Watching your website drop from Google’s SERPS can be frustrating at best and job ending at worst. If such is the case there a good chance that you have an excess of poor links across the web pointing to your website. While spam in any form is a bad decision, with the continuous updates to Google’s algorithm your past links are now under greater scrutiny and the risk of a webspam penalty has increased.
Do You Request?
The truest indicator of a spamming issue is in your Manual Actions section of Webmaster Tools. Hopefully your page will state ‘no manual webspam actions found.’ If you see something other than this you are in trouble. Most likely you will see a message that is marked User Generated Spam and contains an explanation that the pages from your site appear to contain spammy, self-generated content. While this is the true indicator that you have been hit Matt Cutts (Head of Google’s WebSpam) has noted that you don’t have to have a manual action penalty to send a reconsideration request. If you feel you have been hit with negative SEO, or are cleaning up a site from a previous web owner, or just can’t live with yourself knowing the quality of links you have spread it is acceptable to create a Reconsideration Request. With all of that being said let’s run through the steps of creating a reconsideration request and having Google accept it.
1. Change Your Ways
This section may not apply to you but if you are the cause of the poor link building stop it. If it is an ad agency fire them. Whatever the issue is you need to end it and put measures in place to prevent spamming. This effort will come in play later.
2. Remove the Links Personally
One of the largest parts of succeeding in your reconsideration request starts long before you create that request. First you will need to spend a couple weeks identifying the poor links pointing to your site and have them removed. Do this personally rather than simply relying on droids or rather bots (as they can prove elusive-the links that is). It doesn’t matter where the link is; a directory, a blog, a guest post, if it is spam it needs to be removed. Remember that poor links may have been spread through social media so the same link address may be repeated numerous times.
For specific ways to find these links read through Dixon Jones’ post. After identifying as many links as you can record them in a list (probably an excel sheet rather than Google Doc at this point for ease of use). Along with the address of the poor link collect the webmaster information for that website and start with emails to these various webmasters asking them to remove the links from their site. Be respectful and polite as you make these requests. Try reaching out to each webmaster this way through email at least twice. Record the links that were removed as well as date along with the dates of your email efforts to the various webmasters.
Some webmasters won’t respond or will refuse to remove the links there are a number of hardball tactics that you can follow. One tactic is to send a legal cease and desist letter or email to these webmasters requesting the removal of links. Some sites will request payment to put in the time to remove the links from the site; if it is reasonable and you can afford it, pay them and have the links removed. You can also email them again letting them know that if they refuse to remove the link you will report them to Google for web spam. This will usually get them moving quickly. Don’t write angry emails as they will most likely do nothing for you. Again, make sure to record all these efforts meticulously and remove a large portion of these poor links. Google will often fail requests that did not identify all of their spammy links or did not try and have them all removed.
3. Your Disavow Links Text File
The disavow file needs to be a .txt file otherwise Google’s parser will not accept the file. Copy all of the links from your excel file and drop them into Notepad (which saves as a .txt file). Make sure that each url is on a different line and that there are no duplications. If there is a particular domain that has several links on it you wish to remove rather than removing the address of each link just include the domain once in the following format:
Make sure to only include the domain name and not http:// or www.
Don’t include background information about the links here; that should be done in your reconsideration request. Another downside of adding information in the text file is that an inconsistent string of comments will be noted by Google’s Parser and rejected.
If you incorrectly format your .txt file Google’s parser should give you an error message with a textbox indicating which line in the file is incorrect. However, this error message will not always work so make sure to read through the file yourself before submitting to correct any mistakes. Also make sure that all your URL’s copy/pasted from your excel document.
After you finish your file go to Google Webmaster Tools, then to the disavow tool. Select your domain and when prompted upload your .txt file and submit it.
4. Write Your Reconsideration Request
With your disavow file completed you can move on to writing your reconsideration request to the Google Web spam team that does a number of things…
1. Thanks them for taking the time to review your request (Google has 5,000 requests come in every month that they need to sift through).
2. Explains the reasons why you had so many spammy links pointing to your site and an explanation of the steps you have taken to prevent this from ever happening again. Google is leery of site that may put in requests to have the penalties removed and then return to black-hat techniques. Be very detailed in the issue and your solution.
3. Displays your efforts. Include all of the links that you have identified and the actions you have taken to have these links removed. This is where all of our careful documentation comes in. Include the dates and actions taken for each link address or domain; you can add copies of the emails you sent out to the different webmasters. Include details on any payment you gave out to sites to have them remove the links. This information which you had originally been storing in an excel document needs to be placed on a Google spreadsheet as Google will not open any links in your request not connected to Google Drive for fear of malware. Add the link to this spreadsheet in your letter.
In the Google spreadsheet make sure to set the share settings so that anyone can view the spreadsheet otherwise the Google team won’t be able to see your work and will probably move onto the next request. Along with permission to view the spreadsheet open up administration rights to the information so that Google can look through the data, use filters, etc. Make sure the webspam team has access to everything that they need.
4. Records the date of your disavow.txt file submission.
5. Explains the effort you have put into correcting the issue yourself and your promise to participate in sound SEO practices in the future.
When you are finished with your letter you can submit it here:
5. The Waiting Game
Now that you have done everything required of you it is time to wait for Google’s team to read through your reconsideration request and double check your efforts. It may take several weeks for Google go through your request. If you do not hear anything back it probably means one of two things:
1. Your website is still in violation of Google’s guidelines (if this is the case you will most likely receive a rejection notice).
2. There was nothing wrong with your website even before you sent the request.
Hopefully, this article got you started on the right path to have your reconsideration request accepted and your penalty lifted.