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November 20, 2013

How to End Your Fight with Google

Google - Don't Be Evil
Photo Credit: tangi_bertin via flickr

Here’s the problem – Google left the door wide open and people took advantage. This led to great rankings, traffic and, more importantly, money in the bank. People started to rely on the majority, if not all traffic coming from Google and then the rug was pulled from under their feet. This kicked off an almighty struggle with the King of Search, but I’m here to tell you today that it doesn’t have to be a fight. There is another way.

Stop Building Dirty Links

If you’re going to get back into Google’s good books, you need to cease using dodgy link building tactics full stop.

This isn’t one of those situations where you can be half in, half out – you need to move away from dodgy links completely.

Stop Now!

And a word to the wise: dodgy links with generic anchors can only work for so long. Eventually Google will catch you (if they haven’t already). Then, say goodbye to Google sending you any traffic.

Get Rid of Legacy Links that Don’t Fit with Google’s Guidelines

If you have been building nasty links in the past, you need to get rid of them, or at least try to.

It’s a fact: you can’t get rid of them all, but the consequences of not doing this could lead to an algorithmic penalty or even a manual penalty.

You’ll know about a manual penalty in your Google Webmaster Tools account. You will usually see an unnatural links warning message.

If you’ve got an algorithmic penalty, you’ll only notice this when you check your analytics and see your traffic drop through the floor.

You can get a manual penalty (or manual spam action) revoked by showing Google the lengths you have gone to in order to try and remove the links. You’ll usually get a message back from Google within 1-2 weeks.

If you have an algorithmic penalty, you can go through your links, highlight the nasty domains that are linking to you and disavow them, but ultimately you may have to wait until the next Penguin refresh to see whether your rankings come back.

Dance to the Beat of Google’s Drum

Google has a set of quality guidelines that they recommend to webmasters and, when you think about it, it’s all really straightforward stuff. It includes avoiding nasty things like cloaking, hidden text, doorway pages and all that blackhat stuff.

It also involves making your pages for users, adding value and creating unique content.

This isn’t groundbreaking, or even rocket science, and remember that these guidelines are updated as Google continues to evolve along with their search algorithm.

Most importantly, though, when these guidelines are updated, don’t jump to conclusions and don’t make assumptions. This goes for algorithm updates, too.

A lot of people within the industry are being too quick to make up their minds without looking at the data, and these assumptions can often cause more problems than they solve.

Think about the Future and the Big Picture

One of the big mistakes that a lot of people are making is that what works now will carry on working forever.

Before Google’s Penguin update in April 2012, a lot of people thought that blasting nasty links at websites was going to continue working.

Those that looked at the bigger picture, however, could see that those practices were at best a calculated risk, and that Google would eventually bring the boom down and take action on manipulative link building tactics.

Content is what it’s all about, as it has been for a while (that and user experience). While there are a lot of people that struggle to get traction, there are tactics you can use that will get you results.

Don’t Put All of Your Eggs in One Basket

You can understand the temptation, knowing that some websites are getting 100,000’s of visitors a month from Google. While I don’t think you should give up working towards those insane levels of traffic, you can’t just rely on one tactic.

In business, you always need a contingency plan for anything that could go wrong, so you need to be sure to focus on other ways of generating traffic.

Just look at some of the top business blogs. Sure, they may be getting a lot of traffic from organic search, but there are a lot more things you can try:

  • Social media
  • Contributing to other blogs
  • Doing interviews
  • Link building (the white hat way)

I’ve found that the best way to figure this ‘traffic generation’ thing out is to not just look for a list of tactics, but look at how people are using them in case studies.


I understand that there may be some of you reading this post who don’t have any love for Google generally, and don’t like following anything Google says.

I understand why – Google does have a lot of power (too much), and its algorithm updates have the power to shake entire economies.

The truth about the ‘user experience’ thing is that, while Google’s ultimate aim (at a guess) is to stop users from going over to Bing and so protect its advertising revenue… Google is actually on to something.

