I had a nice long post in my head about this. It would explain the differences between algorithmic penalties and manual penalties, and how incredibly rare manual penalties really – probably – are, and why most reinclusion requests within Google Webmaster tools probably go out the window (since they can only really help you with manual penalties or bans). I was going to talk about how to go to the last page of results to see if you have a -950 without clicking, “next, next, next”… and how you could tell the difference, sometimes, between a manual penalty and an algorithmic one – between a ban and a penalty – and do some diagnoses to find out what you’re even being penalized for – or maybe your rankings just dropped. I was also going to talk about how you may never bounce completely back even after removing the paid links because by removing them you are losing page-rank that you had before getting penalized, etc…
But, alas, I had to upgrade my WP plugins and update the version, and answer some IMs and now have to leave for a doctors appointment. That old saying about the cobblers kids having no shoes is so very true. These days you’ll find me writing more about SEO when answering questions at SEOMoz than you will by subscribing to this blog. But anyway, I’ll jump right in:
A manual penalty isn’t going to get lifted the same day you fix whatever it was you were doing wrong. In fact, it may not even get fixed the day the offending (now fixed) page gets re-cached. Whether that page was an over-optimized, or low-quality piece of
crap content on your own site, or page from another site from which you your competitor had purchased a link into your site – fixing it isn’t going to produce instant results. Matt Cutts uses the phrase “Time Out” when discussing this issue in a recent video:
“On the manual side… we try to have, essentially, a time out. So if it’s hidden text, after, say, 30 days, that would expire. And if you’re doing something really severe; if you’re doing some cloaking or malicious stuff, that will last for a longer period of time, but eventually that will also expire.”
But here’s what I have found to be the case: That “time out” period also seems to exist on algorithmic penalties. Matt specifically mentions it as a factor for manual penalties, but I have seen several instances now where something has been “fixed” and the offending pages have been re-cached, yet the penalty isn’t lifted for weeks or months later. A lot of other factors could play into this. Maybe during that time period the sites built some better links. Maybe there was a core algorithm update.
All of the variables, combined with a possible time-lag, make it extremely difficult for SEOs to know whether they have truly fixed something or not; and it makes clients distrust an SEO who says “Hey, I found your problem.” when the penalty doesn’t go away after the problem is “fixed”.
It’s a good thing Matt posted that video. Now we can all just sent the client to the video and say “Be patient”. Right?