It’s the worst nightmare of an online marketer — the dreaded Google Manual Actions Penalty. It kills your search engine rankings, cutting off a vital source of traffic and leads. Worst of all, it can take up to 6 months to remove the penalty and even longer to regain your rankings.
Do a simple search and you’ll find tons of agencies asking for tens of thousands of dollars to remove the penalty for you. Do yourself a favor and don’t hire them. You don’t need an expensive agency and you don’t need 6 months of work to remove the penalty.
My credentials: our product Voice123 was struck by the Google Manual Penalty in the Fall of 2013. Our search traffic fell by over 30%, sending us into panic mode. Through patience, perseverance, and hard work, I was able to remove the Google Penalty within 3 months; in addition, it cost me only $561.56 to do it!
Proof that it only cost me $561.56:
You’re about to find out exactly how I removed the Google Manual Penalty for my company. Here we go:
How do I know if I have a Google Penalty?
Take the following steps to check if you have received a manual penalty from Google:
- Sign in to Google Webmaster
- Click on “Search Traffic”
- Click on “Manual Actions”
Clean sites with no penalty will see this:
Sites affected by a penalty will see this:
In addition, Google will send you a message that looks like this:
Why did I get penalized by Google?
You have a penalty because Google sees unnatural links pointing to your site. Unnatural links are not limited to purchased links or spammy link farms; in fact, the majority of these manual penalties are caused by practices that were commonly used by online marketers for many years.
Have you tried any of the following strategies:
- Purchasing links
- Guest blogging on low authority sites
- Utilizing specific anchor text to link to your website
It’s of course important to build links, but the way you build them is more important than ever. If Google suspects that your gaming the system, then they’ll hit you with a manual penalty.
Why did Voice123 get penalized?
We go penalized because we asked our community to link to our home page using specific anchor text such as “voice actors”, “voice overs”, or “voice talents”. We made it extremely easy for our community to do this by giving them embeddable widgets that would automatically link to our home page using an anchor text of our choice.
This strategy worked for many years. But of course, Google continuously updates its algorithm and a recent update hit us.
Here is what our embeddable widgets looked like:
Look closely and you’ll see that we automatically add a link to our website at the bottom of the widget.
Step by step guide to remove the Google Penalty
These are the exact steps I took to get the penalty removed.
Step 1: Create a list of all inbound links
Do the following to compile a list of all incoming links to your website:
- Go to Google Webmaster
- Go to “Search Traffic” -> “Links to Your Site”
- Click on “Who links the most”
- Download the links
- Upload them to a Google Spreadsheet
Step 2: Hire a detail-oriented, proven freelancer on Odesk (extremely important)
To get the work done correctly and quickly, you’re going to need an experienced freelancer.
Here is the exact job posting that I placed on Odesk:
Title: Detail-oriented person wanted for data entry job
Overview: I need an extremely detail oriented freelancer to enter data for me into a Google spreadsheet.
Details: I need a freelancer to copy and paste data from a website into a Google spreadsheet. No research required. This is a fast, detail-oriented job.
Key skills: attention to detail, ability to meticulously follow directions
Success: copy and pasting all data
Why this is for you: this is simple, straight forward, and to the point work. I have training materials to teach you exactly how to do this.
I’m going to save you a ton of time and money right now. The absolute best freelancer to get the job done is: Jocelyn Fernandez. I’ve already fully trained her on the steps to take to remove a Google penalty. She’s proven, organized, and hardworking.
Step 3: Get the details for every website that links to you
This is extremely time consuming, which is why it’s so important to have a trustworthy and detail-oriented freelancer.
Ask Jocelyn to add the following information to the Google Spreadsheet that contains your inbound links:
- Link from URL
- What pages are links coming from?
- Link to URL
- What pages are the incoming links pointing to?
- Domain authority
- Very important. To find the domain authority of a website, use Open Site Explorer
- Contact name
- You can use a WhoIs Domain Lookup to find this information
- Contact email
- 1st email date
- 2nd email date
- 3rd email date
- Enter “Yes” or “No” here
- Disavow date
- This is the date in which you disavow the website
Step 4: Email the sites with these rules and templates
I took the following procedures to get our links removed:
- Start date: send initial email
- 1 week from start date: send second email
- 2 weeks from start date: send final email
- 3 weeks from start date: disavow the website
Special rules and tools that I used to make it as easy as possible
1. Don’t use an email with your domain name: we did not use an email such as firstname.lastname@example.org. We did not want to run the risk of getting marked as spam. Instead, I had Jocelyn use the following email address: email@example.com.