Where are all those sites that didn’t give a damn about the user experience now?

Nowhere to be seen.

Where are all those sites that thought about user experience and building a community before anything else?

They’re still here and a lot of them are leaders in their field.

So, whether you like it or not, it’s time to get on board with the ‘user experience’ thing.

What’s your take on the current state of search?


Rebecca Price is a marketing specialist currently working for Davpack. Rebecca's specialty is helping businesses become more visible online.

63 Responses to “How to End Your Fight with Google

    avatar gargy says:

    After all its Google all over the place.If you want to survive on internet, don’t go against them, right?

    That’s if you want to get traffic from them. But remember, Google isn’t the only way to get traffic 🙂

    avatar Celina says:

    Hey Rebecca,
    Excellent article.Really very helpful strategies for SEO.Thanks for sharing.

    Thanks for the kind words Celina, glad I was able to help you!

    how exactly do you get rid of all those bulk links built online

    Ask webmasters nicely and use the disavow tool.

    You won’t get them all removed though, but you can sure give it a try.

    avatar jimmy parker says:

    Thanks for sharing the important points with us
    Rebecca…. We are continuously trying to get to track our rankings after penguin update after 12 April 2012.

    While from last 2 months I have stopped bad linking tactics and It has seen there is lot of improvement in main keywords rankings…Now we need to create unique & meaningful content for readers and Need to stop creepy link building tactics : )

    My pleasure Jimmy – sounds like you are on exactly the right track.

    Meaningful content – that’s what it’s all about!

    avatar Brian B says:

    While I am too novice to even know how to set up anything black hat…and too honest to bother…I am very close to dumping google for basically anything. Firstly they are arrogant dogs that offend me by their increasing grab for dollars. I believe most of their ‘updates’ are strictly to gain greater revenue, so the rubbish they spout that they are “trying to improve searcher experience and value” is blatant crap. That they knock sites down and fail to either advise or discuss is arrogance and I for one cannot abide such hubris from a couple of snotty monkeys.
    Lastly but probably most important is that their search facilities are getting incredibly slow as they work to set up adverts (I block them)and also skim site info for the USA spies & thugs in ‘national management’. So, I don’t see google as ethical or particularly useful and I sincerely wish Mozilla would create an open source search engine and knock google out. Meanwhile I am getting good results from Bing and Alexa. I can’t serve the world anyway. Brian

    Brian, thanks for an awesome comment and the ‘snotty monkeys’ remark did make me chuckle.

    I don’t think many people would disagree with you in regards to revenue and also the ethical issue. After all, I’ve still never been able to get my head around how they managed to get away with the stealing wi-fi data thing.

    The truth is that they can still be a great vehicle for generating traffic so if we can, it’s worth while taking advantage of it while we can.

    Love the idea of a Mozilla open source search engine!

    Shame I always get silly results from Bing though.


    avatar NaveenKumar says:

    Thanks for sharing. It is helpful.

    Hello Rebecca, thank you for sharing. More nicely Content means may more visitors, more visitors, may means as well some more link back to the article…. we cannot decide who is linking to our Website. I guess Google is thinking the same. We will never know how it works.. my opinion is that if a Webpage got a Penalty, then all the linked page to this page are affected. What about the Million Website that are still online? For Google are just to much and a Manual Penalty check will may take billions years.

    You’re right, we can’t control who links to our website and despite that fact, negative SEO is real.

    Manual checks are needed but you’re right, they do take a long time.

    If you show Google that you have put effort into remove nasty links and you have got the data from enough sources (including WMT) then they will lift a manual penalty.

    That being said, it’s not cheap or quick!

    Thanks 🙂

    avatar Ed says:

    I’ve totally left Google. It is no longer economical. Gone back to direct mail where I can reach 3-4 of my target audience for the cost of one anonymous click. Google can do whatever they like now. Our shift in marketing totally discounts them in the believe they are on their way to becoming another AOL or Compuserve. I used both of them and abandoned them when it became all about money. Bottom line? It’s a “pay for position” game at Google and it is no longer about quality search results. That’s my take on it!

