I have an SEO story to share.
It’s embarrassing. And yet it taught me an important lesson about a specific part of SEO. It also revealed a lot about getting screwed over by Google.
When I bought a new domain last year, I did it to share knowledge of SEO, mostly to showcase my skills as an experienced SEO and help me get clients.
So here’s what I did.
I bought an expired domain with decent link juice. I checked the Trust Flow and Domain Authority and bought a domain that with sufficient link juice to help me rank in Google, and with a name I could somehow make relevant to the marketing space.
So far so good.
I create some articles about SEO and digital marketing. It takes a long time but the articles were informative and they got some likes so it was worthwhile.
I sit back and relax, waiting to see where these pages end up in Google rankings. I could have submitted the urls on Google console but I hadn’t set it up yet (this would prove to be a mistake).
So a few weeks go by and I do a search on Google for the site. None of my pages are indexed.
So I go onto Google Search Console to submit them.
Lo and behold, what do I see? I see what every SEO never wants to see:
That’s right, a manual action from Google. Which basically means the website is banned.
The reason given was “Pure Spam”. Google had accused me of violating their Webmaster Guidelines by having content that was “automatically generated gibberish, cloaking, scraping content” etc.
Well none of this is true, says I.
I had spent many, many hours creating fresh, informative content. And there it is on the site, clear for everybody to see.
Then it clicks. The domain I bought already had this manual action attached to it. Whoever had this domain before did something dodgy, either using black hat SEO techniques or filling it with garbage or stolen content.
So now I’m in a situation where I have a site that is not shown on Google SERPs.
OK, not to worry. I can submit a reconsideration request to Google saying that the problem was from before and the new content is all original and legitimate. We can clear this up, right?
So I submit the reconsideration request. Surely the person doing the manual checks will see the new content and lift the ban, I think to myself.
Two weeks later I get a reply. The subject line reads “Major spam problems persist”. Hmm. Not good. So the same day I submit another request for reconsideration again highlighting to Google that it wasn’t me who created the “Pure Spam”, and whatever content that violated the guidelines has now gone.
Fingers crossed for a positive response. If I don’t clear this up I have wasted money on the domain and hosting, not to mention the time to took to write the content.
Exactly one month later (why does it take them so long?) I receive the reply in my inbox. One again, the subject reads “Major spam problems persist”.
Clearly the person at Google checking the site hasn’t even looked at the content.
The ban should have been lifted because the spam content has been removed and the new content is original and new. And if may say so, it is pretty decent content. The site complied with all Google Webmaster Guidelines and there is no reason for Google to deindex my site.
But Google is the God of the internet and it is angry with me.
What makes this worse is the irony that a blog focused on SEO is banned for what is a noob SEO error. I had told my friends and SEO acquaintances about this new blog and when they’d ask me how it’s going, I had to tell them the embarrassing news.
They’d point out the irony that a site dedicated to getting ranked in Google was banned from ranking in Google.
Rather embarrassing as you might imagine. My SEO credentials (and my ego) took a knock.
What I Should Have Done
What I should have done before buying the domain was to check for penalties, and to check whether the domain was still indexed by Google. It’s easy to do.
I just didn’t think about it.
Now, what you should do before buying a domain is to check it’s not penalized with a Google search by searching “site:www.marketingjournal.co” (for example).
Better still, as I have since discovered, is to use tool like IsMyWebsitePenalized or similar as it can differentiate between penalties and bans.
Anyway, Back To The Story…
Anyway, so a month after the latest rejection of my reconsideration request, I try again. Four days later (wow, so fast!) I get the response.
I submit yet another request. A futile effort, I know. At this point I have given up. I have even bought a new domain for my site and I’m ready to move on.
Three weeks later (today) I get the response.
Ta-da! My reconsideration request has been APPROVED! Wow. Something I wasn’t expecting. Nearly 6 months after the first reconsideration request, the Google employee from the Search Console team finally got round to doing their job and actually looked at the content on my site.
6 months!!! Good job, Google.
What Did I Learn From This Debacle?
- Always check for bans and penalties when buying a domain using the appropriate tools (these are free.)
- Buying expired domains for the link juice can be an expensive waste of time if you don’t know what you’re doing.
- Google has the power to ban your site for literally no reason and will sometimes disregard the fact you have fixed the issues on your site.
- It is not worth doing anything (black hat techniques) that may jeopardize your coverage in Google because it can take an extremely long time to fix and is extremely frustrating.
- Mistakes are learning opportunities – having messed this I will never do this again. I also learned so much more about domains and Google penalties than I would have otherwise.