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Paid link penalty - what is the way forward now?



10:30 pm on Oct 21, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Our site used to rank very well for some relatively competitive terms, until we were suddenly removed from SERPS for those keywords. This took place about 4.5 months ago.

The biggest suspect at this point in time is the fact that we purchased some paid links whose contexts were not all that related to our business. As a result there were a few periods where unnatural link growth was picked up..

Either way, what I would like to know is if anyone else out there has experienced a penalty like this. What is the best way to move forward and gain back decent organic rankings? What sorts of time periods are involved?


4:38 am on Oct 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

One fix that I know worked involved:

1) stop paying for links
2) come totally clean in a Reconsideration Request
3) then wait it out

Recovery took nearly three months after the request, in this case. Forgiveness was not instantaneous.


7:12 am on Oct 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Isn't Google's stated policy is to ignore paid links? Or, does it also include outright penalty that is unstated?


8:05 am on Oct 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

stated policy

Must be gospel then.

Seriously, G doesn't do policy. It does announcements, guidelines and blogs. Sometimes the information contained within approaches usefulness, but more often its wilfully misleading. Or at least only "true" for a given audience (which is rarely professional webmasters).

Buying links is pretty standard in alot of competitive areas, but its not really sensible to buy off-topic links. Either way, penalties are fairly rare for established sites (although common for young/small sites), simply because it offers an attack vector for a particular flavour of black-hats.


11:31 am on Oct 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator goodroi is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

sometimes it just easier & faster to start with a brand new domain. i don't know how much legitimate backlinks you have developed. if you have a good amount then it probably makes sense to wait it out. if almost all of your links were paid links then just restart a new domain. while you are at start a third domain for when your second spammy domain gets killed.

if you want to salvage your existing domain, then you need to double down your marketing efforts. launch great tools to attract people and increase the time they spend on your site. give away content, prizes, tools whatever to related websites in exchange for quality relevant links. launch a twitter account that provide great info everyday. establish an email newsletter with real value. this will help boost the importance of your website and also create new traffic streams for you so you wont be 100% dependent on google.

good luck


4:44 pm on Oct 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

We definitely do not want to abandon the domain, it is a very clean .com which contains just our two pertinent keywords. It has been around for some time as well, so it will have a decent list of good backlinks.

As goodroi has suggested, we are proceeding with a lot of marketing in social networks and competitions which is working well. Perhaps, over time, the amount of natural back links and interest we attract will "clean" our name.

We have already submitted a reconsideration request but I made no mention of paid backlinks at the time, as we were unsure of the reason for the penalty. That was 2 months ago, so perhaps we will wait another month and monitor the organics. If no more movement, a further reconsideration request with a candid account of what has taken place will probably be the best strategy.

Worst of all, this organic penalty has taken up the cost of Adwords bids substantially!


7:35 pm on Oct 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

@olly any update on this? We have had the exact same thing happen to us around the exact same time using a large paid link network.

We have since cancelled all paid links back in September and were advised that usually it takes 90 days after you cancel something like this to see results come back as we have take a serious nose dive in our serps 5 months back.

@tedster what are your thoughts on doing another reconsideration request with the issue of we already had to do one two years back when Jim Boykins clients got penalized. We filed a recinclusion request came completely clean we were using him, his sites got penalized we got hurt and we came back couple weeks after that. Just worried about being a repeat offender if google will pretty much slap us for good or an extended period of time. We were ranking for some very very competitive terms and have over 5k unique fresh content articles (no automated spam crap) that are useful to our community which we get hundreds of thousands of hits a month viewing these. Should we file another reconsider after cancelling a large link network purchase over the last 7-8 months? Don't get me wrong, we still rank but mostly everything is on the 2nd page or further back when it was in the top 5 for 2-3 years straight (excluding the jim boykin issue).


7:58 pm on Oct 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Hi @rhwd2003, no update as of yet..

The reconsideration request was processed on the 25th Aug - we got a vague message from G in our WMT account attesting to this. We have decided to wait until at least 3 months after this date before doing anything. Our most likely course of action (assuming we don't return to SERPS) will be to submit another reconsideration request on the 25th Nov, outlining in detail what took place with the paid links.

I must say, it is comforting knowing that you suspect the same source for your problems as it increases the likelihood of paid links being the culprit.

Let's keep each other posted of any movement on either side..


