Manual Penalty Lifted? Don’t Expect Your Numbers to Bounce Back Instantly

Written by Brick Marketing

Last year we spent about 6 months working with a client who had been hit with a manual action penalty for unnatural link building. The kicker is that before they hired us to manage their SEO they didn’t even realize they had been penalized! Their former SEO provider had built a lot of junky links (spun articles, exact-match anchor text, unrelated websites, etc.) that gave them a short-term boost in the SERPs but when Google finally caught up with them and levied that manual action penalty the worst thing possible happened–their homepage vanished from the SERPS! Even for branded searches, you couldn’t find their homepage. No need to say that the day that happened everyone was in a bit of a panic.

About 6 months and 5 reconsideration requests later Google finally lifted the manual action penalty. We had either removed or disavowed hundreds of links (luckily their link profile wasn’t enormous), but every time we sent a reconsideration request to Google they countered with more links that needed to be removed that we had never seen! So back to the drawing board we went time and time again. Then, finally, just before New Year’s we got a message in Webmaster Tools that their reconsideration request had been accepted and the link penalty was removed!

Bu take a look at the graph below:

Manual Penalty Lifted? Don't Expect Your Numbers to Bounce Back Instantly

As you can see, for a few months traffic steadily trended downwards until the manual penalty was lifted in January. But even has traffic has climbed back up since then it’s not back up to where it was before the penalty took hold. In June (before the penalty) the site was getting about 850 organic visitors a week. At its worst, Google was only sending 180 visitors (granted this was also over Christmas), but even in early December the site was only getting about 1/2 of what it was before the manual action penalty. Once that penalty was lifted traffic came back to about 600 visitors each week, better than before but still a chunk under where they were before the penalty hit.

Just because you finally managed to get that manual penalty lifted (or an algorithmic penalty is lifted after a refresh) that doesn’t mean your website will instantly bounce back to where it was before you got hit. Chances are your site was artificially inflated in value/SERP positioning before it got hit and having deleted a huge chunk of your link profile in order to recover you lost whatever little value those less-than-stellar links may have been providing. Once the manual penalty has been lifted you are at least no longer working against that penalty, but chances are you lost some SEO value in the process.

Recovering from a manual action penalty takes an immense amount of work and even more documentation. You are pleading your case to a human reviewer at Google so the more information you have to support your reconsideration request the better. Throw that old SEO firm that got you into this mess under the bus, document EVERY SINGLE link you removed or disavowed (including how many times you contacted the site to have it removed), and so forth. The more information you have to plead your case the better.

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