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Unnatural Link Penalty - What Does "Recovery" Mean?



6:40 pm on Apr 2, 2013 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I had a site that was hit with an unnatural link penalty in March of 2012. After a full year of trying to get links removed, the penalty was finally revoked in March of 2013.

It has been a little over three weeks and so far the amount of traffic to the website from Google continues to decline. To put some numbers behind it, before receiving the unnatural link penalty, the site received approx 1200 visitors/day from Google. Once the penalty hit the website, that number was cut to 400 visitors/day. Currently, the website gets 50 visitors/day.

I realize that it might take some time for a penalty to be removed and I also realize that there are many other factors which determine a website's ranking. My question is, what exactly should I expect to see regarding traffic to my site from Google? Should traffic to the site increase or does getting the penalty revoked have some other benefit like allowing future links to be counted while previous ones are not? Also - we're talking extremely low numbers here. If I move to 60 visitors/day (from the current 50 visitors/day), that's a 20% increase. Is something like that to be expected or is it possible that getting the penalty removed does not have any affect on the website? (and if that's the case, why did I spend the past year removing links? :))


11:06 pm on Apr 2, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Well if you removed a lot of backlinks, then your site lost the pagerank juice it had previously received from them. Since the boost that they provided is now gone, your site's Google rankings have probably dropped, so that traffic is less.


11:31 pm on Apr 2, 2013 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I do agree that the loss of links has caused the drop in traffic. I guess my question is, when the site was first penalized, it was receiving 400 visitors/day from Google. Why did I spend the last year getting links removed if it wouldn't increase the traffic to my website? Wouldn't I have been better off to just "live with" the penalty? I'm just struggling to see the benefit (for the site owner) of trying to recover from an unnatural links penalty.

Has anyone else had an unnatural link penalty revoked which resulted in a benefit (increased traffic or some other benefit) for the site?


11:36 pm on Apr 2, 2013 (gmt 0)

I would guess you removed too many.

As we know from the recent help the BBC got from Google an "unnatural link notice" can mean links to one or many pages, rather "all or most links" to a site in general. ("All or most links" to a site is how I would think most people would interpret the BS notice, but that's not necessarily what it means.)

It probably doesn't help you much now except to know it might be better to ignore the FUD they spew via WMT and do your own thing in the future if you can't figure out exactly WTF the notice (or any notice they send) is talking about.


12:06 am on Apr 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Thanks for the responses. I actually don't care too much about the decrease in traffic, I'm more just wondering what the point of the whole thing was. For example, after getting an email stating the penalty was revoked, I was averaging around 60 visitors/day from Google. It has continued to go down since then (over the past month) to 50 visitors/day. Should I expect to see any increase in traffic from Google once an unnatural penalty is revoked or is there some other benefit (that I'm not currently aware of) which helps the site after a penalty is revoked?


12:10 am on Apr 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

I actually don't care too much about the decrease in traffic, I'm more just wondering what the point of the whole thing was.

Either exceedingly poorly planned and communicated information they thought would help (like the "not selected" garbage most people really didn't understand) or just plain FUD. Either way, there's really no point to any of it in my opinion.

If they can detect "unnatural links" then they can ignore them, but they choose to FUD it up and issue notices/penalties instead. Their site, their results, their decision, definitely not mine, because I think it's pure and complete BS to not just ignore the links if they don't think they're natural.

I've actually heard of people getting a manual penalty removed and having their traffic tank right after, so you get a 'feel good' about having a penalty revoked, but traffic? That could be an entirely different story.

[edited by: TheOptimizationIdiot at 12:17 am (utc) on Apr 3, 2013]


12:11 am on Apr 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Maybe the loss of backlinks has weakened the site so much that it doesn't matter if it's penalized or not.


12:50 am on Apr 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

The more I think about it the more the whole unnatural notice/penalty thing really makes no sense to me.

If they really wanted people to stop building unnatural links without skewing linking on the net due to the gross overreactions of so many who receive WMT notices and then remove anything at all questionable and likely tank their site in the process, all they would have to do is say:

"3147 links from example.com to your site have been ignored due to them looking unnatural. If you have built these links we're notifying you they aren't doing any good and neither will any similar links built in the future.

If you did not build these links then you can ignore this notice the same way we have already ignored the links previously noted which are pointing to your site."

People who got a notice like the preceding and were building links would likely stop as soon as they realized it was futile. People who didn't build the links or only had "unnatural links" from one site or to one page wouldn't overreact and remove/disavow everything.

It would be better for everyone, including them if they're really trying to rank the right page(s), because the overreactions of webmasters receiving Google's current FUD notices are skewing links in the opposite direction and Google is likely causing a decline in their own quality, since they use link churn, link growth rate, freshness (based in part on links), PageRank and other link based factors in their algo.

I'll end my rant about their seriously bad idea of unnatural link notices and penalties now.

[edited by: TheOptimizationIdiot at 1:01 am (utc) on Apr 3, 2013]


12:57 am on Apr 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I agree with TheOptimizationIdiot Google should just ignore unnatural links since it is way to easy for people to tank any site.

You would think that when Google removes a manual penalty you should see some sort of recovery. It shouldn't necessarily be back to were it was (since you removed links, competition, etc...) but a manual penalty was in place so it has to have some sort of impact (or why bother).


12:31 pm on Apr 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

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

It may have taken the removal of a manual penalty to find out the site has been subject to an algorithmic change.


8:06 am on Apr 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I had a client who bought links and was advised by google to clean them up. Very competitive field but they are a legit brand.
They cleaned them about a year ago and then not longer after telling Google they cleaned up their bought links, they asked the link sellers to link back to them.:)
I see they are now doing very well.
Whether it was the lifting of the penalty or the new links, I can't say.


8:01 pm on Apr 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

I am almost exactly in the same boat (more details here: [webmasterworld.com...] ), and the trajectory is kinda similar to yours: traffic before penalty: X UV/day, during penalty X/10 UV/day. After the penalty has been revoked, X/100 UV/day.

Makes no sense that algo changes do not affect penalized site: it was suggested before that the site gets "frozen" at the time of the penalty. But other similar sites of mine that did not have a penalty did not end up with X/100 (even if traffic did come down on some of them, it's not 100 times down). So, the penalty did play a role, I just can't figure out which.

It's already been 2 months after the penalty has been revoked - no change whatsoever, the traffic is lowest it's ever been - I WANT MY PENALTY BACK!

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