This is a personal story about how my first and most successful blog (before this one), was hit hard by Google Panda and eventually Google Penguin, and sadly never recovered, despite working so hard to try and fix as much as I could to regain lost rankings and traffic.
Over the last couple of years many bloggers have fallen victim to Google’s notorious algorithm updates, Google Panda and then of course Google Penguin.
I haven’t been so lucky myself, in fact all of my blogs and small content niche websites have been affected by Google penalties to some degree, including sites that had zero backlinks, AND including what was the sister site to this blog, Magnet4Marketing, which sadly had to be taken offline in March 2014.
Why take the site offline just because it was hit by Google penalties?
Because it was costing me more to keep running than it was actually profiting. Sure I could depend on some other traffic sources, but from a business stand point, I couldn’t keep throwing money down the drain.
I wasn’t alone
I know that I wasn’t alone in having to deal with that situation, and like many small business owners and bloggers at the time, I was forced to quit a business I had spent almost 4 years building.
At the time, in my quest to repair the damage to my blog, I met many other great bloggers who were also affected by Google penalties. In fact I reached out and connected with many of those bloggers over the years, sharing dilemmas, exchanging tips, strategies and ideas for recovery, exchanging personal stories.
I’ve heard how some peeps have had to find new jobs because their entire businesses and livelihoods were completely destroyed by Google Penguin overnight.
OK so like I said, in this post I want to share with you my personal story of how I built a thriving and profitable blogging business, a blogging business that at a time before Google Panda or Penguin, was attracting well over 15,000 unique visitors per month, and almost 25,000 monthly page views, and how it was all taken away from me in what seemed a single heart beat, from the day my blog was hit hard by Google Panda and then eventually Google Penguin, and exactly what I did to try and recover, with no avail.
I don’t wish to depress anyone reading this who is struggling to recover from any Google slaps, but my story doesn’t have a happy ending as such. I didn’t win back my rankings and regain my traffic, I was forced to start over or admit defeat and failure.
So it begins…
In July 2012, my 3 year old blog at the time, Magnet4Markeing, was hit hard by Google Panda and then followed Google Penguin shortly after.
Before Google Penguin killed my blog, the site was a bustling place, attracting lots of search engine traffic, particularly from Google of course. I was getting a lot of comments, I was building my audience base and building my email list and everything looked great.
The blog was also making a nice part-time income passively. During 2011 and 2012 this blog was making between $600 to $1,000 per month.
The two years that followed the penalty strikes (2012 to 2014), the blog went from seeing almost 700 unique visitors per day, to seeing just 50 to 70 visits per day (as of March 2014, this was also the month I decided to take the blog offline).
Organic traffic from Google alone went from 500 plus visitors per day, to just 10 to 20 visitors per day, the image below shows how organic traffic from Google eventually flat-lined over the course of time, I was completely devastated to say the least by this, as I had well over 600 unique articles published on Magnet4Marketing!
After organic traffic from Google virtually disappeared, the only notable traffic the blog was receiving were from referral sources and some direct traffic.
The blog almost completely stopped generating any income altogether, as I said it was costing me more to keep running than anything else. See images below.
Despite every effort made to try and regain lost rankings and recover traffic, even partially, Magnet4Marketing never recovered.
Money, time, blood, sweat and tears…
Like a lot of online businesses that were struggling to regain their status back during that time, I made huge attempts to try and fix my blog the best I could. I didn’t want to see it go to waste, so I started my plan of attack.
As it turned out, I was spending a lot of money, wasting a lot of time and valuable resources trying to fix a blog that really was never going to recover, I didn’t know that at the time.
In addition to the time and money, I was also seriously putting my health at risk, sitting in front of the computer for long hours, day after day, night after night, trying to fix as much as I could!
Trying to fix things (Google Penguin)
Amongst the ton of things that I did to try and make my blog a better place, here are just some of the things that I invested an enormous amount of time, energy and money in doing during the last two years (up until March 2014), to try and recover from Google Penguin penalties
#1. Improve backlink profile
Magnet4Marketing’s backlink profile was my first biggest concern, at the time I decided to invest money in online tools to help me better understand my blog’s tarnished backlink profile.