2. Have your freelancer CC you so that you know what’s going on: Jocelyn CC’d firstname.lastname@example.org with every email that she sent so that I could monitor every conversation.
3. Utilize Yesware to set reminders for the follow up email: Yesware has got to be one of my favorite tools. Using Yesware, Jocelyn created a reminder that would notify her in 1 week if the person she emailed did not respond back. In this way, she stayed organized and only sent a follow up email to people that did not respond to her initial email.
4. Send an email only to the websites that have a domain authority of less than 25: this is very very important. Do NOT remove all links. This is a step by step process that we’ll take in batches. First remove links from sites that have a domain authority of less than 25. If the reconsideration request doesn’t work, then move on to websites that have a domain authority of less than 50. You’ll do this in batches.
Email template: 1st link removal request
Subject: Link removal request from Voice123
We have recently received a notification from Google stating that our website has unnatural links pointing towards it. This has really damaged our rankings on Google and as a result, we’re trying to clear things up. Our website url is http://voice123.com/.
We noticed the following links are pointing to our website from your site:
I appreciate this is inconvenient and isn’t a reflection on your website at all, but if you’re able to remove the links, we would really appreciate it and would be very grateful.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Email template: 2nd link removal request
Subject: Send as reply to previous email
I’m following up on the email I sent below.
Google has penalized my site for having “unnatural links”. In an effort to get this penalty removed, I need your help. These are the links to our site from your site:
enter page url here
enter page url here
enter page url here
enter page url here
enter page url here
If you could remove that link I would greatly appreciate it.
Google is reluctant to revoke a penalty until they have seen a meaningful number of links removed. They would prefer to see a webmaster remove the link, rather than see me disavow your link on Google webmaster tools. That’s why your assistance is so important to me.
Thank you so much in advance for your consideration. It would be absolutely terrific if you could perform the link removal.
All the best,
Email template: 3rd and final link removal request
Subject: send as reply to previous email
I hope this email finds you well. I’ve sent you two previous emails about my link removal request. My site is penalized, and because your site is looking to my site, it is probably that Google will penalize your site as well.
The following pages are pointing to http://voice123.com/:
enter url here
enter url here
enter url here
enter url here
enter url here
I need you to please remove these links.
I will wait 5 business days. If these links are not removed within 5 business days, I will have to disavow the links from your site.
Understand that I’d truly prefer not to disavow your links. I greatly respect you and your website; however, I have to do what is best for my website.
Thank you very much.
All the best,
Step 5: Disavow sites that did not remove the inbound link
Important: Remember that you’re targeting sites in batches. Start with sites that have a domain authority of less than 25. If your reconsideration request doesn’t work, then move on to the next back of sites with a domain authority of less than 50.
To disavow links, go to this link: Disavow tool
Wait a week then move on to step 6.
Step 6: Submit a reconsideration request
This is the moment of truth.
The majority of online marketers take this step for granted; they feel that because they’ve done all the hard work, all they have to do is submit a reconsideration request and the people at Google will dig deep to find all of the work you did. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In order to increase your chances 10-fold, you need to write a full letter explaining every single action you took to comply with the policies of Google. Make sure to include any and all proof of your work: for example, the Google spreadsheet with all the details of the links that you requested to be removed and the links that you’ve disavowed.
When you’re ready, go to Google Webmaster Tools and Request a Review (can be found on the page that shows your Manual Google Penalty).
Here is the letter that I wrote to Google along with my reconsideration request:
Hi Google Team,
My name is Jun Loayza and I’m the CMO of Bunny Inc, creators of Voice123. Voice123 was created in 2003 and quickly became the largest voice over marketplace in the world.
During our early days, we utilized SEO techniques that were widely used by many SEO strategists:
We asked for link exchanges
We created tools that actors embedded on their websites that showcased their demos, and added links back to our website with specific and targeted anchor text
As a result, our site ranked extremely well in the Google SERPs for a long time; however, with recent updates, the former strategies are now frowned upon by Google and have caused our website to be penalized.
