and click Download sample links.
From here, review and document all the links you want disavowed in a Google spreadsheet. Submit this through the the disavow links tools page. Select the site you want to disavow links from; click Disavow Links; and Choose File to upload the spreadsheet you’ve put together. Again, make sure to record the steps you’re taking and provide any documentation to support that you’ve put in the work to fix the penalty before you write your reconsideration request.
Take the proper steps first and gather the information needed versus submitting the request and indicating how you will be taking action. In order to remove the penalty, Google will want to see the work has already been done.
Writing A Reconsideration Request
After you’ve gone through to remove as many spammy links as possible and have addressed any and all issues Google has set forth in its notification, you’ll want to draft your reconsideration request. Include all details necessary before sending to avoid delay or worse, denial, of the process. Also, save a draft for your personal records as you will not be able to review it after submitting.
We recommend including the following:
- Introduction – Identify the problem(s) Google penalized your site for and include a summary of what you’ve done to fix it.
- List out the specific steps taken – Provide a link to the Google Doc that includes all the links pointing to your website including the unnatural/spammy ones that were removed but still active. Also, provide email screenshots sent to websites that you requested links to get removed.
- Use examples of toxic links that were removed – State why they were removed, ex. ads on the site, poor content, spammy link profile, etc.
- Apologize – Thank Google for their time, be polite, and apologize for the inconvenience. Indicate how you will watch your link profile more closely and adhere by Google’s guidelines going forward.
It’s important not to skip any steps and to be professional in your request. Review your draft before sending to confirm nothing is missing.
Google Reconsideration Request Example:
Follow this format to ensure you have a thorough reconsideration request. Alter it as it applies to your situation and include any information that can help support your request.
Dear Google Team,
My name is X, CEO of X (provide a link to your domain). We would like to submit a reconsideration request for an unnatural link warning received, as we have seen significant traffic decline since X 2017. We have found our link profile to be violating Google’s Quality Guidelines as it pertains to linking of other websites. Upon an audit of the work, we identified violations and have rid ourselves of inbound links coming from spammy or fabricating domains. As a result, all the malicious behavior in regards to Google’s Quality Guidelines has stopped immediately.
For the last 90 days, we have gone through our entire back link profile, ran tools, and put eyes on each website linking to us to ensure quality and relevance. After identifying hazardous links, we reached out to the webmasters to ask them to take down or change the link to a <nofollow>. Most were cooperative, and those that did not respond or did not want to take down or change the link have been noted in the disavow file uploaded on X (provide the date).
The link below is a detailed spreadsheet of the removal campaign (provide the link). Most individuals were cooperative and took the link down immediately, as seen below: (provide screenshots).
We included a tab labeled “Did Not Take Link Down.” These domains received our emails and either refused to take the link down or did not respond to our request.
Our last step involved taking the links that we could not get removed through webmaster outreach and updating the webmaster tools disavow file with only the links we cannot get rid of on our own due to non-cooperation by webmasters.
We have severed all ties with online marketing companies that violate Google guidelines and vetting all future partners to make sure they are in line with Google guidelines as well. We have put new training processes and guidelines in place to ensure all new team members comply within these guidelines on all of our marketing and content creation efforts.
At this time, we are asking that you please consider our re-inclusion and lift the link penalty that has significantly affected our website visitor traffic and search engine rankings. We have been forthcoming and realize the errors of our past tactics and take full responsibility. We now have a system in place to keep up with Google’s Quality Guidelines and it is closely monitored internally as part of our Standard Operating Procedures. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Submitting A Reconsideration Request
Once your reconsideration request is ready for submission and you have double-checked all screenshots are of good quality and any links or documents that illustrate your efforts are working properly, go to your Search Console account.
Go to Search Traffic > Manual Actions > Request a Review. Remember to keep a copy of your reconsideration request for your own records, as you will not be able to access it once it’s been submitted. Google will notify once the penalty has been revoked.
Google wants to maintain the integrity of its search engine results. Due to this, it is diligent in keeping rankings in order of what will prove most valuable to the user performing the search. Websites that prevail avoid thin content, spammy links, and do not rely on keyword stuffing to raise them in the ranks.
By proactively practicing good SEO habits as per Google’s guidelines, you’ll set yourself up to be in good rankings shape. However, if you do receive notice of penalization, take the proper steps to remedy the situation.
This involves reading the reason why your site has been penalized and taking the appropriate action(s) to fix it. Remember to note and provide documentation of all steps of the process to help illustrate the work you’ve put in as part of the reconsideration request.
Draft your official reconsideration request and confirm all links, docs, and images/screenshots are working properly and submit when ready. As a final step, discuss the link penalty as a team and go over the proper steps to prevent a similar issue from occurring in the future.