A reconsideration request is the final step in the removal of a manual search penalty on your site. If you have received such a penalty, your life will be consumed by trying to remove that penalty until you are successful. Few things matter more to your online business.
The reconsideration request shouldn’t be taken lightly. Since this is the pinnacle of your labor, you need to ensure you take all the correct steps. I’ve created this document, because I want your reconsideration request to be successful.
First Things First
This article attempts to explain the final step in a manual penalty removal process — submitting the reconsideration request.
Here’s how a manual penalty process works:
- Receive a Google Webmaster Tools report that your site has received a manual penalty.
- Conduct an audit and remove (request and disavow) toxic links in order to comply with Google quality guidelines.
- Submit a reconsideration request to Google.
Step two is the most important. This is where you do the detailed and laborious work of removing the links. Without step two, there is no step three. This article is all about step three, once you’ve completed step two.
In order to get the best information on an audit process (step two), I recommend the following resources:
- Moz: Ultimate Guide to Google Penalty Removal
- Search Engine Journal: The Definitive Guide to Recovering From a Manual Search Penalty
- Search Engine Watch: Google Unnatural Links Manual Penalty: A Recovery Guide
Hang in there. This article is not for the faint of heart, but don’t worry — the reward for a successful reconsideration request is sweet indeed. So, here is a few things you need to know about sending a reconsideration requests.
1. Yes, you DO have to send a reconsideration request.
Let me deal with an obvious first point.
Do I really have to send a reconsideration request?
The answer is yes. I’ve seen several mistaken beliefs in response to receiving a reconsideration request. Here they are.
- “The penalty will just go away.” Some people believe that ignoring the problem is the best solution. The problem is, the penalty does not just “go away” (see possible exceptions below). You must deal with it.
- “We don’t depend on organic traffic. It will be okay.” Once your site is penalized, you’ll experience severe problems in all search engines, and your site may also negatively impact other linking sites due to vicarious toxic link damage. Besides, complete deindexing is possible. Maybe “organic traffic” isn’t the big slice in the “traffic source” pie chart, but it is significant. For the health and well being of your online business, you need to remove the penalty.
- “If we clean up some toxic links, the penalty will be lifted automatically.” Not true. Once Google puts you in the penalty box, you have to ask to get out. You can make your link profile as squeaky clean as you want, but until you inform Google, it doesn’t matter.
Bottom line: You must file a reconsideration request.
But, only send reconsideration requests for manual penalties.
The reconsideration request is intended for sites that have received manual penalties. If your site has not been penalized, there is no need to ask for reconsideration.
Sites are commonly affected by algorithmic penalties. Careful and consistent toxic link removal is advised, but you don’t need to worry about a reconsideration. Google will continue to index your site, taking note of the remediation, and rewarding you with a rise in ranking once more.
There is a possible exception: The so-called “penalty expiration.”
It is possible that a manual penalty can “expire,” and your site is somehow removed from the penalty list after a certain amount of time. This issue is discussed in detail at Search Engine Watch.
Matt Cutts hinted at penalty expiration in a video from February 2011, but it’s impossible to determine if such “expiration” is really a Google policy, or simply something that they were testing at the time.
Although penalty expiration or auto-revocation is a possibility, I advise against depending on this. First, penalty expiration may or may not be a fact. The algorithm has undergone massive changes since the video, and this could be a relic of past Google policy. Second, even if expiration is true, your site will probably remain penalized for longer than you wish it to be. The best course of action is to simply address the manual penalty with site therapy and then submit a penalty removal request.
Disclaimer: I have not personally witnessed a penalty expiration.
2. Wait to send a reconsideration request until after you’ve completely addressed all the issues.
The timing of a reconsideration request is important. There are two points I’d like to make here.
Do not send a reconsideration request right away.
When you receive a penalty, your immediate instinct is to say “Wait! No! Please!” and send a reconsideration. Don’t do this. Barry Schwartz dealt with this topic in a post earlier this year:
We know Google doesn’t like it when you submit a new reconsideration request a day or two after you get a rejection response from your reconsideration request. They want to see you put effort in after you get that response. So now, it seems Google is telling webmasters who get reconsideration request responses that they need to wait a “few weeks” before submitting a new one. If they don’t listen, Google will ignore their submissions.
If you fire off a reconsideration within the first few days, Google will not only ignore it; they will actually refuse to acknowledge future reconsiderations for a period of “a few weeks.” I’ve spent a considerable amount of time on the Google Webmaster forums, listening to the concerns of the reconsideration concerns of many webmasters. Here is a message from Google that continues to resurface. This Google message is also cited in the Schwartz article above.
Removing links takes time. Due to the large volume of requests we receive, and to give you a better chance of your next reconsideration request being successful, we won’t review another request from this site for a few weeks from now. We recommend that you take the necessary time to remove unnatural backlinks to your site, and then file another reconsideration request.
Wait “a few weeks.”
Based on the Google message above, I recommend that you wait “a few weeks” to submit your penalty. How long is “a few weeks?” If you want a number, hmm…I’ll suggest six weeks.
But there’s really no magic number. You simply need to take the time to deal with whatever amount of spammy links are affecting your site. The entire process takes a long time, assuming that you are being sufficiently thorough. Furthermore, you should allow a reasonable amount of time to elapse when you contact the webmasters of spammy sites for a removal request.