Actions taken to remove Google penalty
For the past 2 months, my team and I have worked diligently to remove any links to our website that look unnatural. We have removed the anchor text from our widgets that links back to our website, and we have asked the sites that link back to our website to remove their links.
Although many of these websites are real websites created by real voice actors, we were penalized because they were constantly using the “voice actor” anchor text to link to our top-level domain.
Proof of our work to remove unnatural links:
The steps we took:
We created a Google Spreadsheet with all of the websites that link to us (information taken from Google Webmaster Tools)
We found the name and email of the owners of the websites
We contacted each website individually 3 times
You can find the 3 instances that we messaged these websites on columns “I”, “J”, and “K”
Each email was separated by 1 week
If by the 3rd email the site owner did not remove the link, we disavowed the website
Here you will find the emails that we sent:
Why we should be reconsidered
Even though we have been penalized by Google for having unnatural links, we are still the largest voice over marketplace in the world, and provide true value to voice actors and voice buyers.
Here is a post about our 10-year anniversary: http://voice123.com/blog/the-making-of-voice123/infographic-voice123-celebrates-10-years-of-voice-over-work/?fb_source=pubv1
Here is an infographic about the history of Bunny Inc: http://bunnyinc.com/ourstory.html
Here are links to our social channels so that you know we care about our community:
We should be reincluded because we want to reach every voice actor in the world and help them build a successful career.
We learned our lesson
We sincerely learned our lesson. We have invested our money and resources into building a dedicated product and engineering team that is building the best product possible for voice actors and voice buyers.
Our marketing techniques and strategies are no longer centered around “gaming” the SEO system; instead, we constantly look to provide great quality content to our community, and let their shares decide the popularity and value of our content.
I hope that you consider us to be reconsidered in Google.
CMO of Bunny Inc
PS: if you need a partner to translate and dub your videos at Google, we would be happy to help you with that project.
Step 7: Persistence and perseverance
More likely than not, you’re going to receive a message from Google that looks like this:
Google has received a reconsideration request from a site owner for http://voice123.com/.
We’ve reviewed the links to your site and we still believe that some of them are outside our quality guidelines.
Please correct or remove all inorganic links, not limited to the samples provided above. This may involve contacting webmasters of the sites with the inorganic links on them.
If there are links to your site that cannot be removed, you can use the disavow links tool. Keep in mind that simply disavowing links will not be enough to make a reconsideration request successful; we will also need to see good-faith efforts to remove a large portion of inorganic links from the web wherever possible.
Removing links takes time. Due to the large volume of requests we receive, and to give you a better chance of your next reconsideration request being successful, we won’t review another request from this site for a few weeks from now. We recommend that you take the necessary time to remove unnatural backlinks to your site, and then file another reconsideration request.
For more specific information about the status of your site, visit the Manual Actions page in Webmaster Tools. From there, you may request reconsideration of your site again.
If you have additional questions, please visit our Webmaster Help Forum.
But don’t be discouraged — this happens to the best of us the first time around. Move on to the next batch of links and keep going until Google accepts your reconsideration request.
Hooray! Your Google penalty is removed
If all goes well, you’ll receive a message from Google like this:
We received a reconsideration request from a site owner for http://voice123.com/.
Previously the webspam team had taken action on your site because we believed it violated our quality guidelines. After reviewing your reconsideration request, we have revoked this action.
You can use the Manual Actions page in Webmaster Tools to view actions currently applied to your site. It may take some time before recent updates to your site’s status are reflected on this page and in our search results.
Of course, there may be other issues with your site that could affect its ranking. Google determines the order of search results using a series of computer programs known as algorithms. We make hundreds of changes to our search algorithms each year, and we employ more than 200 different signals when ranking pages. As our algorithms change and as the web (including your site) changes, some fluctuation in ranking will happen from time to time as we make updates to present the best results to our users.
If your site continues to have trouble in our search results, please see our Help Center for help with diagnosing the issue.
Thank you for helping us to maintain the quality of search results for our users.
Kick off your shoes and grab a beer — you deserve it.
If you have any questions or comments about how to get your Google Penalty removed, let me know in the comments section.