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Recovering from a Manual Penalty (Thin Content)

10:46 am on Nov 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Mod's note: Continued from original discussion here...

Urgent Help Needed With Reconsideration - Thin Content Penalty

Hi all

I thought I'd start a new thread on this, I have recently been released from Googles Death Grip and had a Manual Action for Thin Content removed. The original thread is pretty long, so I thought I'd summarise what I did here:

Just for a bit of history, I run a comparison site (affiliate based) in the High Risk Short Term Credit market (think small loans), its a spam ridden industry but I am not a spammer. I offer a simple comparison service, independent and impartial and I am not a broker, I don't take applications or collect any information at all.

So I received my penalty on the 24th September, naturally I was shocked given I had excellent Google Analytic stats which led me to think people were actually enjoying my content.

Anyway, I went through a process of 7 reconsiderations before getting it removed. Without going through every one individually, here's a brief summary of what I did:

Removed a sub-domain that I had recently setup
Removed every single advert on my site
Moved the main text of the site up the page by removing images
Removed pages that were not necessary
Removed blog posts that were not industry specific
Removed categories that they may have been perceived to have been created for ranking purposes
Rewrote my main content (reviews)
Removed associated sites - I owned another site in this niche, although it wasn't ranking or really getting any traffic I deleted it completely
Added 14 new articles, hand written and between 700 and 1300 words each
Increased pageload speed
Fixed all my HTML errors
Repaired all broken links
Reduced the amount of affiliate links by 66%
Removed all 'tags' as they were being indexed

--All rejected---

Next step I took was to completely rebuild my homepage. I spent money on developing a unique comparison tool and changed the entire layout of my site, new navigation and a new homepage.
Removed ALL categories except the essential ones
Added a Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions to the site
No-indexed further pages

---Still rejected---

Next up I looked at my affiliate links. In Wordpress I could see that the links were tagged 'nofollow' but when I checked the page source the nofollow tag wasn't there. There must have been an error in the theme I use which meant none of my links were nofollow. I fixed this issue.
I updated my About Us and Contact Us pages to include more information, images and to give people a better idea of who I was and how they could contact me.
In the UK, the industry I work in is currently under a Government Investigation. I have recently been lucky enough to be involved in this and provided evidence to prove I wasn't a fly-by-night spammer and I was serious about by site.


It's hard to know exactly what the trigger was, I suspect it was primarily me ensuring my links were no followed, but I am not sure that would trigger a Thin Content penalty.I think they wanted to see some transparency from me, in a murky industry like this I think that's important.

It was a very, very stressful time for me whilst I was under a penalty, I had no income for a long time. I have learnt some really important lessons however from this experience. I have learnt a lot about my business, how vulnerable it is and now know that you just cannot rely on an external source for your income, especially when you have no control over it - I think I have always known that but it takes something like this to make you appreciate it.

Through it all, I stuck by what I thought was right. Yes, I fell in love with my site, and some suggested letting it go and starting again, but that was never an option for me. If you truly believe in what you're doing, stick with it. Don't make rash decisions based on one persons opinion either - everyone has different ideas, think about what people are saying and ask yourself is that right for your site, your audience, your business. Not everything people suggest will work for you, but appreciate peoples efforts.

Finally, don't be afraid to come to a forum like this and ask for help. I never would have been able to get through this without the help and support from people on forums and for that I am grateful.

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 11:53 am (utc) on Nov 15, 2014]
[edit reason] added link to original thread [/edit]

1:34 pm on Nov 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Sounds to me like it was the affiliate links, but glad you recovered, and good on you for posting the process.

I know you were under stress, but at the end of the day, the experience probably caused you to overall improve your site, and that will probably have a positive effect for your users. So while you probably wouldn't want to repeat it, there's some consolation there.
1:41 pm on Nov 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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You're probably right, but I think there's a bit of me that doesn't want to accept it would have been a quick fix like the links and I could have avoided this whole episode if I had been more vigilant and tried that first!

But absolutely, I have improved my site and whilst I accept it will take some time to reap the rewards, I am happy with how it's all turned out and I think it will help with the overall user experience.

More importantly, I learned a lot about my business and how exposed it is.
5:00 pm on Nov 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I'm glad you were able to work through this and got a positive result.

Thanks for posting the process you went through. That's got to be informative and helpful for others who might find themselves in similar circumstances.
5:35 pm on Nov 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Given the industry you're in and the success you were enjoying before, you might consider creating an entirely new site in an entirely different niche you're interested in and building it up over time (also assuming you have any extra time). That way, if this happens again, you have a good chance of having something else to tide you over and not being without income.
7:00 pm on Nov 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I would tend to agree it was probably the affiliate links without the missing nofollow tags.

