A friend of mine, an ex-client whose site I designed, has a problem with his ranking and I want your personal spin on his situation. It'll help if I recall some of his site history.

Basically for 10 years or so his website has been in the top 10 rankings averaging 5-10. Well that wasn't good enough for his niche because of the low search volume so he took it upon himself and bought dirty back-links... You know the kind 10 bucks per 10,000 and of course this worked for a couple of years and then came the likes of panda and penguin and now his business is on the edge of closing.

Now let's put the personal thoughts of "serves him right" aside because I too dislike sites that are beating me in rankings when they clearly shouldn't. Fact of the matter it's happened and people/businesses are on the edge of closing.

His recovery steps have been:

  • Messaged site owners to remove his links (even paid some people to remove them)
  • Removed all naughty links via the disavowed tool
  • Paid for his site to be rewritten by a Professional Copywriter (expensive)
  • Paid for Bloggers to Post Weekly (Unique Content not Spun)
  • Paid for Advice from SEO Consultancy's regarding Issues
  • Has very few links listed in Google Webmaster Tools and more quality than his competitors.
  • Had SEO people rework some of his site (Reduced Keyword Spam etc)

Now my friend has pumped £10,000s into recovering his website and almost one year on his site is still on Page 4 (Against sites that are just not good in terms of content and also debatable links) - The search terms are not very competitive at all.

Now as a webmaster and putting yourself in this position when do you call it a day or is there any steps additionally he can do?

I know this question may seem a bit subjective or based on person opinion but none the less maybe there is additional steps that can be taken or confirming that he should just re-brand and go with another website would be convincing advice to my friend.

Additional Information

He was hit on the first release of Penguin updates around April 2012, He waited a couple of months and believed he had been slapped. From there it was a little unsure if it was a panda, or penguin or a bit of both. So around July onwards he started to have his site rewritten and with regular updates to counter Panda if that was the problem. Then in September with no improvements he employed someone to message webmasters to remove the links, a lot got removed. Then in October they released disavowed he then removed all the ones that wanted stupid amounts of payments or didn't response to take down messages. So I'm guessing all changes after NOV in total, thou panda changes was back in July.

  • How much time has elapsed since the recovery steps were begun?
    – JCL1178
    Feb 16, 2013 at 18:50
  • Let me ask I need to phone him in any case. brb Feb 16, 2013 at 18:55
  • I've updated the question with this information. Feb 16, 2013 at 19:02
  • 2
    This may sounds stupid, but is restarting an option? If he still sells a good product, and has new content, can he start over on a new site (new domain, new text again, same infrastructure, similar products) in a way that would get him into the rankings quickly enough to make some income? I realize that this is drastic (and risky since many of the subjective SEO elements won't be in place), but may be something to consider. Dump old site, except for existing clients, start with new.
    – Nick
    Feb 18, 2013 at 18:49

3 Answers 3


I would call it a day now in terms of recovery actions. Without knowing your friend's budget or the relative importance of the site in the overall business strategy, this sounds like a lot of money spent on mostly correct corrective actions.

The only remaining step that you have not mentioned is asking for a manual reconsideration request to get the penalties removed.

  • Sadly he did this at the start and he got a generic response, I remember him telling me. Basically it contained no information about his site and every day rankings are calculated. It's worth mentioning a lot of people with Penguin slaps never received the warning message in their WMT. He never received any message. So I'm assuming that only the worst of the worst get those messages. Feb 16, 2013 at 19:03
  • There isn't usually a message telling you about Panda. However, manual reconsideration should be done at the END of the fixes, not the beginning. I would try it again and include the complete list of sins rectified.
    – JCL1178
    Feb 16, 2013 at 19:53
  • Will notify him but I believe you need the email. Feb 16, 2013 at 20:56
  • 2
    You don't. Check the link I provided or go straight to the form: google.com/webmasters/tools/reconsideration?pli=1
    – JCL1178
    Feb 16, 2013 at 21:08

Before he gives up, I would recommend some usability testing. Have him set up a senario like

You need to learn/buy/find widgets. You type 'dark blue widgets' into Google. You see the following search result: http://mysite.example.com/blue_widgets.html You click on it. Does it tell you what you want to know about widgets?

Use http://usertesting.com (or similar). You can do this testing quickly and fairly cheaply. The feedback you get can often lead to great site improvements.

Usability is oft overlooked element to good SEO. I believe that Google relies heavily on "bounce-back rates" to determine page quality. One of the important factors in Panda is average bounce-back rate for a site.


I knew an accountant who didn't think he was making enough money. He started cheating the system but got caught and paid dearly for it. Now he doesn't understand why he's not making as much money as before he started cheating. Cause he's not trusted anymore.

Story #2. There are a lot of restaurants in your town and mine. Not all of them can be in the top ten. Someone has to be number eleven no matter how good they are and you can't do anything about that.

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