I thought I’d share my *personal* experience with being hit by Google penalty. There’s a growing number of people like me, so I hope that will be helpful
*Mind that we are a bit special case study as we are not going to recover (and that’s another story, don’t judge me).
But that experience will turn useful for you anyways, hopefully*
Update: I was also doing Reddit AMA in case you wanted to ask anything or read through my replies.
First 3 Stages Of Life after Penalty
- Overwhelming stage. That was the shortest one. No matter how much you think you are emotionally ready (we knew it was coming), there’s no way you can skip this phase. Don’t worry, it will pass.
- Anger and denial. This stage has been re-enforced for me because of the huge press we received. People discussing your case and commenting on those hundreds of articles may have 0 understanding of what happened. You think you are the one to know the truth. You can’t tear yourself from reading all those blog posts and comments. You take a deep breath and you try to react to each comment and article with dignity (I didn’t do such a great job in some cases. I was at that stage). Also, I was lucky because the whole community shared that stage with me. I was blessed not to be alone.
- Reality. Now I am at that stage where I actually realize that you cannot be really hit unless you deserve it [here! I said that!]. You can go into hundreds of arguments here of who is right or wrong, who is evil or not and how your site or situation could have been handled differently, but then the obvious realization comes: What goes around, comes around. You cannot be the only one right or wrong in any situation. If anything happens to you, there’s a reason. This realization will come sooner or later and it will be a relief. Trust me.
Google is NOT the Internet. Or is it?
After your site gets hit and you are financially affected, there will always be people who will be kind enough to say:
Hey! If you are THAT much affected by Google traffic, you didn’t do that right in the first place. You don’t put all your eggs into one basket. Google is not the Internet. You should have developed other sources of traffic. Google is not the Internet…
Now that I am at stage 3 and I perceive the reality, so I can honestly, with all my dignity, state that’s an absolute cr@p (excuse my French)
And I have two facts to prove my point from my experience:
1. If Google wants to get you, they will. And not only in search
Go ahead and try to search for our brand name. The whole search results are littered with all the press we received. Google made everything possible to create a huge press around the case: Matt was teasing the crowd with that penalty for a couple of weeks announcing it coming on the conference and in the tweets. I don’t know a single big publication in our industry that didn’t cover the case contributing to the whole affect.
Even if you never used Google to find us, you would have found out about the penalty one way or another [provided you are in this industry of course]. Google got us beyond the search engine. So they ARE the Internet in that case (Again, we are just special, not every penalized site will see it unless Google really wants to get you. Get calm and move on :)).
2. Google traffic may easily monopolize your traffic sources
That’s something we are discussing at SEOchat [Go ahead and share your thoughts in that thread!].
We are the best case to prove that, unfortunately. The only search phrase we were caring about was our brand name. Taking it out they already affected our traffic sources dramatically (most people don’t even know how to use their browser address bar: They just go to Google).
It’s easier to develop your online business having NO Google traffic than to face its loss one day cc @GrowMap
— Ann Smarty (@seosmarty) May 6, 2014
We have not yet gone through all the stages of life after penalty. I’ll document more when we are there. I am sure there will be the stage when I’ll be able to say “What happened to us was the BEST thing that may have happened because it allowed us to realize our mistakes and pushed us to create something awesome”. I am not there yet but we are getting closer!
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Thanks for sharing Ann. I have been wondering how this was affecting you on the personal level.
You are a winner so I expect bigger things from you in the future.
Looks like you are already planning for that which is great. Keep me posted.
Thanks for your kind words, Jeff! And we’ll keep in touch!
You got one thing wrong Ann, and that is thinking you did not react with complete humility and grace over the Matt Cutts’ PR stunt with MBG. You did, admirably so.
Secondly, regardless of whether MBG deserved this penalty, YOU did not deserve Matt’s public shaming. Because to me, that’s what it was. A *very* personal and public spotlight put on you in a very public place (PubCon) right before you were speaking.
The shame should be placed on Matt for doing what he did, when he did it and how he did it.
So for that, MC is a dirt bag in my eyes (it’s a polite, yet derogatory name). There is no way he did not know how this would look or turn out. None. Nor did he care. All he wanted was the PR and to scare everyone who ever accepted guest blogs, or guest blogged themselves. Mission accomplished, dirt bag.
I may still be in the anger stage? 😀
I support you 100%!
I understand how you must be feeling Ann, as my blog was hit at the same time as MBG.
The effects I felt were not just in traffic, certain members of my writing team (some paid and others voluntary) decided that they could no longer associate themselves with the site due to the penalty.
As such I’m still trying to rebuild my traffic, team and lost income from advertising, even though the penalty has been lifted.
I wish you all the best for the future Ann, good luck 🙂
I think I am also still sometimes stuck in stage 2 with you when I hear people that don’t know what they are talking about calling MBG a blog or link network. “they got what they deserved for being a link network”
Those white-hat Crusaders. Man they get on my nerves.
We were discussing the ethics of Matt Cutts and these malcious Google penalties the other day at my friend Josh’s post themoralconconcept.net
@Shannon you are so right about Google and Matt Cutts. No only did he basically go out of his way to shame Ann, but the overall policy of Google intentionally inflicting damage on others in order to further their damage if evil.
