How to write a Reconsideration Request for Google
It's been nearly 6 months now since Google dropped Penguin on the SERPs, penalising sites with (what they deem to be) unnatural backlink profiles and most likely putting hundreds of Webmasters out of business. It didn't matter if you had spammed the hell out of your website with tonnes of automated links, if you had been duped by a lousy SEO agency, or if you had done nothing wrong at all. If your backlink profile tripped an unknown threshold regarding the QUALITY of links (please stop saying it's just about anchor text…) then your website was doomed to life fifty fathoms under the fold of Google's SERPs.
Google, being the personable and transparent company that they are, were good enough to provide Webmasters with an opportunity to recover, eventually, from the penalty they had incurred. All they had to prove was that their website had removed the links that violated Google's unknown quality filter. They did this by filing what is known as a 'Reconsideration Request'.
There are two schools of thought about these reconsideration requests. Some believe that submitting one to Google is tantamount to a confession of guilt – you did build links (or hired someone to) that violated Google's Webmaster Guidelines, ignorance is not an excuse. Others think that it's best to be completely transparent with Google, and if you have genuinely removed all the 'spammy' links, then Google will restore your rankings. I'm not going to say what's best for you because nobody really knows how Google treats these requests, but based on the experience of a semi-successful reconsideration, I'll provide a guide on how to write a reconsideration request for Google.
Reconsideration Request Guide
An Australian business known as 'Phones and Plans' were recently on the end of a Penguin penalty due to the actions of a useless SEO company. After they filed a semi-successful reconsideration request, they published a blog of the steps they had to go through to achieve this success. I'll just outline some of the steps they took.
- Include information about the founders, including social profiles (LinkedIn)
If you can prove to Google that you are experts in your field, then it is more likely that they will take your reinclusion request more seriously. Google wants to provide the best quality answers from the authoritative sources, and if you can prove that you have the capabilities and background to do that, then I imagine your request will be looked at more diligently than one filed by a fly-by-night charlatan.
- Describe how your site adds value
As a webmaster, naturally you will be biased towards your own site. However, it's still vitally important that you describe in detail how your site provides value to those who visit it. Detail the unique features on your site that might separate you from your competitors and show you are able to save your visitors time and money (if that's what you do).
- Provide supporting statistics from Analytics
Here's another video of Matt Cutts gracefully sidestepping a question about Analytics being a ranking factor with the skill and poise of an NFL wide receiver:
While he implies that Google Analytics is not used by the Web Spam team, he also makes it clear that he cannot answer on behalf of other Google teams (such as 'Quality') about whether they use it. From this, and other reports, I have inferred that GA data does play some part in the ranking algorithm. For this reason, it is important to provide data from Analytics to support your assertions that you own a high quality website. Disclose your bounce rate, average time on site, and volume of returning visitors to bolster your reconsideration request.
- Information on the SEO Agency
This is only applicable if you hired an SEO Agency, and if they were the ones who built the spammy links for you. If possible, provide excerpts from emails where they might have mentioned, or suggested, that building large volumes of low quality links at rapid velocity was part of their strategy for you. Where possible, also provide contact details for the agency.
- Describe, in detail, link removal efforts
Most people, when filing a reconsideration request, rush straight into this and disregard the other elements I've covered in this blog, as they assume this is the thing that will make Google restore their rankings. Unfortunately this is not the case, and almost all accounts I have read of successful reconsideration requests also detail the qualities of the website and its owners.
One tip is to record all the links you are attempting to remove in a Google spreadsheet – include the domain hosting the link, the anchor text, the target URL, the contact name for the hosting domain, contact details for the hosting domain, when the link was established, and the dates that you contacted them asking for link removal. When this data is all recorded, include a link to the Google Spreadsheet in the reconsideration request.
Reconsideration Requests to Google can work
I'm not saying that following the steps I've outlined in this blog will ensure that Google approve your reconsideration request. However, if you do choose to file one, I believe that following the 5 steps I've listed above will give your website the best chance of being reconsidered by Google. If you've had success with a reconsideration request then please feel free to share your story in the comments section below.