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How I Recovered from Google Penalties, Algorithm Updates / Changes & Gained Traffic Back

It’s been some time since I have written about the state of my businesses and quite frankly I have been experiencing withdrawals from it.

One of the toughest challenges for me personally has always been where to spend my spare time. With a career and several income streams on the side, I frequently find myself negotiating between pushing the professional career forward or any one of my income streams.

To add to the dilemma, some of the more recent income streams have really started to really pick up and show strong promise, which inherently makes me want to focus on them. That said, something has to take the back seat.

With a limited amount time available to spread between initiatives outside my career, the frequency at which I get to work on side projects, including posting on this blog is significantly slower than someone working online full time.

I have been exclusively focused on creating more ebooks, audio books, iPhone apps, working on two larger authority type websites and experimenting with methods to revive websites that were penalized by search engine algorithm updates. I couldn’t help but break my momentum to share recent success I’ve had with penalized sites.

I have mentioned before that I started this blog to document the various projects I am involved in so that you can see how I was and still am to able to establish various income streams while maintaining a full time career with the idea to be able to replicate it as well if you wanted to.

While I will continue to do exactly that, albeit at a much slower pace than full timers, I want to share some recent success I have had reviving some sites that were impacted by the changes in search engine algorithms, most particularly the Google algorithm updates (Bing and Yahoo have held up for me for the most part).

I have haphazardly shared signs of improvement in traffic at random intervals in the past on my Facebook page. But I wanted to make sure that the success I had with this website was not an anomaly.  I wanted to see whether I could experience the same success with other websites as well.

To date I have three websites that have successfully bounced back from the various penalties imposed on them by Google, as well as the impact on traffic due to the various algorithm updates we have seen in the recent past.

Here are some screen shots showing the traffic trends:

This is a site that started recovering in the August time frame. It was down to just a few hundred visitors per day – as good as dead compared to where it was during its hey days.  The site is back to the mid three thousands of uniques per day.

This shows a site that started recovering around November. The site was penalized and was down to under 300 unique visitors a day. After several months of working on it the site is now just under 500 visitors per day. There is still some upside to recover but I’ve added 200ish visitors per day to it and I am happy about that.

Finally, this one shows a site that started recovering later in November. It was down to under 300 uniques per day. As I write this post traffic is up to just under 700 uniques per day.

Collectively this is a huge improvement in traffic, and my Google Adsense earnings are definitely reflecting the improvement.

If you’re curious how the traffic breakdown looks like on these, have a look at the pie charts below. Notice that most of the traffic comes from search engines. This is what I want ideally for these particular sites. These sites were created with the sole purpose of profiting from Adsense, information products and affiliate marketing.

Note: None of these sites are “spammy” in nature. I truly believe the content is valuable and of high quality. These sites were impacted by some of the traditional search engine optimization strategies I used to get them to rank higher initially.

You will notice the date ranges are quite varied. The reason for this is that I took my time experimenting with the methods with one site only until I was able to see some results. I wanted to let the results continue for a reasonable period of time before moving on to the next site.

I did the same with site #2 and subsequently site #3. I have a handful of other sites that were impacted which I am currently working on. These sites are larger in nature and were more penalized (I can tell by the number of “bad” back links they have coming into them).

Naturally, these sites will take longer to recover. I will post an update once these have recovered to hopefully further reinforce the methods I used to get the first three back on track.

Fortunately, not all of my sites were impacted. In fact, some of the sites continued to thrive amidst all the algorithm updates and changes and continued to generate a healthy passive income stream.

For example, see this and this relatively recent earning proof for example.

So here is what I plan to do. I will follow up with several posts and discuss each step I took in detail with the hope that you too can follow along if you’d like if you’ve had some sites that were impacted. The good news is that it didn’t cost me an arm to execute on these. The bad news is that it took a lot of time to methodically get through the exercise.

Considering the net results that I am seeing now, the bad news doesn’t sound bad at all now that I look back in retrospect. But because we are human, the challenge is that just like starting an online business for the first time, there are many unknowns and often doubt creeps in, making us second guess our decision because we don’t know whether it will pay off in the long run. The only way to truly find out is to try. But if we don’t try and take action, we eliminate all possible chances of success to begin with.

