Got A Google Penalty? Should You Start A New Site?

Mar 4, 2014 • 8:46 am | comments (23) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

fresh startAs more and more Google penalties become more transparent, recovering from them seems to get harder. Even when you do recover, the rankings don't always return.

In a recent column by Eric Ward named When The Best SEO Move Is To Kill The Site where he concluded that "in almost two-thirds of the cases I advised that the best move was to kill the site." This is when it comes to unnatural link penalties or Penguin related issues.

The question is, is that true? Is it often easier to kill off the site?

Matt Cutts has said time and time again that digging yourself out of a spam hole is often harder then starting fresh.

Also, now that we know penalties may follow you to your new domain, if you don't start a fresh new web site, then making the decision to kill off a site is even more costly and timely.

If it was as simple as copying your site to a new domain name, switching might make sense more of the time. But if you need to rewrite your content, redo your CMS and design, then it can take a long long time.

Google's John Mueller posted on Google+ a comment about Eric Ward's article saying:

It's never a decision to make lightly, but there can be situations where a website has built up so many problems, that it may appear easier or faster to start over with a fresh & new website, rather than to try to fix all of those problems individually. This isn't an easy way to get past problems that have been built up over the years, it's a lot of work to create a new website, even if you already know the business area.

If you feel you're in this situation, make sure to get advice from friends & other people that you trust (including webmaster communities where you trust their opinions) before doing anything drastic!

In a Google Webmaster Help thread, John Mueller gave advice to someone in a hole that if he will go the new site route, he should start fresh. John wrote:

If you're creating a new website, and don't want to be associated with the old one, I'd strongly recommend really making a *new* website and not just moving the content to a different domain. You don't need to wait for anything in a case like this -- it's fine to remove (or block) the old website, and to create a really new one elsewhere at the same time.

So making the decision to start new is not easy. If it was me, I'd go in this order:

(1) Try removing the bad links (2) Submit a reconsideration request (3) Repeat this a few times until it is successful (4) Wait two months for traffic to change (5) If no traffic change then start a new site

Of course, it is not always this black and white and the specific situation might change the solution. Like if you put a ton of money into your brand name and you can't go elsewhere. Or if there are investors you need to worry about. Or if you simply can't make a new site.

It is a shame to have to deal with this stuff.

Forum discussion at Google+ & Google Webmaster Help.

Image credit to BigStockPhoto for start board

Previous story: What's Up With The Fes Marker In Google's Matt Cutts Videos?



03/04/2014 02:37 pm

People that start new sites because of penalties are already on bad footing. These people are obviously building websites for the search engines, which is something I thought Google advised against doing. Also, one must consider what a penalty free website will look like in Google's search results these days. It will most likely be ranked behind Wikipedia, Amazon, eBay, eHow and the other big brand types that commonly control the first page of the search results. Google's aggressive penalty based ranking system, where he who has the least penalties or is whitelisted ranks first, is not a sustainable business model for webmasters to adapt to. Even if you are fortunate enough to rank near the big brands, some low life will come by and link bomb your site into oblivion with negative seo. When this happens, will people by a new domain, hosting, print up new business stationary to reflect their new URL once again? All of these investments make it even more difficult to compete against big brands on both a price and customer service level. My personal opinion is to keep building a website of value and ignore Google's hormonal algorithmic changes. Bing, Yahoo and other search engines are still sending traffic to websites that Google has penalized. And although Google has scared people into linking to each other, it is still happening and some of those highly related natural links provide great revenue streams. As long as you offer visitors value, Google is the big loser in not displaying your penalized website to those using their search engine.


03/04/2014 04:54 pm

Oh please. Enough with the Google-bashing/scaremongering. " It will most likely be ranked behind Wikipedia, Amazon, eBay, eHow and the other big brand types that commonly control the first page of the search results." If their site is better, more relevant, with more content yes, otherwise no. It totally dependent on the website, nothing to do with if its a brand or not. Expecting to compete with established website from day #1 is however dumb, like anything a site needs time to grow and earn trust. A site that has been reliable, never hacked and never dodgy for ten years is of course going to have an advantage in trust over other site, however this doesn't apply only to brands. It just happens big companies tend to try and look after their websites. "where he who has the least penalties or is whitelisted ranks first" There is no 'whitelist', any decent site should have zero penalties. 200 Ranking factors in play here, not some fictional 'oh you are a brand have #1' like you are implying. There are 'authority' sites, but these are rarely commercial sites, unless the query was commercial (aka Pepsi website would be an authoritative site if you did a search for 'Pepsi', but not if you did a search for Cola) "some low life will come by and link bomb your site into oblivion with negative seo." And yet another myth. We've tested this a few times and Google ignored the links completely. The sites all got a boost for about 2-5 days and then was back where they were previously. Is it completely impossible to NegSEO? perhaps not, but claiming it is doable like that is just plain nonsense. To be honest, your posts sound very bitter. Did you try some naughty tactics, get caught and are now blaming Google? If so don't you think it would be better to take your aggression out somewhere that you aren't giving incorrect impressions to innocents and possibly costing them a lot of money or even their jobs/business....