    Ed, thanks for your comment.

    Totally see your point and if you can get better results with direct mail then that is great news.

    After all, that’s what it’s about – getting the best results possible and the biggest ROI for your time/investment.

    I guess we’ll have to wait and see!

    avatar Wade says:

    Where the search results used to display mine and my competitors’ web urls, it now shows irrelevant, non-commercial sites in the top 10 organically. They want it to be unprofitable to be listed organically so you’ll spend Adwords dollars. I won’t be held hostage like that. Screw Google.Yep, Google is the King (or so it sees itself as such).

    avatar Ben says:

    Google makes people AFRAID to link and be linked. They could aswell just IGNORE the already identified bad backlinks. Instead they play KING GOOGLE.

    We switched our campaigns to BING too. Time to break this monopoly into 1000 pieces. And all you google-drones following them: you will pay the price bit by bit because the one and only reason for Evil Google to PUNISH instead of ignoring backlinks, is forcing the sites into Adwords.

    No google. We invested in Bing instead.

    avatar Luana Spinetti says:

    It’s a relief to see more people switching away from Google’s god-like power!

    How is Bing traffic converting for you?

    – Luana

    Well written Rebbeca. It all makes sense. It seems to me and always has that if Google wants to continue their dominance of search they must provide the most relevant results.

    As things develop, people will always seek out the most efficient way of doing things for themselves.

    It’s relevance in the search results that matter. When a person seeks information they expect google to find it quickly. Link building instead of being genuine has become an attempt to manipulate Google results.

    When I search, I use a variety of long-tail terms and narrow down the best answer or the most impressive supplier. I take advice or proceed to purchase on ONE thing only.

    “The quality of content relevant to my need – written well in my own language demonstrating competence in the area related to my requirement”.

    When I see outbound links in a site I like it, but I am always concerned that purchased inbound links I can’t see are affecting the relevance. I often use social media to search because the relevance is more visible i.e. number of followers, quality of followers, quality of comments posted etc. add value to the content.


    Thanks Richard 🙂

    You’re right, they want to continue to dominate and it’s not surprising. Survival and growth are both primary goals of any business.

    Completely agree with you – relevance of the results will be the deciding factor.

    Good call on using social media – recommendations from people you trust are always the way to go.


    avatar Sid Bourn says:

    I find that there are lots of reviews on Google but nobody actually tells you what to do and how to do it! Even if you “pay for position” (Ed) you can’t rely on what you pay for.

    Bing, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social media sites are the alternative.

    avatar A Lloyd says:

    Good article but here is the practicality issue. Take one of my clients as an example, which has over 2,500 links coming in. Only around 110 of these links were put in by us or the client. The rest are put in by the website owners linking in for variety of reasons. Some with extremely dodgy contents to say the least, which my client would have never asked or agreed for a link from! The cost and time needed to go through the Google process of disowning these links is unreasonable and unnecessary. My client’s website is being punished for links that they have nothing to do with, and for not being able to afford to pay to remove these links (or have the time to do it themselves). This is pathetic Power Play by Google which also does not take into account that their new policy gives a massive tool to any website’s competitor. If a website is beating you on SERP, just go and put a few dodgy links from some dodgy websites to them and see Google punish them out of existence. Had you thought about that Mr Buffoon Mat Cutts?

    You’re right – there is a definite practicality issue there and I don’t agree with the way that Google handles this type of thing.

    In this situation there really is no way to resolve it that I can see which isn’t a nice way of doing business.

    Until they see some actual sense, the only real options are to work slowly over time to attempt to remove the links or call it a day with Google altogether – whichever way we cut it, there’s not a good solution at all.

