Disclaimer: Due to privacy agreements I cannot share the exact name of the client that I’m going to be discussing within the post.
Ever since the first Penguin update on April 24th 2012, the way we approach link building has completely changed. A lot of hard lessons were learnt and many businesses, not to mention all of those SEO agencies, suffered huge losses. But one man’s loss is another man’s gain. Amongst all of the chaos there was money to be made – this came in the form of search engine recovery projects.
I recently spoke to Christoph Cemper – the man behind the Link Detox Tool and Mark Traphagen of Virante (who created the Remove’em tool) – and asked them “What kind of opportunities have you found since the major Panda and Penguin updates over the past 2 years?” Here’s what they had to say…
Since I started talking about my rules and guidelines that we use in SEO and link building I talked about quality, especially when it came to link building, at a price.
A lot of people always took the shortcuts – mostly for budget reasons and didn’t understand the risk they built into their link profiles especially.
Since the launch of Panda updates and especially the Penguin updates all those agencies that stuck to quality were really on the winning side. To my knowledge those were the minority.
Today everyone who understands what quality links really mean and manages to stay away from those tempting cheap offers of “guaranteed submissions”, “guaranteed manual link building” and other scammy offers you still find everywhere on the web will succeed.
My saying “you get what you pay for” has never been more true, and many people that paid peanuts for crappy links got their penalty or filter now as Google started enforcing rules that were WAY older than 2 years in my book.”
“Not long after Penguin 1.0 rolled out we started getting an increasing number of inquiries from webmasters seeking help in restoring the ranking power of their sites that had been hit by the algorithm update. While many of these sites had a major cleanup job ahead of them, we realized that there were a significant number who could probably do the restoration work themselves if they had just a little bit of help. So we adapted our in-house tools into Remove’em, a self-serve tool that automates or streamlines many aspects of the link removal and reinstatement request process.
But an ever-increasing number of site owners told us the size of their problem was too huge for them to deal with. At their urging we created a full-service product, where our team of highly-experienced link removal experts take over the process. This has proven to be the fastest growing part of our entire search marketing agency business. But we hadn’t seen anything yet! When Penguin 2.0 hit in late May, our number of monthly new Remove’em accounts more than tripled, and there has been no let up to date. Another growing part of our business: webmasters using our tool or full service to clean up their link profiles prophylactically in attempts to stave off any future algorithm updates.”
Myself and the rest of the team at Wow Internet have been working with webmasters that have suffered at the hands of Google’s updates for nearly two years now, and have learnt our fair share of lessons along the way as well. We’re quite proud of one project in particular that we took on after the client was banned from Google in February 2012. I thought it would only be fair to share our approach, the tools we used and what we found worked best, so that those with long-standing search engine penalties could have a little hope!
Background of the Project
I was first approached by the client in February this year. They run a huge non-profit international Christian community website and had received a manual search engine penalty on 23rd February 2012. I was told that they hadn’t worked with an SEO agency before but they had instead tried to do it all themselves.
The result was that tens of thousands of links had been paid for from their internal teams from around the world. No record had been kept of the links that were purchased and nearly all of them were exact-match anchor text – not good. To top it off, they had sent through repetitive reconsideration requests that were, of course, thrown back at them.
Stage 1: Assessing the Situation
The first stage of any search engine recovery campaign involves deep analysis to identify any specific issues that contributed to the manual penalty. To do this, I use as many different link analysis tools as possible so that I can get the most accurate picture of the link profile. For this stage of the project I used the following:
- Majestic SEO
- Open Site Explorer
- Google Webmaster Tools
- Yandex Webmaster Tools
You’re probably looking at those tools and thinking ‘Why Yandex Webmaster Tools?’. The reason is that Yandex WMT is awesome for identifying the links coming back to your website. I use this on each of my link building campaigns, because it gives a far greater representation of links coming back to the website than Google’s WMT suite.
1.1 Gathering the Links
This stage of analysis has to be one of the most critical parts of your project – if you cut corners here then it will come back to haunt you. I spent a whole day on simply gathering the links to the website; as you will see when you read on, this isn’t the only time you will need to do this. I suggest using Majestic SEO, Ahrefs, Open Site Explorer, and Google Webmaster Tools:
1.2 Organising Your Links
Once I had each of the .csv files with the complete list of links going back to the client’s website, it was time to organise things a little. The first thing that I always do within search engine recovery projects is place all of the links into one master spreadsheet so that I have everything in one place.
The next step is to get rid of any of the duplicated links in the master spreadsheet. You can do this in Excel easily by selecting the column which has your list of URLs then going to Data>Filter>Advanced Filter and ticking the box that says ‘Unique records only’.
Once I had all of the duplicate links removed from my spreadsheet, it was time to identify some trends within the data. Initially I always look for site-wide links. A quick and visual way of doing this is as follows:
On the sheet containing the list of all the backlinks, press CTRL+F then find where ‘http://’ appears and replace it with ‘ ’ (i.e. nothing). Now do the same with the term ‘www.’. This will remove the ‘http://www.’ from all of the URLs and leave you with the root domain.
Now you’ll want to remove anything after the root domain, for example, domain.com/we-don’t-want-this-text/. I won’t go into the gory details of how to do this – check out this handy post.