Google Penalty Removal Won't Necessarily Improve Rankings

Nov 29, 2012 • 8:56 am | comments (30) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

negative rankingsI've said this before, espesially with the disavow tool and removing links in general.

If your site has a link penalty or another penalty, and that penalty is removed - it doesn't mean your rankings will return after the penalty is removed.

Think about it for a second...

You have a ton of links that is driving your Google rankings to the top results. Then Google notices something fishy about the links and applies a manual penalty to your site for the unnatural links. So you go about removing the links manually or via the disavow tool.

All you are doing is removing links that Google already to manual action on. Maybe your rankings will increase a bit but it likely will not increase to the levels before your penalty.

Why? Because your original rankings were based off of Google counting those links - now they won't because (1) Google caught them and/or (2) you removed them or disavowed them.

We have a case of this at Google Webmaster Help where one webmaster complained just about this. The response by one SEO was dead on:

In process of removing spam back links, you will lose some sort of weight age of links and trust factor in search engines. you need to improve your authority and build few related high quality back links. to make your website perform better.

Experienced SEOs understand this, new SEOs won't.

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

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Jordy Noll

11/29/2012 02:18 pm

I've been saying this for years, but most clients hit by this kind of penalty just don't want to understand they "earned" their rankings by "cheating" in the first place and never shouldv'e gotten that amount of traffic. I personally think you're off even worse, cause your website may have been "flagged" and you need to re-earn its authority. Would you agree or do you have a different hypothesis on that?

Lyndon NA

11/29/2012 03:55 pm

We used to have to explain the Devaluation/Annullment of links in the Google Forums quite often. Throw in the Link Disavowal Tool, and Algorythmic Penalties, and it's worse. 1) You are removing things that may have contributed to your previous rankings; thus you are likely to rank lower 2) You have fallen from the pedastool, and G may trust you less 3) You have to wait for the Algo to re-roll, before G see's the changes 4) You have to have complied with their minimum requirements to pass and be seen as "acceptable" to rank again 5) You have to "wait", G seem to have a delay mechanism in place, soyou won't be cleared and ranking again as soon as the algo runs All in all, your rankings will take time to recover (a few months?) and are likely to be lower than they were.


11/29/2012 03:56 pm

We just got our penalty revoked today and we assume we are going to have to start over in a sense rebuilding traffic and trust with Google, I mean the search engines... I just hope they give us a chance to rebuild our trust and authority without having any Flags or *'s to our domain. Is it possible to turn such a bad scenario such as a manual penalty into something positive? Can we exceed the traffic we had before with a little hard work?

Stephen Flanagan

11/29/2012 04:42 pm

With the latest Panda refresh on November 5th I have seen an example of an algorithm penalty being lifted. Rankings increased from the 4th page to 15th.


11/29/2012 04:48 pm

The best analogy I tell my coworkers, clients and friends is this: A drug dealer - they sell drugs and earn tax free money. When they're busted they're charged for their crimes and the money is taken. Expecting your results to come back from "illegal" activities, eg; poor SEO is like expecting a drug dealer to get his drug money back after getting out of jail. IMHO, (no offense to anybody) the theory of not recovering full rankings after a penalty is just SEO common sense. Best way to gain back rankings? Get natural, relevant and trusting links with natural anchor text. Just my 2 cents.


11/29/2012 05:05 pm

Jordy, I'm not so sure about your assumptions. You're assuming that all penalties are the result of underhanded tactics. That might not be the case. For example, we had a couple of sites who decided to put us on every page of their websites and it appeared that we were paying them to do that. They did this to several other websites, too. These people probably thought they were doing good, but this was a form of unnatural linking and probably did more harm than good (to all the websites they were linking to on every page of their website). And they had no readily available contact information, so we had thousands of links that were none of our doing and no easy way to contact them. Situations such as this are why the penalty is very harmful. In Google's attempt to weed out those that do cheat, they are harming non-offenders. Why should a non-offender need to re-earn its authority when they've done nothing wrong? In addition, it's rather harsh to base ranking on things that are out of the control of the site owner. Our situation happened before the disallow tool was in place. Although there were several thousand links, the offending websites were poorly developed and we didn't want to be associated with them. I think it's much like Barry stated. When a site gets a notice of the link penalty, Google is already reflecting the damage in the rankings as they have basically 'unrecognized' the link. You can disavow the link(s) but Google is already reflecting what the end result is going to be.

Nikhil Gabda

11/29/2012 05:28 pm

I have used disavow tool and before using there was 5000 backlinks and google has given message about unnatural links but now after using this tool WM is showing 2500 backlinks but google is still giving message of unnatural links? What should i do?


11/29/2012 05:53 pm

Is there a new way with Disqus to follow or receive the comments thread by email? I don't see the "follow this discussion" button. Bad thing.


11/29/2012 07:09 pm

You have to remove more. I have basically had to disvow my entire back link profile. No matter what you do you are starting fresh which is what Google wants


11/29/2012 07:12 pm

Of course you can. As people have been saying you need content. Fresh, timely, interesting content. A blog will always help. If you want your traffic to jump back or even increase you need something that people want to read or give them a reason to come to your site.

