Recovering From Search Engine Penalties

Crunch time – a position you’ve been in before

It’s the final quarter. Your team have busted a gut all year to get into this good position. The overall goal is within your grasp. Suddenly the rules change and the adjudicator penalises you.

Yes, it could be the 2014 Super Rugby final. However, this scenario is actually based on the Google Penguin update late in 2014, and to a less extent, April’s mobile search algorithm change.

Results First, New Zealand’s top-rated SEO company examines what your business can do to recover from unforeseen search engine penalties, looking at the case of an Auckland plumber that had severe Penguin problems.

“Sometimes Google ‘moves the goal posts’ so to speak of what is classified as acceptable SEO and what isn’t,” says Results First General Manager Kristina Trood.

“We encourage clients that have been hit by penalties not to be ashamed. Most webmasters will have this issue at some time and it’s a learning experience.”

Down the toilet – the case study of a local plumber

The situation: A Results First client had been with a sub-par company that had employed poor SEO tactics. This included building very low-quality backlinks, specifically links coming from Russia, Poland and Brazil.

As such, the site had been hit by the Penguin algorithm and was dealing with a penalisation. The result of this was a significant decrease in rankings, traffic and enquiries. The business was losing money.

The goals: Apart from requiring a fix, due to the penalty instated, the goal for this company remained mostly the same. They wanted to achieve page one rankings for the key phrases ‘plumber Auckland’ and ‘plumbers Auckland’. They wanted to achieve this and future-proof it by using trustworthy links.

Our Solution: After the team’s technical specialists analysed the website’s back-link profile in detail, a two-pronged strategy was devised.

1. The first thing that needed to happen was to ‘disavow’ (ask Google to ignore) the poor quality links coming to the domain.

2. The second step was to then move the site to a new, clean domain and organise a redirect from the old domain to the new one, so that there would be no disruption to current traffic and branding.

“Many of our clients worry about branding when changing to a new domain name, but it’s important to remember that the old domain will still redirect to the new domain,” says Kristina. “This will happen flawlessly so business cards, advertising and other printed marketing can still market the original domain.”

The Results: When we took on the client the benchmark report had zero phrases appearing on page one of Through a custom approach, technical nous, great links and new content, Results First surpassed client expectation through the following achievements:

1. Within one week of the domain redirect, we had one phrase appearing on page one.

2. Within three months this result had increased to eight phrases appearing on page one, including the targeted phrases ‘plumber Auckland’ and ‘plumbers Auckland’.

3. Within six months, a further 30% increase in page one rankings had occurred.

4. Overall, this translated to a 219.11% increase in online enquiries –1286 online enquiries in a 6 month period from the new domain going live, compared to the previous six months.

Around the bend – in conclusion

The main advice to take from this article is the importance of having an expert analyse a poorly performing website. This is especially the case if your site has dropped in enquiries or sales, because there is the possibility that your site has been hit by a manual or algorithmic penalty.

Just like you would call a plumber to investigate a leak behind the drywall, a specialist SEO company can provide the best strategy on how to rectify a problem.

Let’s face it, Kiwis love DIY, but there are unforeseen issues that only trend information and experience can solve through a mass of data analysis. If you are convinced you can fix the problem, or want to give it a go for a start, here are a couple tips of the trade.

“It’s important to understand the different between a manual penalty and an algorithmic penalty, and which onsite and offsite factors can effect both types.”

“Link Disavows should be used sparingly and strategically. Submitting multiple disavows can say to Google that you haven’t learnt your lesson when it comes to acquiring poor quality back-links.”

So, good luck with plugging the holes. If you get stuck, you can always call on the team at Results First on 0800 878 833.