As 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.
Image credit to BigStockPhoto for start board