Don Marks

03/04/2014 05:00 pm

Good topic, based on my personal experience, I would agree with the 2 month time frame in most instances.

Craig Hamilton-Parker

03/04/2014 05:31 pm

My site has been hit by Panda for 3 years now. All the pages on the site are now revamped and moved from static pages to Wordpress. Would moving domain - with page by page 301 directs - help? As panda targets content can moving make any difference? I assume positive results come from link penalty or Penguin hit sites? Anyone had luck moving when there is a panda issue?

Derek Jansen

03/04/2014 06:40 pm

My opinion is that one needs to look at it from a ROI perspective, as you would any other activity. What is the cost of lifting the penalty vs starting a new site? For established sites that have heavily invested in branding, etc, the answer will most likely lie on the side of resolving the penalty. For new sites, it may look the opposite. The challenge is of course how do you put a cost to penalty removal. If you're handling it yourself, you could commit a time investment and allocate a dollar cost to that perhaps. If you're outsourcing, the likes of Penalty Pros (full disclosure - I am involved with Penalty Pros) charge on average $2000 to get a link based penalty lifted. So its just a matter of math. Of course there are always other considerations (potential rebrand, planned site migration, etc), but I guess it always comes back to ROI.

Dave Fogel

03/04/2014 08:33 pm

This stuff makes me mad. There is no transparency with google. It is all hidden away. You pretty much have no idea what is going on. For example. You can get an algorithmic penatlty (no manual action) and bust your butt to clean up links and create disavow files, add new content etc. etc. But you never know if google even acknowledges your disavow file. Some people say it can take up to 6 months or you have to wait until another google update before you will even see any change in results from all the work you have done. In the mean time your site is doing terrible and you are losing business. So really, how is 2 months enough to decide when you have no idea what google is actually doing?


03/04/2014 10:25 pm

Steven, your entire statement is backed up by no factual information. At least what I posted can be found by simply looking to Google's search results and seeing the brand bias (mostly Internet Association members and Google Ventures partners). Not many small businesses are found for product searches although they sell over half of all products. Regarding your negative seo tests... Where is the information about them? Most of the negative seo tests I've seen are not actual tests but unwanted link bombs to seo sites that are so far removed from ordinary businesses and that are important information release points for Google. Basically what I'm saying is if you have evidence to support your statements then show them. Otherwise, your argument is just as hollow as you see mine to be. And many people can see my side of the argument because they have websites that are living the nightmare which I spelled out in my previous comment.

Don Dikaio

03/05/2014 04:20 am

It's one thing being a spammer and getting caught doing it, getting penalized and attempting to correct the issue but the part that's seriously broken is you can have your competitors do negative seo (yes It works) and you get penalized and what John Mueller says is well just kind of forget about traffic for 6 months and try to get traffic from somewhere else. There's businesses out there that don't have an opportunity to advertise in other mediums and some businesses "most businesses" won't last 6 months with traffic from the internet. I know there will be people out there that say well it's free traffic or referrals you get from Google but I don't see it that way or not completely, I understand that argument but the way I see it is Google is HIGHLY profitable off of their Ads that we all use and everyone contributes to the revenue that's generated indirectly so in my humble opinion Google at most has a moral obligation and at the least legal obligation to attempt to correct issues that allow competitors to completely remove your business from the search results based on the way Google recognizes spam. Six months is not ok and it's not fair to business owners. How can Google have statements such as "make the web better" when they continue to a) allow competitors to commit these acts (which seem criminal to me) because of a flaw in Google's web spam algorithm and b) only offering an opinion of looking for business else where for 6 months. It's unfair.

Don Dikaio

03/05/2014 04:25 am

Please share your results/tests because I could share results that directly contradict your findings and I would be happy to do so.