On the other hand, I thought that google has a link spam canned message they would use instead of just a "thin content" message.

maybe the guy / gal who handed out the penalty pushed the wrong button / pulled the wrong lever?
11:41 am on Nov 14, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Hello Ecopac,

Actually its difficult to come out of Google Penalty, we just require a right direction to work and put more efforts on our site.

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 8:46 pm (utc) on Nov 14, 2014]

1:25 pm on Nov 15, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Just regarding my other post on the other thread which has been locked, here's the original message:

"Hi guys

Well tomorrow it will be 1 week from getting the penalty removed and I wish I was coming back here with some good news.

It's honestly like it is still under penalty, literally no traffic at all. It's not ranking for ANY of the keywords it was before, even very low competition stuff, it's just nowhere. Nearest I can find is a couple of review pages on pages 7/8.

I don't know what's happening. After the penalty was removed, the .co.uk version of my site started showing up and ranking for a few terms - the .co.uk is redirected to the proper .com version and has never ranked before. After about 2 days they disappeared, but the proper .com version has vanished.

I don't know what to do, when I type in my brand name, I come up top, but the snippet is completely wrong - it's just pulling in text from a paragraph from within the homepage and not the meta description.

A site: search is showing 182 results which is fine, but nothing is ranking anywhere! Prior to the penalty I was very dominant, the site hasn't changed that much and it shouldn't be a link issue (Penguin) as there are hardly any links pointing to the site.

I have done a fetch, resubmitted the site map etc etc but nothing, any thoughts? Have I given it enough time do you think?

So frustrating!

Thanks "

So in answer to the replies before it was locked, the content hasn't actually changed a lot at all. I have removed some pages but they were not ranking anywhere anyway. It's the homepage and the reviews I am concerned about, they haven't changed content wise apart from removing some of my affiliate links.

I wasn't necessarily expecting to go straight back where I left, but I certainly never expected to just disappear completely. I am also baffled by suddenly the snippet has changed and it's not using my meta description, this has never happened before.

Been a disaster quite frankly since having it revoked, I mean how long do I give it.
5:49 pm on Nov 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

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This has unfortunately been experience of many that have got manual penalty revoked - the revocation of penalty did not come together with restored rankings.

Although in most other cases this was because of removed links in case of unnatural links penalty. Theoretically, recovering from the manual "Thin content" penalty should not result in site being nowhere as it would imply it is not thin content any more, hence it should rank even better than before.

I am wondering whether and how much affiliate links were perhaps helping in ranking pages the links were on. Or whether pages you have removed, although they were not ranking themselves, they perhaps helped with ranking other pages.
10:38 am on Nov 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

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This is the thing. I understand not regaining rankings after a link penalty, but a thin content penalty is different.

If I wasn't so suspicious, I'd almost think they've let me out of the penalty just so I'd stop submitting reconsideration's and somehow flagged my domain not to rank anywhere.

I mean, I am not ranking for ANYTHING. Even the really low competition stuff like a particular lender review search. Before the penalty I was number 1 or 2 for a key search term, now I am not even in the first 50 pages - 50 pages! You can imagine the quality of the results when you even get to page 10 let alone 50, outranked by complete jibberish and irrelevant sites.

None of the pages I removed ranked anywhere anyway so I don't think it's that. The homepage just is nowhere to be found at all for anything.

I have no doubt something more sinister is at play here, no doubt at all. You don't just lose everything like that from a thin content penalty.

It's been 10 days and nothing has changed, so I have now moved my site over to the .co.uk domain and will see if that has any effect, although today I can see they've only indexed 4 pages from 86 submitted on the new domain.

Uphill struggle every day with Google.
2:13 pm on Nov 19, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Well this is interesting - the .co.uk version of my site has started to rank now where the .com used to pre-penalty...

Further enhances my belief that the .com has been flagged in some way. I have simply 301'd the .com to the .co.uk, it's only been 2 days and already a huge improvement, however time will tell as these things often have a habit of disappearing!
4:51 pm on Nov 19, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Please keep us informed.

I am interested in why you decided to do a 301, as opposed to just "breaking free" from the other (penalized) domain.

I guess I have read lots of posts where people said they experienced some success by NOT doing a 301 redirect, but I don't have any direct experience with this myself, so I am eager to keep informed of your results.