How to Resurrect a Deindexed Site – Part 2

Ko Phi Phi at night

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:

Reconsideration request for [WEBSITE REMOVED]: Site violates Google’s quality guidelines

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.

Sincerely,

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):

this layout/site was deindexed

this layout/site was deindexed

This is the final layout after changes made

This is the final layout after changes made

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:

Reconsideration request for [WEBSITE REMOVED]: Manual spam action revoked

February 7, 2012

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.

Sincerely,

Google Search Quality Team

A look into the visitor history on statcounter revealed this:

visitorstates

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:

stats_after_change1

google-traffic

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

Ben

Comments

  1. JanisG says:

    Ben,

    I have very similar experience.

    I had my Amazon review site deindexed back in May 2011 because “some or all of your pages violate our quality guidelines”. The site is somehow heath-related and deals with specific type of hygiene products. I am still not sure what exactly was the reason for deindexing.

    It took 4 or 5 re-inclusion requests to get the site back. I did exactly the opposite – removed content from the site. Initially I removed all affiliate links. Then lower quality articles. Then installed default 2011 theme. Then removed more articles.

    At the end I cut the site down from 30+ articles to 3 articles – 2 informational articles about the niche and 1 product review.

    What I also did after submitting the last review (just before reindexing the site) – I created the topic in the Google Webmasters forum. Why? According to my experience it cuts down the waiting time because it seems that Google assigns some kind of priority to sites discussed in their forum.

    Cheers!
    Janis

    • admin says:

      Interesting to note. I had one site that took 3 or 4 attempts. I’m sure you get different reviewers with each request you do.

      At a most basic level, you’ve got to remove monetization, put on a good looking theme, and make sure you have some articles of substance. Interesting to note you went from 30 articles to 3 articles. Perhaps the articles were all to similar or written about the same keyword/topic (the reviewers don’t seem to like this). I had to remove 10 or 15 articles during this experiment. They were petty thin in content and those type of articles that don’t say anything much really. Not sure if those were the reason I got my first attempt rejected, but they might have contributed.

      I can see who making a topic in google webmaster forums might help, but I’m not a big fan of posting a websites publicly, especially on a forum like that. I’ve looked at the time it takes to process the requests and it’s ranged anywhere from 3 days to 2 and a half weeks. I’ve never had it take more than 3 weeks though.

  2. Cromulent says:

    What is the ultimate goal for this re-indexed site? If you’ve taken anything that can make you money off of it, what is the point other than learning what it takes to make G happy again? Which admittedly is a considerable benefit.

    • admin says:

      You take of all monetization DURING the process to get it re-indexed (having monetization on makes it even more difficult to get a site re-indexed). After you get back in the index, you can put affiliate links (or adsense) back on, fiddle with the layout, etc. Granted, it would be stupid to get reindexed, then restore the site to what it was before. In this case, I’m just going to sell the site (I will put monetization back on though).

      • Cromulent says:

        Good. There wouldn’t be much point to doing all that work if you couldn’t monetize it eventually.

        Wouldn’t it be cruel if G stuck that site back in their files to be rechecked later? Do you think that is possible?

        • admin says:

          Could be very possible, but I doubt it and I certainly have not had any issues with that.

          The issue really is NOT that you monetized the site that got it deindexed in the first place. The issue is a deindexed site was such that it did not meet Google quality guidelines (whatever those might be, nebulous as they are to pin down). If you clean the site layout up, put on quality content that actually has value, and don’t turn the entire site into a complete affiliate review site that’s only trying to churn out affiliate clicks or MFA site, you shouldn’t have a problem with google, even if they do recheck the site in the future.

          Basically, just don’t revert the site back to the way it was when it got deindexed. And really, why after spending the time cleaning up a site would you want to revert it back to a Pile of Shit anyways? You might make more money in the short term with a spammy site, but I’d rather make a little less money for a long time than a lot more money for a very short period of time.

