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Manual action revoked and Google traffic has *stopped*?

 5:54 pm on Feb 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

Trying to wrap my head around this situation. A site has been penalized for a very long time. I'm not even all that certain why, my suspicion was that it was just rounded up together with the rest of my sites, some of which did have real issues, mostly of the "inorganic" kind. The penalty for this particular site resulted in only a trickle of Google referrals, on the order of only 20-30 visits a day (down from 2000).

Anyhow, I've never given up on it and completely redone the site lately and decided to submit an RR just for the heck of it. There were significant changes in layout and some changes in URLs, too (small - I decided to lowercase all URLs where some were and some weren't before). I have also removed or no-indexed quite a few (about 10% of total) low quality pages.

So, I got a response from Google saying "Manual action revoked". So far so good. Three days later the traffic from Google completely stopped - and that's quite a head scratcher. You could say that it has been reduced by another 90% - I'm still getting 2(!) Google referrals per day. Surely not something you'd expect after manual action has been revoked?

I know three days is probably too soon to see any results, and I was ready to wait several weeks for any changes but such negative result almost right away? Did anyone else ever see something like that? What may be causing this, any ideas?



 6:14 pm on Feb 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

1st thing I would do is check the pages were the traffic was coming from search terms and see if you lost the few terms you had.


 6:35 pm on Feb 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

Is it possible that once the manual action was revoked, one of the algorithmic changes finally kicked in?


 7:06 pm on Feb 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

Thanks, guys. @bwnbwn: the search terms the traffic was coming in on before were the best I can describe them as random. The KWs were never stable enough for me to notice any one in particular. Besides, having only 20 visitors a day does not really entice you to spend any time analyzing that traffic, so perhaps I did miss one or two stable KWs. Anyhow, they are ALL gone now. The ones I do get *some* google traffic on look like mostly hackers googling my site for known exploits - not the actual themed KWs.

@netmeg: everything is possible I guess, but, man, what a potent algo, more dangerous than an outright penalty?! My other guess would be that the site might have gotten into a precarious position where all its pre-penalty links have been stripped, so it's like it's a brand new site without the benefit of the "honeymoon" period. Which brings me to another question: does anyone know what happens with the *good* remaining pre-penalty links: do they ever get used in the PR calculations again?


 1:36 pm on Feb 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

netmeg might be right thinking a little here. If your site is under a manual penality it (not sure) probably isn't effected by algo changes, but since it was lifted your site was thrown in the mix. Not knowing how long you were under the manual your better to just give it a month or so. I agree with it being a new site


 4:49 pm on Apr 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

Bizarre as it may sound, by now I have *three* instances of sites coming out of penalties and seeing their rankings plunge. Two months after this has been posted, the first site about which I wrote this post originally, is still receiving G traffic at "just" about the level that it had before the penalty was revoked.

In other words, it took two months to recover from removal of a penalty! Two other sites that had their penalties revoked later, are still suffering from traffic at about 60% of pre-removal level.

Those three sites with penalties removed is my entire sample size, so from my experience it looks like a significant traffic drop after a penalty is revoked is nothing short of mandatory!

That still blows my mind - makes no sense to me. What do you guys think can be at play here?

The sites had penalty since Aug 2011. So, it's post-Panda and post-Penguin but there were a few reruns of them since. Do you think it makes sense to consider penalized sites "shielded" from algo changes? Why would you design your anti-spam system like that? You would think if the site is marked as "spam" or at least "questionable", the effects of algo changes would be rather exaggerated for it, not diminished (or completely removed).

Is there anybody else here that sees this phenomenon?


 12:49 pm on Jul 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

Hey guys, just found this thread searching google for a similar problem to mine. Any news on that from your side?

Here's my case, my site was penalized since January 2012. After removing links, the penalty was revoked. Now, three weeks later, the site started ranking 50+ for most keywords and 5+ for long tail keywords, which is a positive change, but still seems like there's some algo issue going on, as even the domain name (without the .com) ranks #4. Any ideas what it might be?


 1:31 pm on Jul 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

When you remove links, in advance of filing a reconsideration request, your backlink profile changes. What ranked you previously is no more, and your pages will rank where they naturally belong once the penalty is revoked.


 2:23 pm on Jul 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

Well that's not the issue in this case since if it was it the domain name would rank #1 and long tail keywords on the first or second page.

I'm asking for the opinions and experience of those above who had their penalty revoked and had the same problem.


 3:08 pm on Jul 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

Bizarre as it may sound, by now I have *three* instances of sites coming out of penalties and seeing their rankings plunge.

Maybe a history of manual penalties is a negative "trust" signal in the algorithm?


 3:51 pm on Jul 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

@Inspector: 6 months later the site is getting about as much traffic from Google as it was getting before the penalty was "revoked". For all intents and purposes it's still penalized even though they notified me of the manual action's removal.

@turbocharged: if you did remove links then yes, you would lose some PR and hence the ranks. But in my case I never had any links (to the particular site I was writing about) and did not remove them either. I simply spruced up the site (new design, new features, more "contemporary" look) and re-submitted an RR. I'm convinced that the penalty was revoked simply because a reviewer liked how the site looks a little better this time - completely subjectively.

So, the site went down when the penalty was applied (below where it might naturally rank) and went further down still when the penalty was removed (or so Google says). If not link profile change, what would push it further down?

@EditorialGuy: possible but it essentially means that a penalty cannot be removed - it will always be present in the form of the trust signal. MC does talk about penalty as something that can really go away, so I'm not sure how to read this. Why would you remove it in the first place if you're still not sure about it and keep that "negative trust" data for the site?


 4:37 pm on Jul 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

Why would you remove it in the first place if you're still not sure about it and keep that "negative trust" data for the site?

I don't know (I was just mentioning a possibility), but I suppose it could be like someone who's convicted of reckless driving and has his driver's license suspended for 30 days. When the 30 days are up, he's no longer under a penalty, but the conviction is on his record, and he may not get the benefit of the doubt the next time he gets stopped for running a red light or rolling through a stop sign.

To put it another way, if "trust" is a positive signal and a manual penalty has a long-term negative impact on that signal, you could suffer lingering consequences from the manual penalty even after the penalty iself is lifted.

Disclaimer: That's just a "what if" (not even a theory, but a casual stab-in-the-dark hypothesis).


 4:48 pm on Jul 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

Google guy John Mueller mentions that the issue might be algorithmic and that it can be fixed



 8:27 pm on Jul 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

@Inspector: That statement by John Mueller is quite confusing and puts the notion of a penalty (aka manual action) on its head. It implies that the algorithmic rankings have precedence over a manual action (the only way there can be no change after an actual removal of a manual penalty) which simply cannot be true because in that case there would be no reason to have a manual review/penalty process. Google is very skimpy on human resources and they would not waste human labor on a process that was not essential. A manual penalty has to be a huge dampening factor and there should be SOME positive change after it's really removed. So my hunch is that they are not too quick to remove a penalty. Perhaps they don't want to remove it at all (whatever reason might be, technical, punitive, whatever) and send you the notice just to get you off their tail?

BTW, the site in question in that post (from the Google Product forums thread linked there) is also still suffering from the penalty, some 8-9 months after Google sent them a "revoked" notice, judging by their current traffic stats (from third party data sources, should be noted)

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