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Google Manual Penalty Injustice

4:10 pm on Jan 31, 2014 (gmt 0)

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My company was hired to take over and manage example.com over a year ago. Once google updated the world and informed us via Webmaster Tools on whether or not our sites had a manual penalty or not, we discovered that example.com indeed had a partial site-wide unnatural link penalty, and rightfully so, as the site used black hat strategies years ago to grow.

Since taking over, we have worked on using white hat strategies, as well as cleaning up the backlink profile. We hired a company called [backlink removal team] who spent the last 3 months gathering ALL of the site's backlink data from many different sources and tools (webmasters, majestic, ahrefs, etc). Over the three months they made many different rounds of contact attempts to webmaster owners (not just from email data, but phone data, personal/business address data, alternative e-mail data), and were successfully able to remove ~60% of the bad links (per their software). They also mentioned that most of the time once they reach 30% removal of all bad links that Google typically is more prone to lift the penalty.

Obviously our site took a major hit during this phase.

[backlink removal team] provided us with full documentation of their every step, we disavowed the links that we couldn't remove, and we were VERY confident that Google would lift the penalty (initially we manually tried to do the backlink outreach and google responded back within one week to say that there were still more links to be cleaned up). This time with [backlink removal team], Google took 4 weeks to get back to us. In that time we assumed that they were looking deep into all of the documentation that we provided, and that it was only a matter of time before the penalty would be lifted.

Google just got back to us the other day and mentioned that there are still bad links on our site (and provided us with three links). We contacted [backlink removal team] and they said that those links were NEVER provided in ALL of the data that they gathered from every tool available.

After all of the hard work, money, and time that was spent into cleaning up the backlinks, how can Google expect us to ever get a penalty lifted when for one, we can't even FIND the remaining bad links through every tool available on the internet, and for two, they don't even provide us WITH those bad links to give us a chance to get removed?

This is simply not fair, we are a business (that gives back to teachers, parents and kids) that is struggling to survive.

[edited by: brotherhood_of_LAN at 4:13 pm (utc) on Jan 31, 2014]
[edit reason] see stickymail at top of screen regarding specifics, thanks [/edit]

5:27 pm on Jan 31, 2014 (gmt 0)

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If they just used Opensite Explorer to look at your backlink profile then that's why you're not finding those other links.

What my agency have done is use all the industry tools (Majestic, Ahrefs, and OSE) available and combined all the backlink data together. And I know you've stated that they've used "every tool available", but have they?
5:59 pm on Jan 31, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I saw your post on Google's Product Forums. Will you let us know if that what gets your next RR approved?

I think posting there is really what you need to do get your manual action revoked, because I get the feeling that Google cares more about bad publicity than bad links.
6:36 pm on Jan 31, 2014 (gmt 0)

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It's been estimated that even the most comprehensive link intelligence databases might only show as little as 30% of the links that Google sees (see Eric Enge: Backlink Tools Show 30% to 50% of Backlinks [webmasterworld.com]).

So even if your link removal team are using the bigger link databases like Majestic, that pick up more of the 'dirtier, seedy underbelly of the internet' links than OSE, you could still be missing plenty.

I assume you've already contacted whoever built the links in the first place to see what records they have.

One thing that might help you, if your crappy links were posted with description(s), is to Google that/those descriptions in speech marks. Or, if the anchor texts used included a domain name or business name, search for that. Google can still be quite an effective link discovery tool if you know what to look for.

[edited by: aakk9999 at 6:47 pm (utc) on Jan 31, 2014]
[edit reason] Fixed URL [/edit]

7:26 pm on Jan 31, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Right, FF. The name of the domain is a good backlink search method. Don't forget to research on Bing. ;)
11:26 pm on Jan 31, 2014 (gmt 0)

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We have had the EXACT same thing and believe me, there is no worthwhile source of backlink data we did not use. All three sample links thjat Google sent as examples of links not yet removed were not to be seen anywhere. What we did is respond immediately via another RR telling Google exactly that. It was not longer than a line or two explaining that those links are nowhere to be seen on the 5 major sources of links we used. A week later we received a message saying the penalty is revoked. Good luck.

p.s Google product forums? really? baffles me why anyone would go there these days. Just a collection of egomaniac, self righteous teenagers. Or am I just getting bitter in my old age? :)
9:37 am on Feb 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

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We had manual penalty to one of the sites after 4 rounds of RR. We did pretty much what everyone say did, but in the RR stressed that we considered only WMT data for link removal. It was sort of putting the onus back on Google saying, we can work more efficiently if you provide us the full data. Can't say that was the reason, nevertheless penalty was revoked.
9:59 am on Feb 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

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who told you google staff are fair? I've cleaned mine thoroughly and submitted for 9 (!) times documenting everything - they keep coming back that my site still has more bad links. They use a different measure if your site depends on the search traffic. It was outrageous seeing how other 'brand sites' took such a penalty and quickly recovered in weeks. I've been under the penalty for a year and a half now and just gave up.
3:00 pm on Feb 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

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

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Google's not terribly interested in fair. It doesn't scale.
3:21 am on Feb 2, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I've been under the penalty for a year and a half now and just gave up.

What about site owners who have been under Panda algorithmic penalties for nearly three years? Should site owners who have knowingly and intentionally violated Google's guidelines get better treatment than site owners who are victims of a profiling algorithm? That's the way Google's system works right now.

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