It’s been a pretty interesting few weeks for SEO and online marketing enthusiasts. With the recent Panda 4.0 launch, eBay’s fall from grace in search rankings, the sudden death that PR sites faced and the Payday Loans 2.0 update, Google has been keeping us all on our toes.
Endless discussions about the repercussions of each release, analysis into the cause and effect relationships for eBay and PR websites have all seen huge interest from webmasters and SEO experts the world over.
After all, as custodians of our websites, it’s our job to stay on top of every new diktat from Matt Cutts and his team over at Google to keep our rankings looking rosy and pink.
But in spite of all our best efforts, sometimes the worst does happen. You lose PageRank, stop ranking for important keywords and horror of horrors, Google slaps a penalty on your site and banishes you to the netherworld of search rankings.
What Happens Next
Being penalized by Google is probably the worst case scenario that could happen to any site. Period.
But in the digital world, we never say ‘never’.
There’s always a way out and as digital marketing professionals we ought to take it upon ourselves to redeem our websites from past mistakes and start all over again. There are many ways of going about this, like
- Removing all penalized links from the site
- Removing content considered spammy by Google
- Clean up on the page level SEO black hat practices
- Disavow and clean up penalized inbound links from the site
- Reconsideration request to Google in case of manual penalties
- Wait till Google takes note of your changes and re-crawls your site for relisting it
However, all of these measures work only when the penalty is small and the number of problems that you have accumulated over the years in your site’s SEO is not beyond repair. Sometimes, site owners are faced with a situation where after a thorough scrubbing of all that is wrong with the site, they are left with barely any SEO worthy links. Sometimes the problems with the site go so deep that the penalty affects the domain itself.
That is when you are in real trouble.
Webmasters are usually recommended to abandon the site in such dire circumstances and start on a completely clean slate. However, building a brand new site from scratch is no joke.
Many site owners migrate their old sites to a brand new domain after taking all corrective measures, in the hope of a new beginning. Unfortunately, they find that their rankings do not really change even after months of waiting around for Google to take notice of their repentant behavior and their switchover to ethical SEO practices.
Why would this happen?
Why Cleaning Up Your Act Does Not Help With Heavily Penalized Domains
Whether we like it or not, we need to proceed with the understanding that Google and its webspam team are a smart lot.
When you migrate your scrubbed site to a fresh domain, you think it’s a new website that you are working on. However, Google and its spiders easily draw relationships between your old site and the new one. The penalties that were levied on your old site simply shift to the new one. So nothing really changes for your site in terms of search rankings and findability.
According to a video posted by Cyrus Shepard of Moz, there are many ways Google does this.
Create an SEO Backup Plan That Google Can’t Recognize
So should you happen to decide that it’s really not worth trying to recover a particular domain, and if you want to give a fresh lease of life to your penalty-beleaguered business, here’s what you need to do NOW:
#1 – Create a Completely New Brand Name and Brand Identity
It can be tough to part ways with a brand that you have nurtured over the years, but in a situation where the old brand name is linked to Google penalties that just won’t go away, you need to do everything possible to distance yourself from the old brand.
Come up with a new brand name that goes with your line of work. Put in some time and effort to build a completely new personality for your new brand. A new logo, fresh colors, a new brand tagline all go a long way in establishing a fresh and independent identity for the new brand.
#2 – Go All New – Domain Name, Registrar, Web Hosting Provider
Your IP address and web host are two huge giveaways when it comes to linking a new site to an old one. Google catches on real quick.
Register your new brand on a fresh domain name with a registrar that you’ve never used before. When buying a new domain name, do a quick check on its history to ensure it does not come with negative Google baggage of its own.
Buy your web space for building your new website from a totally different web service provider than the one you used in the past. Remember; your motto here is a fresh start, with no past liabilities pulling you down.
#3 – Brand New Website – Inside and Out
Many site owners make the mistake of simply migrating their old website to a fresh domain and IP address without any other change in the site’s content.
However; with the emergence of the semantic web, your content is like a fingerprint distinguishing you from other sites. When you transfer the exact same content on your old site to your new site, you’re not really building a new site at all. Don’t make this rookie mistake.
#4 – Different Onsite Markers
If you liked your original website’s design and code, chances are that you will use the same development team for your new site. While sticking to your old team is not necessarily a problem, if your old development team sticks to their signature style to build your site; that can be a problem.
