Back in April 2012 I had an email from Google warning me about my website having an unnatural backlink profile. I was surprised to see the message as I had never heard anything from Google before. The site in question was in the travel niche and it was my main money earner. The message arrived on my birthday, April 7th 2012. I thought nothing more about it, but in the back of my mind, I knew they were onto me. Time passed and my traffic continued to rise and I thought nothing more about it. This was in my UK based motorhome rental niche which is highly seasonal. In April, I was typically getting about 1100 unique visits a day.
On the morning of Monday April 23rd I was just getting on a car ferry from Dunkirk to Dover, I had planned a 3 week holiday in England. I had been driving through France all day and not had a chance to check any emails or anything since I had left The Alps the day before. As I waited to get on the ferry I brought up the Clicky.com app on my phone to check out how much I had earned that day, I was expecting something like £100, possibly more – it was £4! Something had happened, something bad. Even by the end of that horrible Monday I had only made £17, that barely paid for some drinks on the ferry.
All over the whole SEO world people had suddenly been put out of business. I had enjoyed top rankings for all of my money phrases since 2004, but all of a sudden my site was gone. The next few days were terrifying and to make things worse I was staying in a mobile home in Weymouth, Dorset with no internet access so I couldn’t find out what was happening. I had been aware that I had been building links to my site for years, as far as I knew the person with the most links wins, so I built lots of links – thousands of them in fact. Over the next few days the traffic got worse, the boss of the motorhome company called me and told me he was going to have to lay some of his staff off as they were just staring at blank screens, no enquiries, no nothing.
What had happened was what is now known as Google Penguin 1.0. In 2013 there have been 2 more major updates to the Penguin update, Penguin 2.0 and Penguin 2.1. Penguin 1.0 is the only penalty that seemed to affect my site, but the loss of rankings was devastating. There was actually a smaller less harmful update in May 2012 that some people were hit by. Most people I talk to now with Google Penalties have been hit by both Penguin 2.0 and Penguin 2.1.
I must admit for nearly 18 months I did not have a clue how to solve this huge problem. I tried building a new site, but I just couldn’t get it to rank at all. I tried building more links that I thought were good quality (they weren’t) – this had no affect either. I was pretty much going to give up, but I was still getting some traffic from long tail keyphrases in Google and of course my rankings in Bing and Yahoo were still intact. In the summer of 2013 I decided to do something about this, this is when I discovered the amazing tools provided by Link Research Tools in Austria.
Using the new Link Detox Genesis I have found thousands of toxic links and created a new Disavow file. I uploaded this on Friday 13th December 2013 and sent a reconsideration request shortly afterwards. I am still waiting for a reply.
If you are interested in me helping to fix your site please get in touch and I will help.