Ian Smith

11/30/2012 12:17 am

Well summed up Jordy. Not a complicated concept is it.

Ian Smith

11/30/2012 12:21 am

"Situations such as this are why the penalty is very harmful. In Google's attempt to weed out those that do cheat, they are harming non-offenders." I agree Frank. I am not convinced that the current SERPs quality is an improvement over pre-April 2012. Maybe things will improve.


11/30/2012 01:29 am

Thank you Barry, This make sense... If a website fall with a Google's anti-doping control, it'll take a penality, but after stoping to take drugs, it doesn't mean it will become a champion :) Instead removing links, maybe drinking much milk is better :)

Peter Watson

11/30/2012 01:46 am

My site dominated its niche for a long time, then in Dec 2011, Jan 2012 and again in March 2012, I had a massive influx of inorganic links using my main terms as anchor. My sites manual penalty was 'revoked' 2 days ago and just today I received the 'Google Authorship' email telling me that I have 'established your Authorship'. Does this mean Google has trust or my site once again? Due to my link profile being almost exactly the same as it was when I dominated, and before I was bombarded with inorganic links, is it safe to say that my rankings should return to what they once were?


11/30/2012 01:57 am

While this makes sense, the reality is that the SERPS are much different post penalty. Aggressive placement of ads, domain crowding and favored results for Google's verticals are consuming the bulk of the first page for many keyword queries. Some of these webmasters coming out of a penalty need to look at the cold hard truth. It's impossible to rank above paid ads with an organic listing. Regardless of how great ones content is, or the value they provide to users, it is still secondary to the paid ads that appear in many product based search queries.

Website Developers

11/30/2012 06:06 am

It makes lot of sense. Now we have to keep in mind while generating backlinks and we need to improve our authority and build high quality back links.

Vipin Sharma

11/30/2012 12:32 pm

ofcourse this is logical... removing of bad links dosn't mean ranking gain, remove links and keep up the good work again.... best to refresh your content as much as you can while removing bad links.... and then parallely go with links and content together....


11/30/2012 04:55 pm

I've similar problem :

Josef Holm

11/30/2012 06:46 pm

I like your analogy! At the end of the day all this reveals that Google still heavily counts on links for rankings and probably always will. That's good news! The only difference is that the "game" has just changed and become much more complex.


11/30/2012 06:51 pm

Thank you! Oh, yeah. Links will never go away. I've been throwing out my theory that a mixture of on-page SEO (and proper content that relates to linking pages and anchor text) with links might be more obvious. Essentially a reverse of a Google bomb. I think the actual content and subject of the linking page is going to be almost as important as the authority of the link, too. Just my fantasy island theories, of course :)


11/30/2012 07:46 pm

If somebody had to ask this than they do not deserve to be doing SEO.

Kenneth von Rauch

11/30/2012 08:04 pm

That's a nice point. I'm just wondering why so smart thoughts don't occur to average Joes like me :)


12/01/2012 10:51 am

yes this is right thing


12/06/2012 04:54 pm

this article makes no sense, because it all depends on good links vs bad links, so if you had bad links they would not influence your ranking that much anyways


12/06/2012 04:56 pm

Googles results are still bad compared to february of this year, good sites are no where to be found now.

Jarrod Wright

12/08/2012 04:51 pm

To me it feels like more may be going on with this. I have a client with a stellar link profile (with links since april). We disavowed most of the pre-april links using the tool and had already removed a ton manually. The penalty was removed. Their rankings have not yet rebounded. It has beena month... they have a legit and clean PR4 and aere outranked by sites with literally 3 links. Also they are not ranking for their band... a totally unique name. There are several potential causes but it is not that they just have fewer links.

Sunil Mungekar

01/28/2013 10:27 am

hi i am new to seo basically i do it only for my website 15 days before on my website title bar there are 4 keywords, for first keyword my website rank 9 position on google and second keyword my website rank 13 position on google search but when i change first keyword to second and second to first both keyword ranks 300+ on google search why this happen i am confuse mangalashtak

limo hire

03/26/2013 04:52 pm

yes I have to agree with the reply from the SEO consultant 100%. People that fell victim to any of the updates - need to think of it as there site was been given link weight prior to the Panda/Penguin updates - but they must next remember that these updates were done to root out 'mis-representation; - by means of blackhat and all other friendly way that cowboy seo's choose previously to gain there website link weight.....white hat all the way and keep a record!

Christy Reddy

09/08/2013 06:42 am

Till now no one can say that his website ranking is back after Google Penalties, I am sure about it, Google is just playing with everyone and nothing else, if we could get a Google Adwords overall chart for last 2 years comparing with all time then we will be realizing that why Google is doing this. Hope you guys got my point ;)

Subhash Prajapati

01/09/2014 02:39 pm

Google doing this move SEO to Google Adwords.

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