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We recently received an unnatural links penalty to our site; a rogue SEO firm did us some serious damage, and we lost 40% of our traffic (hundreds of thousands of users) overnight.

The effect on our business has been severe and we're really hoping we making things right. We submitted a reconsideration request but I'm wondering how long I should forecast for an outcome, as it will have a knock on effect for our business.

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Asking about the current wait time gets close to "Is example.com down for everyone or just me?" which is the sort of thing the SE sites are not for. I'd suggest adjusting to ask about the wait in general. –  Su' Apr 30 '12 at 4:45
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2 Answers

There doesn't appear to be a specified time, though this OP got a response within 5 days, I would guess that Google will get back to you within a month.

The following two articles might be of interest/helpful

There is also a useful post on Google groups from Google's own John Mueller:-

  • While we have just recently started sending out these messages, they may apply to issues that were already known (and affecting your site's standing in our search results) for a while.

  • If you receive a message like this, and you wish to resolve those issues, then I'd always submit a reconsideration request after having done so. In some cases, you may not be able to resolve all of the issues - if that's the case, then it's important to us that you document your efforts (you might even link to a Google Docs file if needed). It's important to our team that it's clear that you have taken significant effort to resolve all of the problems in that area, and that they can trust that these kinds of issues will not come back in the future.

  • In situations where an algorithmic adjustment might have been made, you're still welcome to submit a reconsideration request. It doesn't cause any problems to do that, so especially if you're unsure, submitting one is a good way to be certain.

  • Regarding the age of the unnatural links, I'd work to have them all removed, regardless of the age. For instance, in the general case where a site has been buying links for 2 years, it would be a good idea to go back that far.

  • If you're serious about your site's standing in our search results, then I'd strongly advise not to try to wait the penalty out. These are generally not issues that expire after a few days, they can affect your site's standing for quite some time.

For what it's worth (and totally unrelated to the above), I also noticed that you have a lot of URLs that are being blocked by the somewhat generic "Disallow: /*?" directive. It looks like you're using that as a way to handle duplicate content and/or canonicalization. In general, we recommend not doing that, as it makes it impossible for us to recognize that these URLs are leading to the same content, which in turn means that any links (including internal ones) to those URLs will be "lost" instead of being forwarded to your preferred canonical. In your case, we attempted to crawl about 63k URLs that were blocked by your robots.txt file in March (compared to 61k URLs that we were able to crawl normally). Our Help Center has some more information on how to handle canonicalization at http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=139066

it's also worth reading this other article from Barry Schwarz.

Hope this helps you out.

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The documentation on filing a reconsideration request makes absolutely no reference to timeframe. Note lack of time again for the URL removal tool, but that the page on requests to re-include content states 3-5 business days.

You have to assume those were conscious decisions; even if they're oversights it still leaves you with no information. There's no real answer here, and anyone else's case doesn't really tell you anything about your request. Anything else you get told is anecdotal or speculation, unless a citation is provided.

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