In the next post I will discuss how to first confirm whether your site was penalized.

Have you been able to successfully recover a site from Google penalties and algorithm updates? I’d love to hear about how you did it in the comments below. Even if you haven’t fully recovered yet, I’d love to hear what you have tried so far and what you plan on doing in the future?

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66 Responses to “How I Recovered from Google Penalties, Algorithm Updates / Changes & Gained Traffic Back”

  1. Yakub says:

    Wow, these numbers are amazing Sunil. I cannot wait to read more about the process. I have a site I started right when things were changing and I have not had a good experience at all. I hope that you can help me.

  2. Janice says:

    This is what I have been waiting for. I have not seen a very detailed guide or a study done on recovering a website after a traffic drop. I look forward to reading the next article. Thank you for taking the time to do this.

  3. JJ Wong says:

    My site was once hitting 35K visits a month, but suddenly drop to 20K and lower, it took me more than half year to grow back and surpass the 35K traffics. Still, big part of the traffics come from Google. :p

    • Sunil says:

      half a year to get back is pretty good progress. can you tell us the steps you took to get your site back to previous traffic levels?

      how much content did you add to the site during the 6 month period? how much content did it already have prior to it?

  4. Glen Craig says:

    I’m definitely eager to hear the steps you took to recover! That’s a great jump for that first site.

  5. Tom W says:

    I agree that this is a very timely article for me as well. I have been attempting to build my website and generate income for nearly 12 months and have not had much success because of some aggressive back link building methods I picked up from other blogs.

    My goal is to get the site back on track before June of next year.

    • Sunil says:

      was your site generating more traffic than today at any point during your journey, or you have not been able to get it to generate traffic to begin with?

  6. Maegan Laich says:

    I cannot wait for the details. We have two websites that are struggling. I am convinced one is because of exact match domain update. Are you going to talk about how technical things can impact the traffic for example page loading speed?

  7. Greg Nunan says:

    Hey Sunil. Fantastic results. As you point out, investing the time it takes to recover a site, particularly when you are not 100% sure of why a site has tanked, is a tough call when you’re working online part time.

    How can you justify 10, 20, 30 or more hours to HOPEFULLY recover a site when that might be a whole week or two worth of “online time”? That’s the life of a part-timer online! 🙂

    I’ve had a bit of success with 301 redirects and starting sites fresh.

    The main thing I’ve found is to be patient. Analyse the site, find a potential cause, tweak the site to address the possible issue and then WAIT a couple weeks. That way you don’t invest too much time and can eliminate potential causes one by one.

    Sometimes what you think is a penalty is just a random “Google thing”. I had 3 sites all get “hit” in late October and then all bounce back approx 3 weeks later. I did nothing to the sites to address any issues because I couldn’t see why they’d been hit in the first place! I was days away from 301 redirecting them all to new domains when they bounced back. Shows the value of just waiting it out.

    Google is always tweaking things so, as hard as it is, take it slow and put your effort into other projects whilst you’re playing the waiting game.

    There’s very little online about how to recover sites effectively so looking forward to your follow up posts.

    • Sunil says:

      you mention some great points Greg, many of which that could have back fired on me. I will incorporate as much of this in the next few articles. the three sites you see in the example are sites that were heavily penalized and were sitting in status quo for months. I have become curious about your 301 strategy however. are you routing old content to new domains and that in itself is bringing back traffic?

  8. Scott J says:

    That a big hockey stick in the first chart!

    Looking forward to hear how you did it. I have never tried to recover from a full penalty. I scrapped the domains and moved on.

    When traffic starts to slip to my top producers a fresh batch of tier 1 links or some strengthening of the old ones usually does the trick. In other cases a new long piece of content (2,000+ words) has help right the ship.

    • Sunil says:

      interesting thoughts Scott. what are you calling “tier 1” links exactly? is the long content directly posted on the subject site? curious – do you plan on revisiting the scrapped sites? why/why not?