    Your article directly mirrors my own thoughts and intentions towards SEO for my client’s. Even your title ‘Don’t Be Evil’ matches my own thoughts to add a page on our website saying ‘We Are Not Evil’!
    I’ve seen too much work done by others to proliferate the internet with links – junk content written for the express purpose of hiding a few links.
    Personally I think this type of content does a dis-justice to value of the internet and quite frankly is really boring to create!
    Our intention is to fully engage with other users on the internet, enter into meaningful relationships and add value to the whole experience for all involved.
    If this is what Google hopes to achieve then I’m in full support.

    That’s great to know that we are thinking along the same lines.

    Google left the door open, some took advantage – in away Google is more like an unfinished product.

    They haven’t cracked this search thing yet (well they’ve cracked the market, just not the serving of the right results).

    You’ve hit the nail on the head there – it’s all about the relationships!

    avatar Ferry says:

    Google is always updating and improving the latest algorithms and this is done to obtain satisfaction of the information seekers to truly find the content they are looking for and the right to get

    avatar lusean says:

    Every nation has a system of competition regulation to stop companies or any person from becoming too dominant. Is it good for business (commerce) to have such a dominant player?

    avatar Master says:

    From my point of view should not rely entirely on Google, there are search engines like bing and yahoo must also rely on

    avatar Hubert says:

    Many thanks for that good article.

    But I still feel uncomfortable with “built your site for visitors, not for Google”. My site has very long pages (for example, 3500 on page rel=”dofollow” title “a sample page on”). My visitors love to find everything on one page. The tell me so face-to-face. But as a result, Google count that as a very high bounce rate. Which is bad.

    So : should I split my pages in smaller units, maging my visitors less happy, but faking a heavy activity inside the site ?

    And thanks for the opportunity of adding a link from a high PR site ;-D

    avatar DirtyDazz says:

    Google don’t own me. Never have, never will.

    As they say: The bigger they are, the harder they fall..

    A more applicable one for google: Every dog has their day.

    avatar Comment says:

    It is good that people have finally begun to understand what makes Google!
    They are quietly pushing people to buy advertising on AdWords.

    avatar Benella Cox says:

    That’s a nice post. It’s really helpful for us. Google always updates algorithm.

    avatar Stan says:

    Rubbish article. Do all that work you might as well buy Adwords. I use rubbish links and can get any site to page one. Less than one hour of time and 30 bucks on fiver. Sites hold position for a few months and do it again. You article is rubbish.

    avatar Grant says:

    Man this way off base.
    Read this published last week on the same site

    Does this guy work for google. You have no idea mate. Wake up.

    avatar Matt says:

    I definitely agree with what you wrote about not putting all your eggs in one basket. And I’ll respectfully disagree about some of the other content. I agree with a lot of the comments here that Google’s aim in not to make a better Internet, but to instead to drive businesses to AdWords. You wrote about viewing case studies and I think these comments are case studies as well – one person has returned to direct mail and another is going with Bing. AdWords is brilliant b/c they get paid the same for the 1% of clicks that provide a lead and the 99% that don’t.

    Glad you agree with this somewhat Matt.

    It’s great to see people’s opinions from comments, but I wouldn’t treat them the same as case studies – there’s not enough data to go on.

    Whichever way we cut it, Google have landed themselves a great model haven’t they.

    avatar max says:

    Hi, cant agree with you unless you consider youtube, flickr and picasa “dirty” are they? I thought about this several month ago and acted accordingly. Result = 0. One of the reason is their authority stuff, since they started this all precise sites focused on the relevant subject went down “south” since Google only likes “wishi washi” and watered down, they have some “concrete heads” there who haven’t got the message.

    avatar MICK ANDREWS says:

    I agree with what Google is doing, the amount of web spam that has gone is amazing. Visitors are getting what they really are searching for now. Its only these seo companies who are up in arms

    avatar Rebecca Price says:

    Mick, thanks for the comment – I’d have to agree with you there.

    I still see some weird results in Google though, but I have to say it’s getting better.

