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Reinclusion Requests: How to perform successful reconsideration requests

You have really done it this time. You always knew your days were numbered, but didn’t realize that number was today. And now, your site has plummeted in the rankings or, worse, disappeared altogether.  It is time to grovel and beg and plead your way back into Google’s good graces.

After assisting several clients with successful reconsideration requests over the last 3 months, I thought it might help to list off as much of the groundwork that you and others should perform to make your reconsideration request as successful as possible.

  1. You Betta Recognize:
    Forgive the slang, but you do need to understand the gravity of the situation, and that gravity has nothing to do with your rankings. You are about to ask a Google employee to spend 5 to 10 minutes hand auditing your website. This is probably the only time a Google employee will ever visit your website, much less for the purpose of providing you assistance. These will be the most important 5 minutes in your website’s existence. Don’t screw it up.PS: you are not too big to fail either. Google doesn’t need you like you need them. They are doing you a favor.

  2. Perception and Reality:
    Both matter. For once, you really need to run a site that both is clean and looks clean. You don’t need perfect code, but even if you photoshopped together an image that looks like a reciprocal link exchange page you could have your reconsideration request rejected. These guys are looking at tens if not hundreds of requests, and they are hoping to find just a single error so they can move onto the next site. Don’t give them that chance, keep it squeaky clean inside and out.

  3. On-Site Issues:
    There are some obvious on-site issues that are going to need to be cleared up immediately. These are the type things that a human reviewer will see in a matter of seconds. When they do, they will send you the default ToS violation email and move along. Your reconsideration request is as good as gone.

    • Remove and reconsider any use of the display:none, visibility:hidden, noscript, or other tags used to hide content, even if legitimate. Remember, they are going to GLANCE at your site and code, the appearance of impropriety is enough to keep you out.  Document your changes.
    • Remove any useless footer links, especially outbound text links – even if they are to related sites or your own properties. In fact, any list of text links, even if they are to internal pages, can and will look suspicious. Don’t hide the links, remove them. Document your changes.
    • Remove any former link exchange pages. Remove any “directory”, “partner” or “resources” pages that are filled with links, even if they are not reciprocal. Nofollow is insufficient as well. The second they see that page, they will click the default email button so they can ignore your site while you are stuck with no better explanation than “your site is in violation of our Terms of Service”. Document your changes.
    • Fix your titles. Remove any lists of keywords that may be in those titles. Hell, remove any lists of keywords anywhere from your site. Document your changes.
    • Remove any keyword stuffing or keyword-insertion content. People can pick up on patterns really quickly. Trust me, inserting a zip code and city/state into the text of an identical paragraph on every page is not going to cut it with a human reviewer. Document your changes.
  4. Off-Site Issues:
    You thought fixing the on-site stuff was awful? Now comes the crap part. Chances are your penalties have much more to do with that $9.95/mo link building scam you got duped into, or that $2/hour overseas link popularity stint, than with anything directly on your site. You have a lot of work to do.

    • Track down every link you ever bought or had built on your behalf. Ask all your employees to fess up. One of them could have joined something behind your back hoping it would pay off. You should also go check out your links in Yahoo Site Explorer to make sure you don’t miss any. Document them in a Spreadsheet (see image at bottom of story)
    • Track down the contact information of every webmaster with one of these offending links. Be willing to use Whois information, contact forms on the site, even leaving comments and feedback. Whatever it takes to ask them to remove or nofollow the links on the page. Document them in the same Spreadsheet
    • Track which sites and how many total have removed or edited the links. Document them in the same Spreadsheet
    • Upload that spreadsheet to a directory on your site.
  5. Effective Narrative:
    Now comes the write-up. First, it shouldn’t be a novel. It is extremely important the the site reviewer be able to quickly scan your reinclusion request and get the necessary information. At the same time, you can provide supplementary links to the further information / documentation that indicates the efforts you have made to bring your site in compliance with Google’s Terms of Service. In my opinion, the ideal reinclusion request email looks something like this.Google Reconsideration Team,

    On xx-xx-xxxx, I noticed that my site www.____.com had been (removed/banned/penalized) in Google. Our site __description of what the site does or is for and why it is a useful resource. don’t exagerate___.  Starting in xx-xx-xxxx we hired a company to help with promoting our site. While we were previously unaware of any search engine Terms of Service, we have since discovered that this firm did the following things which we believe were in violation of Google’s ToS.

    1. item #1 that we found
    2. item #2 that we found
    3. item #3 that we found
    4. (so on and so forth)

    We have taken steps to solve each of these including…

    1. how we repaired #1
    2. how we repaired #2
    3. how we repaired #3 (ie: we documented, contacted, and requested the removal of over 200 links… )
    4. (so on and so forth)

    We would respectfully request that Google reconsider the inclusion of our site in your search engine. If you feel that it is still not within compliance, please let us know what else we can or need to do to meet your requirements. We see our inclusion in Google as an important part of our organization and are willing to take whatever steps are necessary to come into compliance.

    Below, I have included links to further documentation regarding the work we have done to bring our site into compliance.  Thank you for your time and consideration,

    Your Name
    Documentation: http://www._yoursite.com/link-to-documentation.xls

Don’t Give Up Hope
It is possible to bring nearly any site into compliance, regardless of its history. However, it will take time and effort. Here are a couple of things though that you need to bear in mind.

  1. Do NOT ask Google to give you your rankings back. They aren’t your rankings and you probably didn’t deserve them in the first place. The goal of a reconsideration request is to remove penalties, not to retrieve rankings. That’s like asking the judge not only to free you from jail, but put you back in that CEO position that you used to embezzle funds.
  2. Do NOT expect to immediately pop back into place after a successful reconsideration request. Google may remove the shackles from your site, but they aren’t going to let you profit from your misdeeds.
  3. Do NOT submit multiple reconsideration requests before you hear back from the first, unless it has been over 1 month.

Below I have placed an image of a spreadsheet that we would use as part of a reconsideration/reinclusion request.

Reinclusion Requests: How to perform successful reconsideration requests by No tags for this post.

5 Comments

  1. Jane
    Oct 17, 2008

    I take care of the Q&A Forum at SEOmoz and I come across literally hundreds of people who need to file reinclusion requests for one reason or another. I’ve never been able to accurately get across how important it is that they’re thorough with their requests and that they’re honest with the Googler who ends up looking at their sites.

    I am going to link to this from now on, especially if I think the person doesn’t understand the importance of what they’re about to do. Excellent post and thank you for documenting it so well.

  2. Craig
    Oct 18, 2008

    Also – do not forget that ~90% of reconsideration requests that Google get do not have penalties and will not get “there rankings back” after submitting a reconsideration request.

  3. Andy
    Oct 19, 2008

    Good article – well laid out and easy to follow.

    Nobody could read this item and get a reinclusion request wrong

  4. Lisa Williams
    Oct 20, 2008

    Great article, I recently went through this process for a client and it’s grueling. The hardest part is being brought into a situation you didn’t create and understanding what all went wrong. These guidelines are very thorough, thanks! Lisa

  5. Suzanne
    Nov 3, 2008

    this is certainly useful information for future use should this occur really easy to follow how to do it as well. as we get rather alot and it cant be rather confusing as to why

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