      • Scott says:

        So I take it you’re not a tiered link builder. Tier 1 are the links that point directly at my money sites.

        I’m never going to revisit those sites. I did try in the past and found it much easier to rank a new site.

        • Sunil says:

          I see what you mean now Scott – just a matter of semantics I suppose. so what are you doing now with the new projects and what do you feel is working best in terms of traffic generation?

  9. Jude says:

    Hi Sunil…my site was affected too and to date it fortunately it came back to page 4 where before it went down from page #1 to page 500+. I am still curious on how to bring this back to page #1 again. Are you going to show us in detail what solutions did you do to bring your sites back to higher rankings again? What are the major things did you do? Hope to hear from you. Thanks!

  10. Jake says:

    Good numbers Sunil! I look forward to read more about the details. At this stage, I don’t have any penalised sites, but these tips might still be useful when building new sites. As an example Glen over at Viperchill now recommends to take it easy with the anchor text optimisation, as a way to get back on the ground after being penalised, but this is just as useful for people building new sites.. anyhow, keep it coming!

    • Sunil says:

      absolutely agree with Glen’s thoughts. I have written about adjusting the velocity and diversity of link building recently which is in my opinion the way to go. Jake, what would you attribute the success of your site to? By success I mean not being penalized

      • Jake says:

        At this stage, “success” might not be the right term. We have a lot of sites, but so far, we still haven’t seen much traffic, income or SERP’s. I think patience is key. With that being said, I think the chances of our sites getting penalized at this level is low, simply because we haven’t done any link building at all. If we were to get penalized, it would not make a lot of difference right now. The interesting question is to see how far we can take it without linkbuilding. Can content and onpage seo take us to the top ten?

        • Sunil says:

          excellent question Jake and a very good approach in my opinion. I have one site that has nothing but content – over 500 pages and some social media initiatives. the site is doing very well in terms of serps. what is your largest site and how is it fairing in terms of traffic?

  11. Hello, i have a new metod. You can scan your bad links and add all in … The bad links make your site to go in down.

    • Sunil says:

      hi Abel and Guile. can you tell the community how do you scan bad links? How do you know a link is “bad”? finally, what tools/software are you using to do this?

  12. Lisa Irby says:

    Hey Sunil,

    I hear so few recovery stories now, I can’t wait to read more about your recovery. I would gladly share that with my audience. In fact, I asked my FB fans a while back for recovery stories in the last few months. Not a single person had a story to tell. Looking forward to your next post!

    • Sunil says:

      It’s a painful process Lisa and I don’t doubt that. Many choose to move on to new ventures instead. One of these sites is an SBI sites, I think you will appreciate that. Looking forward to sharing.

  13. johnj says:

    The title of this post is clearly misleading. Not a single word or hint how exactly was the recovery done…

  14. Antonio says:

    Aw, this was an exceptionally good post. Taking
    a few minutes and actual effort to generate a top notch article… but
    what can I say… I procrastinate a whole lot and don’t manage to get nearly anything

  15. Manju Devi says:

    Your blog is very well managed & designed. I love to your writing style. I want you want to keep it up…….
    Just because I get a lot of things to learn from your blog.
    Very Nice Post……

  16. I, too, am looking forward to reading the rest of this series to see how you determined the problem and what steps you took to fix it. Over the past 10 months, my food blog has lost half its traffic. I had one paid link I accepted last year that was a couple months before the decline. I’m not sure that was the cause because Google usually reacts by taking Page Rank instead of traffic.

  17. Hey sunil,

    I can’t wait to read more about your recovery. Some of my sites have been hit and i wasn’t able to recover yet…

  18. Pau says:

    I am too new to the scene to have penalized websites, but I don’t discard it happening in the future. I am truly looking forward to your future posts detailing how to find out if the site has been penalized and how to recover it.

    Any insights also into how to find out if an old domain is penalized, before you buy it, would be great as it is something I have unsuccessfully tried to figure out myself.

    • Sunil says:

      I like your later question Pau. I have not come across a way to do that, unless of course if you have behind the scenes analytics access as well as Google Webmaster Tools access.