As you will see from the image here to the right, the blog had a considerable amount of what was being classed as “dangerous” and “suspicious” backlinks pointing to it (according to WebMeUp).
Now there’s bound to be one or two peeps reading this thinking, well you should have played by Google’s rules and you wouldn’t have ended up in this mess.
I can honestly say that my SEO efforts for Magnet4Marketing has always been completely white hat, that’s the darn truth, I never purchased any links, I never got involved in any shady link schemes… I didn’t do anything wrong as far as I knew.
As for the backlinks, my SEO guy concluded that most of the crappy links were the result of some Negative SEO done on my blog! Read this article. Probably some jealous competing blogger who couldn’t cut a bit of competition, so decided to cheat his way to where ever he is now.
Seriously folks, negative SEO, because a ton of the links that were pointing back to this site were from gambling sites, pornography sites, debt and loan sites etc. I certainly did not build those links to my blog.
#2. Submit link removal requests (with little to NO success)
Following these startling reports, I used the data analysis that my SEO guy and myself were able to generate through WebMeUp and other various link analysis tools, to request for many of these dangerous links to be removed by the web masters.
But guess what?
Like many website owners and bloggers out there who were also trying to get links lifted from their sites, I was getting no where fast.
In most cases I received few to no response at all from website owners. As a result, those dangerous backlinks remained on those sites pointing back to the Magnet4Marketing domain.
My last resort was to disavow the suspicious links through Google WebMaster and play the waiting game. (Unfortunately I didn’t wait around to see the results when Google rolled out Google Penguin 3.0 in October 2014, the site was long gone by then as I took it offline and let the domain name expire)
#3. Build more ‘trusted backlinks’ the natural way…
In addition to trying to remove the dangerous links and clean up my backlink profile, I also used the reports to generate a list of “trusted links” which I could use to build more natural backlinks to my blog.
The one strategy that I paid a lot of attention to at the time was of course guest blogging, like many other bloggers was doing I guess.
But! If you’ve been in the blogosphere for long enough, you’ll know that earlier this year (2014), Matt Cutts slammed the book down on guest blogging too. Guest blogging was no longer being considered as a recommended method for building natural backlinks… Pffft…. What?
Trying to fix more things… (Google Panda)
By this stage I was completely confused as to what I should do next, I was so desperate to just wake up one morning to see that everything had been fixed and sorted, it wasn’t meant to be I guess.
Anyway, whilst I was doing everything that I could to try and recover from Penguin, there was also Panda issues to contend with.
In all honesty, I was never entirely sure whether Panda had affected my blog or not, in any case, to try and recover from the Google Panda penalties (assuming my blog was hit), I started to look at the site in greater detail, I looked at the content and internal and external link structure and so forth.
Here are some of the things that I did to try and fix the site in time for the next significant Panda update, (which would have been September 2014, Panda 4.1)
- Removed all thin content and low quality posts and 404’d the links.
- Updated all other posts that I wanted to keep, often rewriting and adding more value to them.
- No-Indexed all non-evergreen articles (news articles, blog contests, announcements etc).
- Reorganised and improved the entire blog’s internal linking structure.
- Removed all advertisements and affiliate links, including Amazon affiliate links and AdSense.
- Applied nofollow attribution to all external links, including anchor text links in guest posts (Whether that was a good thing or not, I don’t know).
- Improved page loading speed by removing most of the plugins and keeping the most essential ones.
- Updated theme to mobile responsive, HTML5 markup. I also chose a smaller sized theme to improve page speed.
- Removed all unnecessary scripts and codes from my blog.
- Switched SEO plugins from Yoast to SEOPressor to help identify over-optimised posts (I found quite a few guest posts that were well and truly over optimised using this plugin).
- Optimised all images by shrinking the files and adding appropriate ALT tags.
#4. Create more quality content
Whilst I was making every effort to fix issues and recover from Panda and Penguin almost at the same time, I also continued on my quest to update the blog regularly, dropping my posting frequency to just 2 blog posts per week to focus more on ‘quality’.
