Since Google first launched its two black and white beasts on its SERPs, the subject of penalties has been hotly debated. Those who were penalised frantically battled to have them removed, while many who weren’t penalised still had a job to do on their link profile to protect their status.
But, without clear guidance on how best to deal with a penalty, many brands and website owners didn’t know where to turn.
One of the key misunderstandings we see when speaking to people who’ve faced this issue is the distinction between penalty removal and penalty recovery.
There have been a lot of questions asked, words written, advice given, services created and ultimate focus on the topic of removal of the initial penalty. This is natural. When you’re hit with a penalty you want it removed – and quickly. But what then?
Penalty removal is just the start of a process that will hopefully get search visibility back to pre-penalty levels. Yet many websites get themselves out of a penalty, only to never truly recover.
A penalty removal, in visibility terms, looks something like this:
But what follows is a period of relative stagnation in visibility. Compare this to the graph below:
There’s a stark difference. Recovery is only the first stage of regaining your search engine visibility and, in many ways, is just the beginning of the hard work – not the end, as some see it.
The first step is to get the penalty lifted as quickly as possible, which can mean manually sifting through link profiles of thousands of domains with links going back over a decade, then contacting webmasters and beginning to compile a comprehensive evidence file for Google.
Once the penalty is lifted you can expect to recover a fraction of your previous visibility.
The next step is recovery. With any penalty removal, particularly with link acquisition that goes back over a decade, you have to pull down a lot of links. So, even when the penalty is lifted, you’re highly unlikely to be in the same position you were.
As such your next job, confident that the foundations are now more stable, is to employ a creative off-page strategy to continue to build more natural and high-quality links and diversify the profile further. This is the only way of turning a penalty removal into a penalty recovery.
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