Ok, it’s been a few weeks since my last post. I was waiting until the experiment was concluded. This a follow up to my post about restoring a deindexed site.
As stated in my last post, I committed the following changes to my deindexed website before doing a reinclusion request in the Google Webmaster Tools:
- changed the wordpress theme to a custom theme that looks good
- removed all monetization — adsense + affiliate links taken off
- modified the content to change anything remotely salesy to non salesy
- added 3 new posts (site has a total of about 25 posts). Made sure to include videos and pictures on the most recent post
- filled out the nav bar with more stuff (contact with picture + address, about page, a forum link)
This took me a couple hours to of playing around with the theme and site to do. I then submitted a re-inclusion request with a long paragraph about how I’ve revamped the site and the current aim is to help people with that health problem and to deliver legit and quality content.
Submitted the request Jan 14th
Statcounter log showed Jan 16th a Google IP from India (i’ve noticed this is where the quality inspectors come from). They stayed on the index page for 0 seconds.
Jan 19th, I received this in my Google Webmasters Mailbox:
Dear site owner or webmaster of [WEBSITE REMOVED]
We received a request from a site owner to reconsider [WEBSITE REMOVED] for compliance with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
We’ve reviewed your site and we believe that some or all of your pages still violate our quality guidelines.
In order to preserve the quality of our search engine, pages from [WEBSITE REMOVED] may not appear or may not rank as highly in Google’s search results, or may otherwise be considered to be less trustworthy than sites which follow the quality guidelines.
If you wish to be reconsidered again, please correct or remove all pages that are outside our quality guidelines. When such changes have been made, please visit https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/reconsideration?hl=en and resubmit your site for reconsideration.
If you have additional questions about how to resolve this issue, please see our Webmaster Help Forum for support.
Google Search Quality Team
Ok, back to the drawing board for this one. I completely changed the theme, I removed all monetization, I updated the site with 3 new posts each around 1500 words. I included videos and pictures in the latest post. STILL not enough as whoever inspected the site from india still felt the site violated quality guidelines. A few reasons occurred to me:
-the site was in a health niche. Google stated in the past that health type sites need to be pretty trustworthy. Misinformation can have consequences
-the domain name itself was a spammy. It was a 6 keyword domain. It’s easy to argue that “healthcheck.org” is a legit site. But “howtogetridofcornsfast.net” or “howtogetridoftoepain.org” types of domains might be viewed a bit more critically, especially since they are ultra targeted. I’ve stated in the past that search seems to be favoring big general authority sites or big niche specific authority sites. Too specific might land you in trouble if the content and site layout is not appealing, especially if you start ranking for the root keyword and getting lots of traffic.
So I’m a firm believer in trying something until you can get it working. I went back to the site and modified it even more:
- added a custom logo to the site (before it was just a generic text logo) designed with logo software. Logo name was NOT the exact domain name, but more of a brand name (community related to the health problem)
- Changed the site title to something community orientated (not the same as the website domain, which is an EMD for the original term I was targeting).
- added another 3 posts with the last post being 2000 words and full of pictures and videos and LINKs to legit health sites.
- pumped up the sidebar with social media buttons, links to authority sites, some generic tips
- went through the entire site and removed about 10 low quality articles that were first put on the site 2 years ago. These were basically ezinearticle rewrites and the content was pretty similar in theme. Many of these had similar titles — they were basically created to target the long tails from google keyword tool.
All in all, I spent another 4 hours working on the site and designing that custom logo. Total time spent fixing the site up about 8 or so hours. I resubmitted another re-inclusion request January 20th.
I’m a firm believer in showing some proof and giving examples. So here is the before and after shots with site info/information edited out (for obvious reasons guys):
As you can see, the improved layout is dramatically better in terms of the look. Really, the look of your site makes a big difference to google. Back in the 90′s and early 2000′s, you could get away with a craigslist looking site. Ugly was ok (tripod/geopages for those who remember) and in fact normal. But in the era of wordpress blogs and web 2.0, sites have to look good.
Well February 8th, traffic states suddenly spiked. It had been over 2 and a half weeks since my second re-inclusion request had been submitted and I had not seen any increase in traffic or reviewed any message from the Google team so I assumed I had been rejected again (from past experience, there can be a week or two delay between when they reject/accept your re-inclusion request and when they send you the official letter).
