Google’s Matt Cutts: repeat offenders get bigger penalties

The head of Google’s anti-spam team, Matt Cutts, has published another video on YouTube. In this video, he answers the question why Interflora’s penalty was lifted after just 11 days. Has Google different penalties for different websites?

Why was Interflora’s website penalized?

Some months ago, the website of Interflora (a popular UK flower website) was penalized because the company had purchased many backlinks from various newspaper websites. After just 11 days, their website was back in Google’s index.

Most websites need several months to recover from Google penalties. In the YouTube video, Matt Cutts was asked by a webmaster to explain the penalty of the Interflora website:

Matt Cutt’s explanation

Unfortunately, Matt Cutts didn’t want to talk about specific penalties or companies. In the video, he said that repeat offenders get hit with a stronger penalty than websites that have used spam techniques for the first time:

“Google tends to look at buying and selling links that pass PageRank as a violation of our guidelines and if we see that happening multiple times, repeated times, then the actions that we take get more and more severe. So we’re more willing to take stronger action whenever we see repeated violations.”

It seems that Interflora was a first time offender and that they weren’t fully aware that the paid links from newspaper websites could cause problems. When Interflora removed the newly purchased links, Google restored the previous rankings of the website.

What does this mean for your website?

If you have received a spam warning message from Google, you should remove all spam elements from your pages and you should try to remove all spammy links that point to your web pages.

Interflora’s high rankings have been restored because the company already had high rankings before they acquired the paid links. If your website received high rankings because of the paid links before Google detected them, it’s likely that your web pages still won’t get high rankings when Google lifts the penalty.

If you want your rankings back, Google expects drastic actions

Matt Cutts explains in the video that Google expects you to take drastic actions if you used spam methods to promote your website:

“So that the sort of thing where company is willing to say, ‘You know what, we might’ve had good links for a number of years and then we had really bad advice and someone did everything wrong for a few months, maybe up to year, so just to be safe let’s just disavow everything in that time frame.’

That’s a pretty radical action and that’s the sort of thing where we heard back on a reconsideration request that someone had taken that kind of a strong action, then we could look and say, ‘OK, this is something people are taking seriously.’

Of course, disavowing links in bulk can also have a major negative impact on the rankings of your web pages so you should be very careful with such a thing.

If you disavow all links that point to your website, you basically start with nothing and you have to build new good backlinks that point to your website before Google will give your pages high rankings.

“It’s not something I would typically recommend for everybody to disavow every link you’ve gotten for a period of years, but certainly when people start over with completely new websites they’ve bought, we’ve seen a few cases where people will disavow every single link because they truly want to get a fresh start.

It’s a nice looking domain, but the previous owners have burnt to a crisp in terms of the amount of web spam that they’ve done.”

Spam techniques will hurt your business

The bottom line is that you should avoid spam techniques at all costs. If you must use these techniques, only use them with domains that you can afford to lose. If you’re serious about your business, avoid spam methods at all costs.

If you use white-hat SEO methods to promote your web pages, you don’t have to worry about Google penalties. White-hat SEO methods require more work but you will get high rankings that last. As a bonus, it’s likely that you’ll sleep better. 🙂

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