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Case Study: Recovering from Black-Hat SEO – Part 1

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Sometimes in this world, bad things happen to good companies. There are a number of SEO agencies, most of whom do pretty good work. There are always the bad ones, though, who prey on customers with big promises and use black hat techniques to make those a reality.

SEO is not a quick-fix solution. Ever.

One of the most common black hat techniques involve purchasing links and content spinning or duplication – both major no-no’s for user experience.

Recently, Duane Forrester, Bing evangelist, gave out a quote regarding link building practices, saying that a site should never know they’re receiving an inbound link ahead of time, that it should always be a surprise.  I think that’s a little extreme, especially when you consider links from directory listings (yes, our Google+ page links to our website and I know about it) or Chamber of Commerce or industry leader sites (there are links from my profile at SEMPO and my Google Partners page, too).  There are also links from interviews I’ve given that, while I didn’t ask for a link, figured they would be included.  So, this isn’t always true, but the spirit of the quote is what’s most important. Links are incredibly important, but unsolicited, relevant links have the most impact.

Now, we were approached by a client who had paid for SEO services for their site and experienced a significant drop in traffic after the first year or so.  Despite communication with their old SEO company (and being pretty savvy about SEO in general), their content was duplicated and manipulated,  links were submitted to a ridiculous number of directories (even ones in other countries with .ru domains) and no valuable content was ever created.  As a result, their organic listings vanished off the face of the Google home page.

As a result of these penalties, they sought our help to recover their site, their image, and their organic reach.  I warned them that this wasn’t something that could be solved overnight; I’ve read case studies of people that recovered within a few days, but to me, this shortcut to domain recovery is not the solution – in fact, it’s the reason for the issue in the first place.  We set up a six month plan detailing their recovery process, because not only did we want to recover their name, but we wanted to bring them back to a position of growth, strong organic traffic, and increase their sales.

After all, search traffic is great, but it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t translate to sales.

Over the next six months, we’ll go through the steps we take to help this client recover and the results they are seeing from our work.  We’ll share their questions and our responses, our research, analytics data, and more.  Feel free to leave any questions of your own in our comments, and if you’ve faced the same problem, don’t hesitate to reach out to see how we can help your site.