A few weeks ago Google came out with a smattering of algorithm updates at the same time. A Panda refresh, a Penguin update, an exact match domain (EMD) update, and a page layout refresh all got pushed through in about a week and many sites were left dealing with a penalty or two.
The hard part was figuring out which algorithm update had caused the search engine penalty. Obviously a EMD update, but could Penguin also be at play?
Unlike a manual penalty, dealing with a search engine penalty caused by the algorithm means you can't just go in, fix what's wrong and submit a reconsideration request to clear up the mess. You have to make a few changes, hope they are the right ones, and then wait for the next update to prove you wrong or right.
That's the biggest reason I am so apprehensive about taking on an SEO client that is suffering from a search engine penalty. As bad as I feel for that site owner, especially when it wasn't 100% their fault (maybe they worked with a bad SEO provider or just didn't know any better), I know what an uphill battle recovering from a search engine penalty can be. And honestly, sometimes it just isn't worth the fight.
If you are suffering from a search engine penalty here are 2 things to consider before investing time and money into rescuing the site:
How badly were you hit?
I helped a client with an SEO audit after they suspected they had gotten dinged by Penguin and found that, even before they took a hit from Penguin, less than 10% of their site's traffic was actually coming from organic. So little in fact, than when I was looking at the visitor data as a whole in their analytics it didn't look like anything was wrong; an overwhelming percentage of their visitors were coming from PPC ads and were actually converting really well.
When I drilled down into the organic it showed their site went from about 200 unique visitors a day to about 60 from organic after Panda. Considering their site was still getting of thousands of converting visitors from PPC I actually told them it might not be worth investing in a recovery plan. The amount of time, effort and money it would take to rebound from Penguin wouldn't actually be worth it.
Tip: Obviously this situation is atypical, but if your business doesn't depend on organic traffic to keep the doors open a search engine penalty might not actually be the end for your site.
How long can you survive without Google?
The best piece of advice I can give anyone is to run their online business like Google isn't there, just in case something happens (like a search engine penalty). But let's be honest, traffic from Google is what keeps the doors open for many businesses.
If your site was dinged by one update or another how long can you survive with that traffic loss? Some sites might not make it more than a month or two; others might be able to hold on for a year before they have to get nervous. Keep in mind that the road to recovery is slow and arduous.
Tip: If you need to recover now or risk going under, you might actually be better off abandoning the site and starting with a fresh domain. That's a serious business decision and SEO shouldn't be the only factor, but it is an option.
Please understand that no SEO provider has an "in" with Google and can guarantee that you'll recover after you do X, Y and Z. I've seen some sites bounce back inside of six months while other sites have taken 2 years to fully recover. It comes down to how badly your site was dinged, how quickly you diagnose the problem (correctly) and how much work you're willing to put into your recovery. Sometimes waiting to recover just isn't worth it.
Photo credit: astekblog.com
Nick Stamoulis is the President of Boston search marketing firm Brick Marketing. With 13 years of industry experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his B2B SEO knowledge by writing for the Brick Marketing Blog and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, read by over 150,000 opt-in subscribers.