9:00 pm on Oct 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jimbeetle is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

One thing you should always do when submitting a reconsideration request is what you did that resulted in the slap and what actions you took to correct it.

A recidivist link buyer, huh? Not sure what you can tell Google in a reconsideration request. (You caught us two years ago, then we went and did it again anyway.) ;-)

This might be a case where you try to wait it out to see what happens, while in the meantime getting a new domain ready to launch just in case.


12:25 pm on Nov 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Hi everyone

I thought I would just let you know that we seem to have reappeared in the SERPS after quite a long break. A summary of what took place:

Early June - Disappeared for main terms out of the SERPS

Mid Aug - Submitted reconsideration request

Aug 25th - Reconsideration request processed

Nov 7th - Reapparence in the SERPS


2:29 pm on Nov 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

@olly, did you re-gain your original spots? or were you stronger or just a little weaker in the serps positions?


7:37 pm on Nov 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I've seen it take a year to get out of the penalty, but from what I have observed, you will come out eventually assuming you abandon the behavior that got you there.


10:56 pm on Nov 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

@rhwd2003, we regained our original spot for our one main term and are now #12 for the other, where we used to be in the top 10. So I would say a little weaker..

Interesting to note is that while our home page is competing for main terms again, many of the leaf or product pages are still not showing in the organics. Perhaps the penalty will be lifted by degrees.


5:56 pm on Nov 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Has anybody else experienced a penalty that is lifted by degrees?

I can confirm that it is just our homepage that has been included when searching for main terms. No "category" or "product" pages are ranking correctly - some are on page 2.

In Analytics I can see an approx. rise of 50% in organic traffic over the past week - bear in mind, though, that organic traffic has been next to nothing for some time! So, without the longtail terms ranking, organic referrals are looking very bleak indeed.


6:16 pm on Nov 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Isn't Google's stated policy is to ignore paid links?

Never had a penalty for buying links ... only for selling them.

It's easy to think that Google knows everything and therefore if your rankings drop the first thing people think is "I've been caught!"

99.9% of people seem to post that they have lost rankings without doing anything wrong. Some of them must be telling the truth? ;)

10 years I've been doing this ...

... sorry, went away to cry for a while. What was I saying? Oh, yes. Ten years I've been doing this and I've seen clean sites drop off the face of the Google Earth and my spam sites hit the top 10.

Personally. I'd get defensive with Google and put in a re-inclusion request stating a complete lie such as "someone ripped off our content and I think you de-listed us due to duplicate content. the matter has been sorted now through the proper legal channels."

I think I've used that one at least a dozen times now.

Good luck


7:17 pm on Nov 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member sgt_kickaxe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member

Google has no way of knowing if money changed hands, besides actually pretending to be a link buyer on those sites or monitoring your browser for signs you've been a busy buying bee which they won't ever admit to, so really you just need to avoid accumulating lots of questionable links all at once.

Your competition really could knock you out of the serps, if they felt like footing the bill for nasty links.

Moving forward I feel that Google is already less dependent on actual links and things like having a facebook page for your site, having a twitter page for your site, getting mention in wikipedia etc all are at least of equal value to a link regardless of if a link on those exists or is nofollow.

Think of a checklist with all the things that say your site is good, how many checkmarks can you claim ?


4:34 am on Nov 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

10 years I've been doing this ...

... sorry, went away to cry for a while. What was I saying?

Lol. I am sorry, your cry has made me smile.


7:41 pm on Nov 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member


Is your domain completely gone in GOOGLE as well?

even you search for domain.com (does not show up in Google) or you only the keywords drop so much that you could not see in top 10 pages?

This topic very interesting.


10:13 pm on Nov 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Hi seofish

The domain is now back in the SERPS but even when it was out, we would still show up for searches of the form "ourdomain.com". We would not be anywhere in the SERPS for our main terms - only a handful of terms still had results for some reason.

I'm still waiting for many pages of content to reappear in the SERPS..


8:29 pm on Dec 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Anybody else coming out of the paid link penalty yet?


10:04 pm on Dec 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member bwnbwn is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

olly maybe they are ranking correctly.
No "category" or "product" pages are ranking correctly - some are on page 2.
We all feel our site should be above the rest maybe you feel your site should the algo feels otherwise.
If they are ranking 2nd page you are under no penality I can tell you that much.

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