I also hired experts and other authority bloggers to come in and write articles for the blog. I explored and used other content marketing platforms to help promote and distribute the site’s content further, using platforms like YouTube, Vimeo, iTunes (Podcast).
I also created some useful content presentations on SlideShare, curated content on sites like Scoop.it, Paper.li and Pinterest. I even built a thriving group on Facebook and Google Plus and much more.
And then some…
With the help of some of my budding blogging friends, my SEO guy, I tried everything that I possibly could to try and recover from Google’s penalties, but like I said at the beginning, this is one story that doesn’t end happily, it might have if only I’d waited until October 2014, but truth be told I was exhausted with the site at this point.
Sure there are case studies and other related articles out there that focus more on the core problem, for ‘why’ a site has been penalised by Google in the first place. I never really got down to the root of the problem, all I knew for sure was that after those two updates took place, my traffic took a massive downfall.
I investigated a little bit and my SEO guy concluded that the penalties we’re mostly down to the shady backlink profile the site had.
Sure there are case studies with a more positive outcome than this one too, but there is no point in me sugar-coating anything here. After working so darn hard for over 3 years on building my blogging business, Google destroyed it all with just a few tweaks made in it’s algorithm, here’s what I’ve concluded.
Conclusion after Google Penguin killed my blog
If you’ve been hit by Google penalties, and if you genuinely believe that you’ve done all you can to try and recover your blog from Penguin, Panda or what ever else there is, if you’ve done everything – and there is still no sign of recovery for you, even after the latest Penguin and Panda refreshes, here’s my advice to you!
Unless you have a massive pile of money available to pay for a professional SEO company to fix your blog for you, if you don’t, then don’t bother wasting any more of your time working on a dead end blog, really don’t bother.
I know it’s hard to digest this piece of advice but seriously, it’s never too late to start over in my opinion.
Sometimes you need to know when to quit on something that isn’t working and move on. It took me a while to figure that one out but looking back now, I’m glad that I did.
I’m not telling you to quit trying to fix your blog, I’m not telling you YOU HAVE TO QUIT full stop! I’m simply advising you, from my personal experience, that it’s far better to start fresh than to kill yourself trying to fix something that is permanently damaged.
Once again, if you feel you’ve done absolutely everything in your power to try and recover your site, and you haven’t succeeded, then think about your next move carefully, before you continue driving yourself into the ground.
You can still succeed with a fresh start, this blog (Magnet4Blogging) is almost a year old now, and with the experience and knowledge that I gained from running my first blog, I’m making a lot more progress and finding success faster than I did the first time around, I’m not making the same mistakes over.
Don’t get me wrong, I fully appreciate just how much work goes into building a profitable blog or online business from scratch, and it’s so heart breaking to see it all go down the drain and having to give up on it.
But even if you’ve done nothing wrong yourself, even if you’ve done everything by the book, you think Google gives a flying rat’s backside?
So with all that being said, there are some huge opportunities waiting for you by starting over.
By starting over with a brand new blog, you have a complete blank canvas and a new mindset to work with.
You are starting over as a more experienced and more knowledgeable blogger than when you were when you first started out.
You are starting over more consciously aware of the things that you should be doing, and the things that you shouldn’t be doing (like solely relying on Google for traffic and business).
Sure it’s going to take a long old time to build a credible blog like you had before from the ground up, but but it’s not too late. In my opinion, it’s only too late when you do nothing about it.
Sorry, let me quote that for you…
It’s only too late when you do nothing about it…
Lessons learned by starting over
I could write an entire 2,000 word post about the mistakes I’ve made and the things I’ve learned from starting over almost a year ago (as time of updating this post in March 2015), but perhaps the biggest lesson for me is that I’ve learned not to place all my eggs in one basket… By this I mean not to solely rely on Google or SEO, or one source alone for traffic, especially when there are countless of other more reliable traffic sources to tap into.
What ever decision you make, I wish you the very best of luck, I hope my story has resonated with you in some way.
Leave me a comment
Happy blogging, and best of luck starting over.
P.s. Remember I’m here to assist you the best I can, if you need my services please check out this page.