  19. Andrew S says:

    I haven’t encountered some problems with Google constant updates on its algorithm. Mostly there are no changes happened to my site. Still I am aiming to improve it after every changes/updates that happen. Thanks for sharing this great article here.

  20. I’ve been dreading addressing Google penalty issues imposed on Traffic Generation Café – your study gives me hope.

    Now all I need to do is to give myself a nice kick in the rear to actually do something about it. lol

    • Sunil says:

      Ana, do you know which penalty/penalties apply to you? If so how did you determine? I have observed that most decide to move on to new ventures and let the old ones simmer instead of trying to get out of the penalty box

  21. Hey Sunil
    great article, i also got panelized for one of my site as Reason of “Thin Content”, Don’t know why i have seen this Reason
    when i Posted 100+ posts with 300+ words contains.. Thanks for sharing some Recovery.

    • Sunil says:

      Hi Sunita. How do you know that is what you were penalized for? What kind of message did you receive in Webmaster tools? What have you done since then to rectify and what kind of results have you seen?

  22. Thanks for this info post and I really like the way your shared this data and I hope you will help us via sharing this type of data in future.

  23. I have a site that got hit with Google penalties what a mission to get it right. The problems I had was that I had a banner at the top, right side, and left side.

    Not enough content on the pages.

    Over optimisiation of the keyword how to create a website.

    Also I had linked to spam websites, I had recomended sites and they were spam. Also some of the links on my comments were spam, they have been removed now.

    I used to get 3000 plus daily visitors one year ago and it dropped to less than 100 daily visitors about 6 months ago.

    I have done a complete redesign with less ads and banners above the fold, added new content to each page, and used the disallow tool to try and remove some of the inbound links that are causing problems.

    So far I have about 90 pages done in the new style and slowly its coming back up. I now get 300 plus daily visitors now.

    I still have lots more work and hope fully it will come back up to 3000 daily visitors a day or more.

  24. Impressive numbers! It can be challenging to navigate all the different updates and algorithms in use. Its easy to get discouraged, but keep on trying! It looks like you’ve already had some success!

  25. imran says:

    Thanks for great share ,its really an informative post , pretty interesting to read too ..Thanks for sharing with us

  26. Good read? I hope you’ve been able to recover your websites’ traffic even more by now! Look forward to reading your strategy.

    • Sunil says:

      absolutely Sune. with the amount of initiatives I’ve got going it’s just been tough to write about these in depth. however the project is still on my plate and will def be getting back to more actively writing about them

  27. Sagar says:

    Nice and very important post

    I pretty well know that getting back your website to top after a big drop is very difficult. It surely is challenging to get back the site to the same position.

    The reasons will surely differ for all the sites which are going down . They can be over optimization, lots of back linking, poor or duplicate content etc. I too got a site which is penalized by Google and cannot get it back . I really need the type of methods and process which you have used to get back your site .

    Would surely look for more information on this and thank you for sharing

  28. Hi Sunil
    Probably one of the best case studies I have read on recovering from Google algo updates. I had to abandon one of my sites as no matter what I did, I couldn’t make it work again, so kudos to you for your efforts.
    Just wish I had read this post a few months ago…!

  29. Hi Sunil,

    Has your numbers picked up more yet? I sincerely hope so, and hope to read more articles from you again soon!

    • Sunil says:

      numbers have definitely picked up Sune. I am just waiting to wrap up several initiatives and have been itching to get back to blogging and discussing more about it

  30. Thanks Sunil for sharing this post. You really help many others by providing this informative article specially me becoz i’m just come into this line and grab this kind of knowledge was very difficult for the new one. Now read your this article solve many things for me.

    Thanks Once again! Cheers 🙂

  31. deepak says:

    Thanks for writing wonderful information

  32. I am a beginner blogger, my website is new, and didn’t have a chance to fall into the filter. I wonder how many links per day gain to my website in order to avoid problems with filters or ban?

  33. Harry King says:

    You create a really helpful blog post. This is what I have been waiting for so long. Its easy to get discouraged, but you made it look so easy to recover.


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