This is an unpleasant turn of events.
One of my niche sites (B2C) was very recently deindexed from Google (8 days ago). It was a manual “Pure spam” penalty. Yes, the entire site was booted out of Google search.
At first I thought I knew what the problem was. I fixed what I thought was the problem and then submitted the site for review.
That review was denied as of last night.
At least Google responds pretty fast to the review request. It took them about 7 days which I thought was fast. I’m impressed by that because it shows Google works with publishers quickly to get a site back into the index. They could opt to take 3 months or longer for manual penalty reviews.
Since my initial request for review failed, it’s time for plan B, which is taking rehabilitation efforts to the next level (I’m working on this today as you can well imagine).
What is a manual Google spam penalty?
I don’t know all the details. In fact I know very little except that it’s not good for any website. Basically, a Google employee checked out my site, didn’t like it and yanked it from the Google search index.
Google then sent me this message in Search Console:
Interestingly, another fairly large site in the same niche suffered the same fate as mine.
Why did I get this penalty?
I can only speculate. It would be helpful had Google told me in more detail the offending content, but that’s not going to happen so I have to guess.
I have a lot of published test content that I noindexed and I didn’t think it would matter. A lot of this content is junk that I used for all kinds of testing purposes. It could very well be this at a minimum. However, it could be more widespread than that. I simply don’t know.
That said, after thinking about this development over the last week or so, the only conclusion I can come up with is I broke my own rules which have made my niche sites a success in the first place.
For years I focused on well-written, helpful and unique content. By unique content that included unique images. It was this approach that made the site a fairly fast success in the first place. I reached out for user generated content and had professionals in the niche contribute regularly. It was these time-consuming practices that I slowed down on and chose shortcuts instead. Of course, had the shortcuts worked, that would have been cool too… but alas, they didn’t and so I pay the price.
For the first 2 years of the site, I was actively involved in every post and vetted most everything before it went live. In fact, I wrote tons of posts myself often spending a full day and in some cases a full week on a single post. While the site was image centric, those posts were well-written and included plenty of additional information (i.e. in addition to just images).
In a nutshell, over the last 12 to 18 months, my site’s quality did diminish as I pursued more content and failed to vet content.
The irony is my effort to speed up growth which resulted in diminished quality, never improved revenue (revenue remained high, but plateaued) and didn’t improve traffic before getting deindexed. I should have noticed this earlier on. My bad.
In fact, for quite some time, 80% of my traffic has been generated by about 10% to 15%% of the content. That content is the best quality content. It’s a correlation I should have paid much closer attention to a long time ago.
The problems arose with me not paying enough attention to it resulting in content quality suffering.
What am I doing about this?
I’m doing all I can to get this fixed ASAP.
I’m completely rehabbing the site this week. I’m in the middle of a culling exercise which involves removing quite a bit of lesser quality content. In fact, this will result in retaining 100 to 300 posts. I’ve not yet completed the culling process, but it won’t take long because I know which content is good. I’ll cross reference that with the historically best performing content in Analytics. I’ll keep only the best performing that’s also of excellent quality.
I could take the bit by bit approach and only remove the worst content (junkie test content) and go step by step or I can just remove a lot of weaker content. I’m going to proceed with a heavy hand and remove a lot of weaker content in an effort to get reindexed ASAP.
Fortunately, my best content also attracts the most traffic. Obviously if my site is reindexed, overall traffic will be down because a lot of content I’m removing does get some traffic, but that’s the way it goes. The plus side is if the site is reindexed with my top 100 to 150 pieces of content, it will still be a nicely profitable site upon which I can continue building… and do so with much closer oversight and attention to quality.
Once the culling done, I’ll submit a request for review. I’ll keep you posted as to the outcome.
What happens if my site is not reindexed after draconian rehabilitation efforts?
Amazingly, without search traffic, my site still gets a lot of traffic and still earns okay via social, direct and email traffic. However, Google traffic was plentiful and so the smart move is to do all I can to get reindexed. It’s hard to be motivated to continue building a site that’s deindexed from Google.
If the site doesn’t get reindexed after the next request for review, I’ll delete more content. I’ll do this until it’s reindexed and then I’ll continue growing it. It’s a niche I love and know. There’s no reason to give up.