    As for SEO companies, you’re right when it comes to the ‘churn and burn’ type companies.

    avatar Neva says:

    I’ve heard this “content is king” and “content is everything” argument for years but I can’t see it, based on my own experience. I know I can get a website to #1 for a specific keyword because I’ve done it and without bad practices. However, looking at things from the perspective of trying to get my new website to anywhere near that level, I have to assume it isn’t content google really values because I’m the same writer I was and, if anything, I’m better. I always try to be better. Both websites had great original content; the new one has even more than the old one did. One makes it to number one for my field; the second one, same field and even more original content, lost in obscurity after years of trying to raise it up. No, I don’t believe google rewards original content, based on my own experience.

    It appears that Google want to shake up the listings every few months so you never know where your site will be positioned. Thus making the only way to ensure a good placement is …..ADWORDS.
    I’m off to concentrate on other search engines and other marketing strategies.
    Bye bye Google

    avatar Barbara says:

    Thank you for your informative article. I am understanding how Google works better but will also keep using Bing search for my business.

    avatar Name says:

    Fun fact!
    My competitors are clearing out the links to their site on the recommendations of Google have raised my rating in the Bing & Yahoo! I did not change anything!

    avatar TarotWoman93 says:

    I write high-quality content for my website and blog, and you know what I get? Bupkis. I’m in the process of researching other forums and blogs where I can contribute quality content and add a link. I just created my website about a month ago.

    Yes, Google is trying to drive people to use Adwords, and for an individual operator like me, Adwords would put me deep in a hole. My web hosting service came with $150 in free Adwords, which I’ve spent $143 of and has generated me exactly one $20.00 sale. At that rate, if I was putting up my own money, Adwords would put me out of business.

    I think Google is part of a conspiracy among big corporations to put small operators out of business so the big companies have no competition. Make advertising so expensive that a small businessperson can’t compete with the big companies that can afford $2-3 per click just to get people to look at your website, let alone buy your product or service. Also, Adsense, I really don’t think they provide accurate information about how many people are visiting your site. The statistics match Adwords, and my hosting service tells me I’m getting more than 350 visits to my website per week, and that’s just on my SEO writing skills. Not sure how to convert more of them to sales, except for maybe upgrading to a more expensive hosting plan so I can add more flash to my site, or maybe resort to making dishonest claims like so many, if not most, people in my line of work do. But Google is a ripoff. Really.

    avatar Pawel says:

    The only way to “end the fight with Google” is to stop SEO and purchase AdWords 🙂 Then Google will accept you and won’t “kill” your site!

    avatar Jibz Actions says:

    Google says add fresh content all the time…. do it for readers they say, not Google, and maybe your site will rank near the top. But…. if you sell digital products like Photoshop actions and group photo templates, just photo products what do you do, rewrite your descriptions over and over not really making the description any clearer or better just doing it so Google will see fresh content? This does not make sense and really isn’t for readers at all. It’s just so Google will not take away MORE traffic. Google is making site owners jump through hoops for no reason and will eventually change their minds and say everything we’re doing now is wrong and that we are just trying to advertise our business and then you will get penalized. What is an entrepreneur supposed to do? Why Google, Why?

    avatar Tim L." says:

    “Where are all those sites that thought about user experience and building a community before anything else?” Buried on page 3 or 4 of Google, that’s where. As a journalist, the results I get from them now are far worse than the ones I got two or three years ago. Basically all the content sites and independent blogs have been replaced by big brands spending a big budget on Adwords. It certainly doesn’t look like a coincidence, especially when you see how little content they have on their pages. Ironic that you put Don’t be Evil at the top…

    avatar geoio says:

    Lots of comments, congratulations, Rebecca.
    Too many people criticize Google (and Microsoft). But we can’t do without them!
    About getting rid of bad links, I think, delete affected content and republish on different URR (title)

    avatar Robert says:

    I do like how this all is setup. So your competitors can post your link on crappy websites and your site would be hurt by Google? That does not sound fair.

