Five Google Penalty Case Studies

Five Google Penalty Case Studies

Having built your online business from scratch it’s often hard to gulp the fact that your website has received a penalty. More often than not, it might not have been caused as a result of your involvement. You may have entrusted some well-known SEO company to handle the SEO part. Initially, things might have looked golden. But suddenly one day you find that the phones aren’t ringing with the frequency they used to, until one day they stop ringing completely.

In this post, I am going to cover three different, but related things.

  1. Different Google penalties
  2. What causes these Google penalties?
  3. How most of these sites recovered from penalties?

To understand the different Google penalty case studies as discussed in this post, it’s first necessary for me to introduce what the different penalties are?

What are the different Google penalties?

  1. Google Panda penalty

    Google Panda penalizes sites which have thin content, have keyword stuffed articles and similar on-site content issues. You are experiencing a Panda penalty if your traffic drops and then stabilizes again as you add more blog posts. But you see an overall reduction in traffic.

    Or, you experience difficulty ranking and traffic is not as usual. Building backlinks don’t help your cause with Panda.

  1. Google Penguin penalty

    If Google Panda focussed on the content on site, Google Penguin’s focus is linking. Google Penguin penalizes sites that engage in buying backlinks, link exchanges and otherwise manipulative link building practices including but not limited to building automated links via software like GSA search engine ranker, SENuke X and others.

    And there are also manual penalties.

  1. Manual Penalties

    Manual penalties occur when an employee from Google reviews your site and finds it to be violating Google’s quality guidelines.

1. UK PHA penalty Recovery

The Google penalty that was dished out resulted in a 90% overall loss in traffic. This penalty was caused due to spammy profile and comment links built over a period of 3 years.

Lower Traffic After Penalty

Things came to a point that they weren’t even ranking for their own company let alone other relevant keywords.

After further investigation on their end, they identified two causative factors to be the prime reason behind the penalty and drop in rankings.

  1. Low-quality links
  2. Unnaturally concentrated anchor link profile.

They started removing bad backlinks and adding high-quality links. 4 months later they took the backlink profile of the site yet again which showed that a large number of bad backlinks had been removed.

Once they submitted the disavow request, they received a message saying that the manual penalty was now revoked and within a few days the rankings were back to normal.

In most cases when the bad backlinks are removed and penalty revoked, rankings seldom go back to what they previously were. This is due to a lack of good links. It’s suggested that if you opportunities for good link acquisitions then don’t ignore those.

Ranking Goes Down After Penalize and Goes Up After Penalty RevokedImage Source

You can see the sharp increase in rankings.

2. Portent SEO penalty

Though in most cases of a manual penalty, you stand to get a notification via webmaster tools in Portent’s case this was far from true. Portent is an SEO firm established in 1996. They were faced with a penalty but it was quite unclear as to what caused it. ( Under manual penalty)

Portent’s owner, Ian Lurie assumed the reasons to be:

  • Keyword rich anchor texts in the guest post –

    Older guest posts had keyword rich anchor texts in them. Google sees all links and as such a bad link be it old or new does have an impact on rankings.

  • Site-wide links –

    One of their client sites was hacked resulting in thousands of site-wide inbound links to their domain.

They disavowed over 1200 domains and proceeded with the reconsideration request.

3. Agile Media’s penalty case study

Agile Media writes about a penalty recovery case study that took 6 months to complete. The affected site seems to be an eCommerce site.

They made a list of their backlinks and analyzed them manually to find the spammy links.

Once the list of spammy links had been built they got hold of the website owners’ email addresses, facebook, and twitter ids and started contacting them.

Screenshot of Email Attempts to Remove PenaltyImage Source

The penalty was removed within seven days after filing the reconsideration request.

4. Kissmetrics Google penalty

Kissmetrics penalty resulted in the overall loss of 225,418 visitors a month. A 29% drop in traffic. The primary reasons behind Google sending this penalty was a lot of duplicate content.

Kissmetrics allowed its posts to be republished by every major publication like Business Insider, Entrepreneur and so on. While republishing in and itself isn’t a bad thing, the format in which the posts were republished wasn’t ideal.

Kissmetric Traffic After Google Penalty AppliedImage Source

These sites copy pasted the articles word to word and then linked back to Kissmetrics calling it the original source. The correct way to link back is by placing rel=canonical tag to show Google that the original post is elsewhere.

Moreover, there were tons of scraper sites posting every article to their own blogs as soon as a post went live on Kissmetrics.

When the IPs of these scraper bots were blocked that too stopped and Kissmetrics was able to regain its traffic.

5. Anonymous eCommerce client’s Google penalty

The site in question is an eCommerce client of Koozai and the url wasn’t revealed.

It took them 10 months and 10 reconsideration requests to finally get the manual penalty lifted.

At the beginning of 2013, they received a webmaster tools notification of unnatural links to the site.

So, they used different backlink checking and analysis tools like LinkDetox and also the Bing and Google webmaster tools to get a big and complete list of backlinks.

Then began a manual analysis of all the links to determine which ones were toxic or posed a problem to the site.

Manual Penalty Email from GoogleSource

In this case, the main culprit was a set of sites with blogroll links. As soon as these sites added new posts or pages, thousands of new links were being created to the eCommerce site. This constant influx of new links to the tune of 1000 to 2000/day rendered all the reconsideration requests futile.

After persistent multiple emails, these site owners finally relented to get rid of the sitewide links. And finally, after all the hard work, after 10 long months, the penalty got lifted.


It comes as a shock to many when Google dishes out a penalty. All the hard work in the form of backlinks built and gained over several years goes down the drain. But there’s every possibility to be able to lift penalties if you try hard enough.

Was your site ever hit with any such penalties? Do let us know.

Author bio: George started ThinkingNE to share cutting-edge marketing and CRO advice with the world. He has 8 years of experience helping startups and big-shot companies optimize their marketing.

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