However, in the event after culling the site down to a few of the very best pieces of content, the site is still not reindexed, I’ll have no choice but to chalk it up to a business loss and focus on other sites (I have several others that I’m building, so I’ll just work on those). Obviously I hope it doesn’t come to this, but it’s not the end of the world if it does.
In fact, my biggest online success came after the first Google Penguin algo update roughed up a few of my better performing sites back in 2012. I took a hit then. I learned a lot from that, adjusted my approach, rebuilt and ended up doing far better than I would have had I continued with my pre-Penguin strategy.
Is this a change in Google quality standards or did I drop the ball?
I don’t know for sure, but I suspect it’s my dropping the ball on quality as I let other people handle the site. As publisher, it’s still on me because people I hired proceeded on my instructions. It’s not the fault of people working on my site; it’s my fault for not properly instructing them and for my failing to provide feedback and pay attention to what was happening.
of course it’s within the realm of possibility that Google is tightening up content quality standards, but unless a slew of websites get deindexed, it’s likely all on me. I’ve read of no news or press releases from Google about tougher content requirements so that’s very likely not the case. I’ve also not read about other deindexing accounts.
Will Google reindex my site?
I’ve had a site deindexed for a malware attack infection before and once fixed, Google reindexed it within 9 days. I’m proceeding on the belief Google will reindex the site once it meets it’s quality standards.
Learning Points (thus far):
Quality content is key
Regardless of which niche you’re in, quality content is paramount. Less is more. Unique is key. These are principles I started the site on and were the foundation of my course, yet I veered from that over the last 12 to 18 months.
For every piece of content you publish, assess whether it adds value in some way. Admittedly, in recent months as I removed myself from the day-to-day of the site, some content probably added very little to the topic.
Pay attention to what’s getting published (if you outsource)
Better quality going forward means I will review all content very carefully before it’s published. This will mean publishing less content, but it will be better content. I will focus on topics I know well and enjoy.
It also means hiring only outstanding writers, even for shorter snippets of content.
Pursue topics on which I can really make a difference
Going forward with the site, I’ll be focusing on topics and types of content with which I can contribute something unique to the niche. Fortunately, there is, more or less, a pattern of topics and types of content that have always performed best. This is the content I’m retaining and will continue publishing.
Save your money
This can be a volatile business. In fact, being an entrepreneur can be volatile financially. I remember when I practiced law, there were good and bad months. It’s the nature of running a business. Therefore, if possible, save as much as you can to weather downturns.
Diversify if you can
I’m fortunate because the revenue from this website is just a part of my business’ revenue. One stream of many. Therefore, a great lesson here is if you can, diversify your revenue streams. I know it’s hard when starting out, but as you grow, take time to diversify your business.
Deindexing CAN and DOES happen
Let this perhaps be the biggest take-away. Deindexing can and does happen for a variety of reasons… not just for spammy backlinks.
I’m not out of the woods yet
My site is still not reindexed. I’ll submit a request for review very shortly; hopefully later today.
I’m publishing this post now (instead of waiting until the site is reindexed) because it just may help you avoid the same fate (you can review your own site) and it’s also part of being transparent when publishing a blog like Fat Stacks. If I’m publishing information about how to build niche sites, it’s incumbent on me to report the good and the bad.
That said, without specifics from Google, it’s hard to provide specifics as to what you should and shouldn’t do. I’d love to be able to tell you precisely what types of content were the culprits, but I can’t. Therefore, in an abundance of caution, I’m taking draconian measures to have the best chance of success when submitting my request for review.
Am I freaking out?
At first it was a surprise and it made for a bad day, but it’s strangely relieving because this will definitely shape my niche site business direction going forward. This will force me to do what I know I should do, what I did for a long time, but failed to do for the last year or so.
This development will simplify my approach. I definitely have some work ahead of me, but that’s fine. I don’t mind.
I’ve also developed multiple revenue streams across several niche sites so losing one is not all that big of a deal. Yes, it’ll cost me revenue, but it’s not going to impact my living all that much.
Am I getting out of niche sites altogether?
I love publishing niche sites. I own several niche sites. Having one site take a beating is par for the course. At the end of the day I love building out these sites and so that’s what I’ll do.