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No website about SEO is complete without a few examples.  This one is of a Penguin recovery as in “HALP HALP!  I’ve been bitten by the bird!!!”  We’re going to look at some technical facts and points, look at some of the background of the site and add on to this post as we go forward with this site.

Our Target Penguin Recovery Site

http://claytoncomputerrepair.net – we’ll not compound the problem with yet another link just yet…

Site History

Originally a locally focused computer repair website.  Sort of a sniper site with what is called an “exact match domain” (EMD) designed to dominate a particular search term.  It’s a small market so it did reasonably well.  Since the site was not the main source for leads, this was a perfect controlled test site for some ranking tactics.

And from BAD decisions comes GOOD experience.  As mentioned elsewhere on our site, we are always testing things and this was indeed one of those things.  If we’re going to tear something up, we tear our own stuff up and not yours “testing” theories.  A few months after throwing in one of those scripts to automatically add content to the site hands-free, came the now infamous “Google has detected unnatural…”  Well whatever do you MEAN Google?  A computer repair website has “santa fe restaurant reviews”, dental aides, breakfast casserole information and more seems PERFECTLY reasonable to me!  Google didn’t think so.  And rightfully so.

If you have all sorts of unrelated content on your website other than stuff in your certain niche (does not apply to news sites), you need to keep an eye on quality.  In this case, the content that appeared to be using  10 or so outbound links per article.  No idea how long the original articles were, but a good rule of thumb IS about 1 link per 150 words.  This was definitely over the top for 2014.  This content was generated though back in 2012 – and the rules were admittedly different – but this content was still afoul of them even back then.  Additionally, there were a TON of links that were coming into this site linking directly TO those articles.

Action Plan

The nice thing about this site, besides us not needing to specifically keep any of these links alive, is that the link targets are in a specific location.  So what can we do?

  • We are going to delete our ALL of our pages.  This is NOT a tough market or subject to rank.  Let’s start over from scratch with this site.  In a testier version of this – like you need to keep certain legit pages – we would NOT delete everything.    This will immediately break all unnatural links to those specific urls and thus remove our penalty pronto.  Actually we could actually leave our original pages in there and just make sure we had all the content article pages deleted. This one though? GUT IT!
  • Create new content.  Google has a way of reassociating exact content from old pages with new pages – even if it has a different name.  This is a small simple thing, so we’re going to just cobble up some quick content.
  • Persistent backlinks – none of the spam content or subsequent links actually linked to root so we will still have any backlinks that we have legitimately acquired to root giving us some Google love.  We’re not doing an exhaustive bit of research on this one – it’s simple, straighforward, take no prisoners clean up.  If this were a true more complex client site, we would do a bit of research on which pages were targeted, which were linked where, etc. Not needed for this cleanup.
  • We may additionally throw on a 410 code for all deleted pages – this is the signal to the search engines that this page is gone forever so don’t bother looking for it again. Oh yeah, and remove it from your cache list!  This should give us a final and forever cleanup on this mess.

Now, we realize that most Penguin penalties are going to more intricate than this one, but this gives some real life – “Yes, it happens and it’s NOT the end of the world” insight type info.  Doing a full and serious Penguin recovery run can be time consuming and won’t be as easy as this one.  If you have thousands of links, and you very well may, it can take a while to get them removed bit by bit. This is especially true if you need to leave certain pages in place and just remove the unnatural links and leave the good ones there.

UPDATE: April 17, 2014

So, we have killed off all of our pages, let all links find empty targets and replaced the existing computer content with Landscaping material.  Yes, even WITH a computer repair domain name.  So what’s going on?  There has been upward movement on the computer terms.  This is NOT a real competitive niche, but there also is NO computer content.  While it hasn’t shaken the world, there have been increases of about 5-10 spots taking this site up into the 50ish range for a few target terms.  Now, the trick will be to figure out if the whole domain got penalized and if so, how long WILL that penalty live?  Landscaping content seems to be kicking in the 80 range or so.

If this had been a real domain that we were depending on traffic from RIGHT NOW, our steps may well have been to take the content and just move it to another domain. In this case, because of the type of penalty and the reason for the penalty, we would have left it at that. Turned our solid links to the new domain and let the old ones languish and die – along with the domain. Since we’re doing this for testing purposes, if we’re going to ditch this domain as unusable, let’s get all the info out of it that we can!