As I scrolled through the emails trying to get a gauge on what was happening, I was having mixed emotions. One was that I’ve popped my cherry, and was now a real man! The other was disappointment and frustration with Google for being so heavy handed.
5 Sites Had Been Hit
One of them was a genuine site that had a lot of work put into it and had some valuable content. This I was most upset about. It was not a big earner, but it did make a few hundred bucks a month on some Amazon products that I use and recommend. I had put a lot of effort into the posts and had some good natural rankings.
Two were domains that had gone dormant so decided to test two plugins that pull in product data from Amazon and another from ClickBank. These were technically using scraped data so I can see the violation with Google’s terms.
These are basically considered auto site builders. My recommendation with these are to steer clear of this type of plugin. Certain forums are littered with this kind software making bold claims. They are a piece of crap and just kill your sites and don’t rank for shit. Automatically pulling in affiliate links and scraped copy automatically gets you nothing. It is not a quick way to make millions as they claim!
The fourth was a blog I started last summer. I wanted to document my weight loss progress when I decided to get healthy after the birth of my son, through change of diet. It was more a personal journey, and I used it as motivation for myself more than anything else.
Unfortunately it was one of the sites that got hacked which I wrote about earlier in the year, so I had lost most of the content. The only page I could salvage was the first blog post. It never ranked for anything and was never intended to. The only reason for it to be given a manual penalty is that there is now only one page of content present. That doesn’t seem fair.
Finally, my web hosting review site that I set up to either expose poor quality web-hosting services, or promote the good independent ones I discovered, was also slapped with a penalty. It only had 3 pages including a homepage – one positive and one negative review. All were very genuine posts with full speed tests and copies of email dialog showing the poor IT support. I just never had time to add to it. Other than being a small site, it had done nothing wrong.
So What Can I Conclude From This
Well the first is all the sites were on the same Google Webmaster Tools account. They had all been started as legitimate sites, except the two that I changed tact and decided to test auto-content generation plugins. So I had no reason to try and “hide” them. They were not part of any private blog network and had no link building activity taking place.
The second thing I noticed, is that all the domains that were penalised had some sort of EMD. My sites or client sites that had brand names or non-EMD names were left well alone by Google.
What drew their attention to me I am unsure. It is either the extra publicity I got from doing the “Tiered Link case study” on Matthew Woodward’s site a couple of months back and Google sent someone in to check me out, or they found one of my auto sites on their index that had a footprint which brought them in for a closer look.
Either way I got hit.
My own personal recommendations now would be to never add sites to a working GWT account that are in anyway breaking or intend to break Google guidelines. No matter how harmless you may think it is. My mistake was keeping them in the account after they turned from legitimate websites to test cases.
If you decide to change the direction of a site that in anyway makes it suspect, remove it at once.
The fact that Google hit all sites in the account with anything that looked remotely like an EMD means they are not giving sites the benefit of the doubt, even if they are genuine. If anyone read my diet blog, they would see it was a real diary, but it became guilty through association. Same with the web hosting blog.
Because most of my online marketing is legitimate, I am not paranoid and don’t do much to cover my tracks. When I do go “black hat”, I set a up standalone web hosting account and keep it isolated from my real work. Ironically none of this was hit with any penalties.
Now, after this, it has changed my attitude and I have seen how quickly Google can come in a take down a lot of hard work even when the infringements are very minor and are not manipulating search engine results.
If you do need to use GWT, my recommendation is to not more than one black hat site per account for obvious reasons.
Submitting For A Reconsideration Request
I have been thinking about this all weekend and wondering what I should do. There were only a handful of articles that were ranking and that I was disappointed in loosing. So I may just bring the content over to a longer term blog and kill the original site. The rest I don’t know. I could remove the auto content, go back to the original content they were designed for and see what happens.
Either way I am not that bothered, nor do I expect them to be reinstated without considerable work, which I am not willing to do.
I’ll update this post if anything happens.
If you’ve been hit by a Google manual penalty please let me know what happened.