Well I logged into webmaster tools and found this waiting for me in the inbox:
Dear site owner or webmaster of [WEBSITE REMOVED]:,
We received a request from a site owner to reconsider [WEBSITE REMOVED]: for compliance with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
Previously the webspam team had taken manual action on your site because we believed it violated our quality guidelines. After reviewing your reconsideration request, we have revoked this manual action. It may take some time before our indexing and ranking systems are updated to reflect the new status of your site.
Of course, there may be other issues with your site that could affect its ranking without a manual action by the webspam team. Google’s computers determine the order of our search results using a series of formulas known as algorithms. We make hundreds of changes to our search algorithms each year, and we employ more than 200 different signals when ranking pages. As our algorithms change and as the web (including your site) changes, some fluctuation in ranking can happen as we make updates to present the best results to our users. If your site continues to have trouble in our search results, please see this article for help with diagnosing the issue.
Thank you for helping us to maintain the quality of our search results.
Google Search Quality Team
A look into the visitor history on statcounter revealed this:
Interesting to note:
- reviewer spent 12 minutes on the site
- left from a different page (meaning they were browsing around the site quite a while looking at things)
- two and a half weeks after the request was submitted (which was right after the first request was denied).
- it took about two days after the spam action was revoked for Google to start sending traffic again. The third day, traffic jumped by about 20x.
Let’s take a look at the traffic stats:
Now, at the peak of this site’s ranking, I was getting over 2000 visitors a day (sorry, I don’t have the stats for that anymore. I was using analytics. I deleted the site from my analytics account — I barely use analytics anyways as I don’t trust google — when I made the re-inclusion request). Now even with the spam action revoke, I’m only getting a bit over 200 people a day now, 1/10th of what I was getting a year ago. I expect it will take a couple weeks, even a month for the rankings to stabilize. I fully expect that traffic will continue to increase every week. I’m still not ranking for the main two keywords I was before the deindex and it remains to be seens if ALL my rankings will recover. It’s been about a year since the site was deindexed, remember this. Frankly, if ALL my rankings are recovered in time, then that’s a very good sign of hope for some people!
My plans are now to build up the site a bit with more content, send a few new backlinks to it, and sit on it for a few months. If the traffic returns to 1500-2000 people a day (and it certainly could!), I’m going to sell the site and maybe make a quick 8-12k on it. All and all, not bad for a site that was completely traffic dead for a whole year as of about a month ago!
A few points to take from this experiment
- You can recover deindexed sites, even if your site was a load of shit
- You must make prettify your site dramatically to recover your site
- custom logo
- remove old content that might be “thin”
- remove content that’s similar to other content on your site
- don’t have content that’s thinly targetting google keyword tool long tail results
- ensure your site has plenty of content (i’d say at least 10 pages of content, preferably 20ish+)
- Make sure to write a long paragraph in the reinclusion form stating your intent to make a community-based site that’s all about quality
- If your site is about a specif topic (especially in the health niche or about something salesy), make sure to change to site to be something community orientated. Convert the site into a forum only site (you can swap it back after you get back in the index), add a bunch of community features, etc.
- Sites that have spammy domains or real longtail domains may struggle to get reindexed. You’ll have to work extra hard with a site like this. I suggest making sure the logo is a custom one and NOT the domain name. Also change the title to something general.
- If you get rejected, KEEP SUBMITTING NEW RE-INCLUSION REQUESTS OVER AND OVER (could be one quality reviewer might accept what another rejects)
- The Google Search Quality Team that reviews your website will be from India
I made substantial changes to the site the first time around and in my mind, the changes were good enough to get the site reindexed. Apparently not. Now it could have just been the mood of whoever reviewed the site (the first review spent less than 30 seconds on the index page before rejecting my request, the second reviewer spent 12 minutes shuffling through my site). So tinkering with the look of the site and making a couple surface changes might not be enough to fix your site. You can try, but you may have to significantly beef up the content, remove content that’s thin, etc.
I hope this case study /experiment has been helpful to you folks and I’m glad the experiment proved successful. So if you have a money making site that gets the boot, it’s totally possible to restore the site to Google’s good graces. You just might need to revamp the site dramatically and submit multiple re-inclusion requests. There is that saying that’s true: The Squeaky Wheel Get’s the Oil.
Cheers from Thailand