        • Cromulent says:

          If monetization in and of itself is not a problem, why not keep a bit of it in when applying for re-indexing?

          • admin says:

            Because, I think it probably makes it easier to get your site reindexed if you don’t look like you are trying to make money with your site. Put it this way, most spam/low quality sites exist ONLY to make money — either via adense, affiliate links, lead generation, etc. In fact, most people won’t produce crappy sites if they can’t make money with them. And usually crappy sites are published in the first place because it’s a shortcut method to making some quick money online.

            I don’t think Google looks at it in terms of a “this site is trying to make money, so let’s punish it” viewpoint. If that were the case then most of the web (which is all about $ in one form or the other) would be penalized. I think it’s more in terms of what sort of value the website is offering to the readers OTHER THAN TRYING TO MAKE MONEY that’s taken into account. I’ve heard that Google views affiliate type websites (especially product based sites) pretty suspiciously because these sites are just one more level the user has to click through to get to the product. If a user say searches for “Wooden Bed Frames” and ends up on an affiliate page and clicking on a link that takes them to amazon (where they likely would have gone anyways) right away without having gained any value from your site in regards to that topic , that’s contributing to a negative user experience. So for some types of monetization (affiliate and adsense especially), you’ve got the add a lot of value to the user experience to justify the user’s time.

            I’m not saying I agree with this, but it seems to be the way Google operates. If your site doesn’t offer anything significant to the user that they could have just gotten by going directly to source product in the first place, then your site may have problems with Google.

            So it may be that “Is this site monetized” could be one of the criteria the Google reviewer’s look at when deciding to let your site back into the index or not (or even for deindexing). Am I completely sure about this? Nope, but I suspect it’s probably true. So why possibly make it harder to get your site re-indexed. As I’ve experienced, it can be a bit of a bitch to get a site reincluded and you want to give yourself the best chance of success.

            I can’t claim to know exactly what Google Employees are looking for when judging reinclusion requests, I’m just give stuff I suspect they look at. This experiment was setup to publicly test the waters a bit and show you can get penalized websites back into the search index.

            And if anyone has submitted a successful reinclusion request while keeping Adsense and affiliate links on the site, I’d love to hear it. That knowledge would only benefit everyone who reads this.

  3. Staz says:

    Hey Ben, I was just wondering if any of your sites got hit with Google’s latest Panda update at the end of February? My site took a huge nosedive and I’m not sure where to go from here. I thought it was de-indexed so I changed around my theme, made my content better and submitted a re-inclusion request but I received a letter back saying no manual spam action had taken place on it. I asked some questions on the Google forum and found out it was from the latest Panda update but now I don’t know what to do to recover, my content was unique and lengthy (~1500 words a post), my links were all whitehat. What is Google looking for with this latest update?

    Thanks

    • admin says:

      No, but I haven’t been aggressively linkbuilding them the past year to be honest. I’ve heard the changes (panda 3.3 + the new ones) have really targeted linkbuilding. For example, Build My Rank, which was the most popular link network, had every blog recently deindexed. Anyone who’s used them the past year will feel the effects since those links are no longer counted (especially if those are the ONLY links one has used).

      That’s the nature of the game. You’ll just have to build your site up more and get more (quality) links. That’s the only thing you can do. Avoid link networks and such to your money sites as well. The best link network is your private one — you’ll never have problems then.

  4. lissie says:

    Ah one of my favourite places in the world! Can’t see any of your images though – the links are all broken

    • admin says:

      Yea, the entire site crashed and I had to reinstall. Every one of my pictures were lost. I’ve got an older backup, but it’s a year old (going to get around to restoring the pics).

      If there is still interest, I can manually put the pictures for the restore deindexed posts though.

      And how are you doing? Long time no see! Yes, I do love Thailand. Pretty much my new home here in Phuket now that I’m living here.

      Ben

  5. Lachlan says:

    Dude! Get the pics back!
    (Yes I read your reply to Lissie :)
    Would also love to hear more stories about living in Thailand.

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