Don Dikaio

03/05/2014 04:33 am

@CaptainKevin:disqus I've experienced the same thing. @StevenLockey:disqus I'm attaching an image to show you what CaptainKevin and I are talking about, if you would like to touch on the topic please do. Essentially what you're seeing in this image is a link bomb campaign on a site that prior to it happening ranked well on the first page for numerous keywords because of in my opinion content and the few links that came in which was few. In Nov. the site started accumulating thousands of links, about 55 thousand new links all using the same keyword, and about 22 thousand within the next few months, that site no longer gets traffic.

Mangesh Singh

03/05/2014 05:26 am

New website is good idea...


03/05/2014 09:25 am

And we've seen lots of examples where this wasn't the case. Including real attempts on real websites. Try reading the Google webmaster forums. We've seen that from lots of webmasters who have taken no hit in the rankings, they just received the warning message (not the penalty one), and there had been thousands of links added to their sites. No affect. Now of course, there were other sites that DID get affected however ALL of those sites that were looked at had fairly major problems in other areas, either low quality, problems with code, duplicate content e.t.c. Lets take the example done on this very website shall we: According to you, that site should be receiving nothing from Google anymore. There are lots more examples like this that were done as well. The 'neg SEO' crowd just ignored them however. So yes, crappy websites with lots of duplicate content e.t.c. will be affected. Maybe unfairly, but no-one ever claimed the algorithm was perfect, but claiming you can just link-bomb any site to remove it is absolute BS. Now about the 'brands', Notice how they generally have very nice websites and those rank at the top. Thats it. Its because its a damm good website. Its got nothing to do with if its a brand or not. The real complaint here is that the small-business can't afford to spend enough to produce a website of the same quality and depth of content as a bigger company can, but there is no reason to expect a business to outrank one with a better site just because it is smaller. Pretty much all of our customers are smaller businesses and all of them rank highly on local search, despite not been brands and a couple having received link bomb attacks.

The Link Auditors

03/05/2014 11:13 am

I do not think making a new site is the answer. In most cases, penalties can be resolved by removing toxic links. Once you have removed the links, then you stick with Google's guidelines, and you'll be clean. If you create a new site and carry on with blackhat or however you got penalized in the first place, you will only get slapped again.


03/05/2014 05:04 pm

would it be a bad idea to add a 302 redirect to the new site so that you can get whatever traffic is not effected by the penalty, or better to completely dissociate as this article says?


03/06/2014 02:02 am

START A NEW SITE TRUST ME GUYS!!! Even when penalty is removed site is TARNISHED! Don's waste your time removing the penalty, it does nothing. Invest your time in a new site and learn from past mistakes - it's sort of like life, but we can;t just start over...... LOL but trust me with this advice.

osman musa

03/06/2014 07:39 am

I am no longer in it for the money so I don't care for penalties anymore, I'm getting a high paying job in the real world and won't rely on any online traffic income anymore. No need for me to be hopping around starting new sites just because of a penalty. It appears big G does mass penalties, and even innocent sites that don't do any blackhat stuff get punished.

Rameez Ramzan Ali

03/06/2014 09:13 am

I appreciate your post but my concern about timing because if you are working in any agency then they don't prefer you to waste time on such a stupid things.

Don Dikaio

03/06/2014 05:13 pm

I'd be more then happy to take you on for a bet since you're so sure of the fact, answering in absolutes as in "but claiming you can just link-bomb any site to remove it is absolute BS" so if you would like to test it I will pay for this bet on one of your sites or a site not listed in your webmaster tools account and see what happens.


03/07/2014 09:39 am

And even if it worked, does that prove that you can do this to any site? Nope. If you could try actually reading what I put, I never claimed there weren't some sites this would work on, there are also a hell of a lot it won't work on and not just brand sites, in fact most decent websites. You think you CAN link-bomb ANY site out of the rankings. Please feel free to try, I'm sure no major site will even be tickled by it, most mid-sized ones will barely notice either. As I said before, there are sites that will be affected but normally because they also have other problems. If you really want to claim that you can link-bomb any site out of the Google rankings, ok, try Amazon....... We both know thats impossible, but now do you see the claim you are supporting.....


03/11/2014 12:22 pm

it is time wasting


03/12/2014 10:19 pm

very true about the last paragraph.

Peter Park

03/13/2014 07:01 pm

I had a penguin penalty and this January I submitted a disavow request for all the bad and even remotely questionable links. After about two and half months, my ranking didn't improve even a page. Stayed in the exact same spot. I got fed up with it not knowing this stuff even works. I just started a new site two weeks ago.

Father support

06/09/2014 02:00 pm

How do you know if you're been penalized?

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