Google easily identifies similar or same link structures used in your old and new sites. Using the same old Google Analytics code in your new site is another dead giveaway. If you plan to host ads on your site, get a new AdSense account and a fresh AdSense code for the new site. Go new – all the way.
#5 – Managing Universal Information on the New Site
When you try to give your brand and website a makeover, there are some things that cannot be changed as easily. Things like your own name, details about your team, your contact information like address and phone numbers are permanent. Not much can be done about these, which is why this stuff is often labeled as Universal Information.
But you can minimize the damage to your new site due to your universal information
- Put these details inside an image instead of using text that can be crawled by Google’s spiders.
- Disallow robots from crawling and indexing such information.
#6 – Switch to Authentic SEO – Building Organic Rank in a Legit Way
Your black hat or gray hat SEO practices are probably what got your original site penalized by Google in the first place. Learn from your mistakes and switch over to SEO practices that are endorsed by Google – ethical, white hat SEO that offers value to users and higher rankings for your site over the long term.
This means cleaning up your SEO act in every way possible. No more
- Keyword stuffing
- Spammy content
- Copied / Duplicate content
- Link manipulation – Hidden Links, Footer Links, Paid Links, Reciprocal Links
- Spammy on page SEO – too many H1 tags, overused anchor text etc.
If you think you are under equipped to do all of this by yourself, get a professional SEO service agency on board who can do this for you. Before you sign up with any digital agency, check their track record and ensure that they’re fully aware of Google’s guidelines and only use ethical and white hat SEO practices to avoid further trouble for your site.
#7 – Content Marketing
A new website is like a new baby. It deserves all the SEO and content love you can offer it in order to blossom into a well ranked, trusted, and high traffic site. Use the latest SEO darling – content marketing – to build trust, rank, authority and traffic for your new site.
Understand your brand’s strengths and its ideal target audience. Identify your audience’s needs, their media habits, their pain points and then create content based on this information. Content marketing aims at not creating content for the mere sake of content and links. That is the kind of stuff that will get you a Panda penalty. Create content that is aligned to your product / service and which a user will find truly valuable. If Google is out to make life easier for the user, you ought to follow in Google’s footsteps in order to make life easier for yourself.
Develop from scratch a strategic content marketing plan that outlines what platforms you will employ, what type of content you will create, who will create your content and how often. Maintain a content calendar to keep your content marketing efforts on track.
Some of the content marketing tactics you could consider include:
- Create and Maintain a Regular Blog
- Guest Blogs
- eBooks and How to Guides
If you’re a B2B firm, don’t complain that content marketing isn’t for you. Go read our Definitive Guide to Content Marketing for B2B.
#8 – Leverage Social Media
Social Media is the wave that every brand is scrambling to get on to. Don’t let your new brand lag behind. With 72% of all online adults active on at least one social network, you need to take your brand where the users are. Determine which social media platforms make sense for your brand and set up your brand’s presence on those networks. It may not be a great idea to start a social presence on every possible social network, if you don’t have the time to monitor and manage each one personally.
Invest in building a fan-base on whichever social media platform you operate on by creating and sharing unique, useful and share-worthy content on these platforms. Keep your users engaged by educating them about your brand and entertaining them in equal measure. Use paid ads on social media to encourage specific actions from your audience, whenever required. The idea is to build a trusting relationship between your brand and its target audience by developing and rolling out a consistently high quality social media campaign.
It is Google’s job to improve the search experience on Google by throwing up quality results that a user will appreciate. The various limitations and hurdles that we webmasters face regularly with SEO and SEM are primarily the result of Google’s efforts to please the end user.
As long as we understand and recognize this fact, we can actually help Google achieve its goal by creating content that is exceptionally useful, interesting and informative to the user. When your site starts to offer Google’s users what they want, Google will automatically reward your site for your proactivity.
However, such transformations are not instant. Just as Rome was not built in a day, these levels of customer trust and site authority take time to build and grow.
So what if Google punished you in the past for your manipulative SEO tactics? There’s always hope if you quit your ‘evil’ ways and switch your loyalties over to the ‘good’ side.
To quote James Bond,
“Tomorrow Never Dies.”
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