I felt it necessary to respond to the report that was published today by Link Research Tools on my high profile penalty removal case for cashlady.co.uk. I say that this case is "high profile" because we were able to get a rare response from Matt Cutts on Twitter when we asked him for help with this case. Matt's comments that the webspam team were concerned about other sites that were owned by my client created a bit of a stir amongst SEO's that felt that Google would look at all of your sites when considering whether to remove a penalty. Barry Schwartz wrote about this here on SERoundtable.
A blocked number phone call
I received a phone call today to my private cell phone number from a blocked caller ID.
"Hi Marie! It's Ryan! How are you?"
Ryan (whom I have never spoken to before) was very excited to tell me about how he had voluntarily done a report on my client so that he could help us out. When I read the report though, I was not impressed. Who knows...perhaps I am writing this because the report may be putting me and the team at HIS Web Marketing in a bad light by saying that we missed some unnatural links...(or did we?). Maybe writing this article is just a way for me to blow off some steam before heading to bed tonight. But, I think that there are some very important points that need to be made.
Here's the article: http://www.linkresearchtools.com/case-studies/cashlady-payday-loan-google-penalty/
It ends with the following advice:
I think I’ve managed to shed some light on this case and actually help Marie (and CashLady.co.uk) a lot.
We highly recommend Marie to use all the extra links to get that penalty lifted.
The problem is that the list of extra links that they found are not links that Google would need to see removed in order to get the penalty lifted. Cash Lady fully admits to hiring an offshore link building company to build low quality comment spam and forum links. This was a tactic that, although unsophisticated, used to actually work quite well. I believe that we have addressed the vast majority of these links (if not all of them.) The links that Matt Cutts gave us as example links were all in our disavow file. I'll discuss later in this post what the main reasons are for this site not being able to pass reconsideration and what we plan to do about it.
Links found by Link Research Tools
Here is the link that the article gives us as an example of one that they were able to find that was not in our disavow file:
So let's look at this link:
Can you see why it was not in our disavow file? It's nofollowed.
Now, there are some SEO's who do believe that nofollowed links should be added to your disavow file. However, when Google employee John Mueller was asked about whether nofollowed links need to be added to a disavow file, this is what he said,
You don’t need to include any nofollow links…because essentially what happens with links that you submit as a disavow...when we recrawl them we treat them similarly to other nofollowed links. Including a nofollow link there wouldn’t be necessary.
The article also gives us a list of links that the tool found for us to disavow that we had apparently missed. Here are some of the links:
I know it's hard to believe, but these are actually natural links to my client's site. Yes...it is possible for a payday loan broker to get natural links! This is why, if you use tools to find your unnatural links, it is extremely important to still manually review the links.
The rest of the article
I won't go in to great detail with my thoughts on the rest of the article as it is late and I feel that I have written enough to get this post out of my head so that I can sleep tonight. There is a lot of discussion on redirects and also a large amount on how to find the links built by the Indian link building company...but that's ok because we've managed to get a list from the company. And then there is more on the number of sites that are owned by the company. And this is likely the main issue that we need to face...
Our plan for our next reconsideration
Matt Cutts was quite clear in his tweets to me and gave us a couple of really good reasons as to why we have not been able to pass this reconsideration. And Matt...if you happen to read this, I can't tell you how grateful I am that you took the time to reply!
He started off by pointing out examples of comment spam. At first I thought that these were comments we had missed, but all of them were actually in our most recent disavow. We actually spent a good many hours doing what I call "Creative Google Searches" using our brains and a bit of Scrapebox help as well to see if we could find additional comments to disavow but could not find any more. I believe that we have covered close to 100% of the bad links.
But then he said this:
@Marie_Haynes and make sure to press your client about exactly how many "quick case" sites they own, because it appears to be several.
— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) March 7, 2014
(I believe he meant to say "quick cash" by the way...not "quick case".)
Matt's right. There are a good number of sites online that are owned by my client. In our current reconsideration request we are giving good proof that Money Gap Group does own several legitimate businesses. We are also taking steps to noindex and remove (using the url removal tool) sites that were created for other marketing purposes.
This tweet though is really the crux of the issue:
@Marie_Haynes so I worry that you haven't truly gotten through to your client, who shows signs of long-standing, mass, deliberate spam 🙁
— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) March 7, 2014
Money Gap Group is well aware that they have broken the rules. They had a large number of unnatural links built for them over the years. Prior to this year, I would venture a guess that the majority of loan broker sites online did the same thing. Does that make it right? No.
Google is understandably much harder on sites who have a long standing history of cheating the system. Our only way of succeeding at reconsideration here is to convince the webspam team that the company really has reformed and will not be building unnatural links ever again. For most sites, this can be accomplished by doing a thorough cleanup. But, in our case we will need to do more. We are currently putting together an account for our next reconsideration request of the company's new plan for marketing along with additional evidence that will hopefully show that spam is no longer a part of the plan and will never be done again.
One more word about our clients
I know that the payday loan industry is not looked upon favorably. I would like to say though that the loan companies that I have worked with, including Money Gap Group, owners of Cash Lady have been fantastic people to work with. They have given me full permission to write this article and also to mention their url in the Webmaster Forums and in my attempts to get feedback from Matt Cutts, John Mueller and others on Twitter and Google Plus.
However, Link Research Tools did not ask our permission to publish any of this information. I feel that our situation has been used as a marketing tactic to get people to use their product.
But hey...who am I to judge. I suppose that me writing this blog post (at what is now close to 1 am) could be looked at as a marketing tactic as well. If you're looking for someone who is good at removing unnatural links penalties, let us know. 🙂
John Mueller has said in the past that any site that is penalized by Google has the ability to recover. We are proud of our 100% success rate at removing penalties over the last two years and don't plan to give up on this job until the penalty is gone!
I am not looking forward to opening this post up to comments because I'm sure there will likely be some negative comments. Yes, we fully understand that Cash Lady deserved to be penalized and that the company on a whole has taken part in a good amount of unnatural tactics in order to rank well on Google. When the penalty does get removed, there will not be a whole lot propping the site's rankings up. We know that. Still...if you would like to weigh in on the situation either with Cash Lady or with the Link Research Tools report then leave a comment below.
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