    avatar Mark says:

    Google should never penalize sites for link quality. It is a real shame that they have left the playing field open for negative seo, and that anyone can just create hundreds of bad links to your site and knock you off. It is shocking to say the least that Google doesn’t see a problem in that. Good quality content will never be rewarded by Google unless it is on a popular site. So instead of writing for your own blog you are now forced to write for others who have already got popularity. Really sad if you ask me.

    avatar PrositiosWeb says:

    Do your best white hat tactics, contribute with other blogs, share in social media… and you dont have any problems. Risky links at your own

    avatar Randy Fox says:

    They destroy your business in hopes you buy adwords. I have never clicked on an adwords merchant. Knowing they have to buy that shows me that’s not a company I want to enrich. Plus ad words doesn’t work

    avatar Sue says:

    Google says to only get good links, but who do they think they are thinking they have the right to decide what a good link is? I have links to my site that have a tenuous subject connection at best, but I still get traffic from them. Others are from individual musicians who built a website in the 90’s, but still provide traffic. If there are websites that are providing bad links why doesn’t Google just target them and disregard any links that site has. That way, we can still get the traffic we want and not get punished for it. Many people out there with websites are not SEO or linking experts, how does Google expect individuals to know how to deal with so called bad links. They have the power to block websites, so why not cut it out at the root, instead of cutting the flower off the top.

    avatar Rebecca Price says:

    You’ve got a good point there Sue and I don’t have an answer – I’m sure Matt Cutts has dodged those types of questions for a good while now.

    In a way this whole disavowing links thing is like an attempt to get us to do their job for them.

    There is talk that links that provide traffic will be counted as better links in the future (Something Christopher Cemper mentioned at IonSearch last year) – although how they deal with relevance is another matter entirely.

    avatar Ritesh Reet says:

    That’s correct if you build links according to the Google guidelines then you can get improved results. Always build natural links with good sites only so that your rank would not suffer.

    avatar Dick Felix says:

    Thank you for your excellent post Rebecca.

    Why is it difficult for so many people commenting here to understand that we have no control over who links to our websites?

    I have NEVER submitted my site to bad directories. I have always followed Google Guidelines regarding linking practices. In the beginning, I may have submitted to a couple of hundred directories with high PR. Ten years later however, it appears that I have well over 6,000 links to my site and a large number of them are “toxic”.

    Since Google could so easily “do the right thing” and just ignore bad incoming links, but apparently will not, how does an honest site owner realistically get rid of all these bad incoming links? Many of these sites have no contact information. Should we simply disavow them all?

    Good article Rebecca.
    My site is currently going through a lot of Google pain, following a rebrand and redesign.
    Praying each day to get some Google recognition but it seems to take forever.
    Whilst going through the exercise of trying to add value and improve the content I stumbled upon one of Google’s own pages offering apps to add into your website.

    Some of these are really dodgey looking, and I was afraid to click them. So I’m afraid there are some double standards going on here, and I for one don’t like it.

    Good luck!

    avatar Ray West says:

    Thanks for the info Rebecca. However, in my case, this is not anything I didn’t already know. I’ve been trying to follow Google’s need for unique content and other guidelines for quite some time and have never used dodgey links, as far as I know. Having said that, I’m not even sure what a dodgey link is or if any of my links would be considered dodgey. A useful tool from Google or anyone else is something that would list your back links and tell you if they are good or bad. So, if you know of something like that then it would be extremely useful to not only me but many many others.

    So, can you tell us how to identify a good or bad back link? My impression of a good or bad back link might be truly different from what Google thinks and I certainly don’t want to disavow a good back link.

    avatar SAK says:

    Very helpful Article indeed to SEo optimmized any Site 🙂

    avatar Alyson Yates says:


    Appreciate the writing.

    Hey Rebecca,
    Excellent article.Really very helpful strategies for SEO.Thanks for sharing.

    Thanks Rebecca! Excellent post! 😉

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