About a week ago, I met with a prospective new client in downtown Greenville to discuss the possibility of working together on an internet marketing project. This was a little bit different from my typical business meeting, however, because this person was a small business owner who has also made significant money building affiliate websites in the past. So I was really looking forward to speaking someone who really understands the search engines and the many different forms of online marketing.
And our meeting started off fantastic. Within 2 or 3 minutes, we were speaking to each other like we were old friends and the conversation had already drifted well beyond the intended subject. We talked about NBA basketball and the dumb things out kids have done lately, and I honestly could have hung out with this personal all afternoon. He was a genuinely likable guy with a great mind for business.
Shortcuts Never Pay Off in the Long Run
Once we started showing off our profiles though and the many sites we’ve developed over the years; one thing became quickly apparent- this person used almost every black hat tactic in the book to drive traffic. Here are just a few of the things he named-
- Using robots to post tens of thousands of comments per day for backlinks
- Using spun content to guest post on thousands of low-class sites
- Repeatedly spamming keywords to achieve undeserved rank
- Buying backlinks in mass quantity from un-reputable sites
The list literally went on and on, and this person couldn’t understand why he was making $150,000 a year from internet marketing in 2010, but barely clearing $5,000 a year today. Anyone who knows anything about the search engines can answer that question though; those types of shortcuts end up hurting a lot more than they help in 2015.
Google Has One Heck of a Memory
When we pulled up this client’s Google Analytics account to look at some of his potential issues, he literally had a half million spam backlinks pointing to his sites and at least 10,000 pages of spun copy. And right there I knew, there was absolutely no way I wanted to be involved in his clean-up attempts. Honestly, he would be better off starting over on a brand new domain without any reputation whatsoever.
That’s definitely not the answer this client wanted to hear though, and his reaction was very common for someone hearing that kind of news. Because he didn’t think about the hundreds of hours where he used cheap tactics to cheat Google and obtain an artificial rank; his thoughts were on the tens of thousands of legitimate hours invested doing things the right way. All that effort was literally wasted though since he scammed the system…and it is extremely difficult to un-cheat when you do it on massive levels.
Repairing Former Lapses in Judgement
Here is the takeaway from this though- if you’ve crossed the line a few too many times when it comes to getting your website to rank, this is not something that will work itself out over time. While you can just keep on going about your merry way posting new content and doing things the right way, those “Ghosts of Google Past” are going to continue to slow your progress until you take the proper steps to clean them up.
So here’s what you need to do-
1) Head over to your Google Webmaster Tools account, click on “Search Traffic” and then look at “Links to Your Site”.
2) If you see that there are lots of links from spammy sources, you need to Disavow the bad backlinks or have a professional do it for you. If you don’t know for sure what you’re doing though, then contact someone for help.
3) When it comes to writing that you posted in unsavory directories and content mill types of sites, you’ll have to manually delete this content instead of reporting it to Google. The Disavow tool is only for reporting 3rd party links you had no hand in creating, but if your name is on it as the author…oops. You have to fix these issues yourself.
4) If there are pages on your website that a human wouldn’t get excited over reading, you have one of two options- delete them or replace them with fresh content. The search engines would prefer that you do the latter since it keeps your page hierarchy in place, but that may not be an option if you have hundreds of lousy pages.
5) Let’s also talk about anchor links for a moment, which are the words that any given hyperlink is tied to. Google has announced that natural links should contain a large variety of anchors on your website and around the web, so you need to clean these up on your site as well.
6) While you’re in Webmaster Tools, also take a look at your search appearance and index status. If there are errors, then either fix them or contact a professional that can walk you through the process. These are usually broken links or moved pages, but it could be responsive errors as well.
7) Finally, be sure to keep an eye on any additional errors in your Webmaster Tools account since this signals other reasons why you may be receiving search penalties.
So needless to say, I did not end up signing a new client the other week and I think the talk of our kids going to band camp together is off the table as well. That’s okay though, because at least that small business owner walked away with the right knowledge in place so he wouldn’t keep throwing more money into a site that’s been dead and buried for years.
Do you have any of your own Google penalty stories to share? Could have I done something differently to save this potential client relationship? Feel free to keep the conversation going and let me know!