It doesn’t matter if they “deserved it” or not. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
To save some time I will quote what Josh said in the comment on that post (because the post is super long as are the comments. He is speaking not about MBG specially but in general terms about the mass Google penalties.
“Just a point, it’s not that they were “innocent” or that they did or did not “deserve” the treatment they got OR any rankings they may have had.
The argument at hand, my argument, has NOTHING to do with that.
It is that Google walked over and, like a bully in the playground, kicked these people in the teeth.
There was no reason to do that.
There is no way to justify that.
Whatever they want to say after that, is ENTIRELY and utterly irrelevant.
When a parent catches the bully doing that and they try to justify themselves, “But, they were spammy”. No. “But they broke my guidelines” Nope. “But they might have been a black hat.”
THIS STILL DOES NOT JUSTIFY KICKING THEM IN THE FUCKING TEETH”
Anyhow Ann I’m truly sorry this happened and no matter what anyone says you didn’t deserve anything like this.
But what doesn’t kill you makes your stronger.
You are a winner and you’ll always come out on top.
Very interesting post and I felt guilt after asking you some rude questions at :
But its a good thing hearing your sides about the case.
Forever your Admirer ,
Thanks, Shannon! One thing I didn’t mention at Stage 2 is how many people really SHARED it with me. So many people were angry together with me that stage was actually eye-opening to me. I am so, so much thankful for that!
Andy, I didn’t think it was rude! It was a great question!
Darren, we are together in that fight! Please let me know if you need any help!
Gerald, thanks so much! I am lucky to have you!
Thank you for sharing your experience with us Ann. I love all the wisdom and encouragement that’s packed in this post. I’m looking forward to seeing how this experience will continue to make you stronger.
Ann I think you are doing great as usual.
Recently I started 2 sites, after basic onsite SEO I forgot about Google for the most part. The site’s traffic is growing nicely from activity on Tumblr and Pinterest and a few others where if people like your posts they will follow you.
They are on subjects which lend themselves to images and that helps.
I read an interesting comment recently that many people do search at sites and not in Google for what they want. Quora, slideshare, and YouTube are sites I search in a lot, for example. That is part of the SEO picture as well and one I hadn’t considered before.
I think that too many persons trying to use only search or social as major traffic sources to their site.
But this is wrong because if your major traffic source is take about 90% of all traffic you’re in deep trouble. And after time – sh!t h@ppens. Website owners should diversifying their traffic sources. One of best is to be 1/3 search traffic, 1/3 social traffic and 1/3 other sources (mails, referrers, direct, etc). I know that this is hard to maintain but it’s possible. And will bring you enough even if one major source is broken.
“Website owners should diversifying their traffic sources. One of best is to be 1/3 search traffic, 1/3 social traffic and 1/3 other sources (mails, referrers, direct, etc). ”
Warner this can’t be easily done for some business, but for others not so much.
For example if you are a plumber and you get most of your customers from Google places and Google organic and Adwords. so let’s say Google decided to put the kibosh on the plumber he now only has Adwords.
Realistically it’s not going to do this plumber much good to spend a lot of time tweeting or Facebooking. Let’s be real about. When people are looking for a plumber they “Google it” they don’t turn to Facebook or Twitter (at least most don’t)
So while it would be great if we could have a world where these types of businesses don’t have to rely on Google traffic. I think it’s idealistic at best but not realistic for most. Not being found in Google for some = not being found by potential customers.
Don’t get me wrong there are some business that can thrive without Google but for many it is their lifeblood and there is no way to survive without it.
I think most people that say “well you shouldn’t have relied on Google, you should have built a business based on many traffic sources etc…”
Most of those people probably haven’t been hit by Google.
I think in Ann’s case MyBlogGuest could survive without the Google traffic but they couldn’t survive with the bad PR.
Great post Ann,
Transparent, which is a noble attribute. Your intent was always good and that was clear in the way that you looked to moderate My Blog Guest well.
I recall being at a conference in 2013 and the question was raised to a panel “did they think the likes of My Blog Guest would ever be penalised?” At the time the whole panel response was a resounding no.
Times have changed a lot.
You will be back with something amazing though I am sure 🙂
@Dawn Thanks for your kind words. that means so much!
Best of luck Ann 🙂
Google has gone too far. This has to stop.
Great Article. This is Really Nice and Helpful Post. I Learned Many thing From This Post. Thanks for Sharing with me.
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Thanks for being so open and honest Ann. I know it is helping plenty of people in search land
Great Article. This is Really Nice and Helpful Post for every Blogger. Thanks for Sharing with us.
Why is MBG “not going to recover”? Aren’t there any dialogues you can have with Google about the so-called unnatural links, even if you don’t want to disavow any?
Hey Liz, Google is not having any dialogues with us, so I am not sure any are possible!
Sorry to hear that. There ought to be a way to appeal these issues, rather than having to disavow if you believe in the links you have.
Thanks for sharing this, it also helps us to realise the importance of unique and useful content. I work in an eCommerce SEO agency as a Technical SEO specialist and Google penalty is always my nightmare. We are working hard to avoid any mistakes but there are always new things to learn with every experience. So thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts and experience on that.
Here is our thoughts as well: