This is a story about a Google penalty with a happy ending. A google penalty can be a traumatic and business-threatening event because it causes a dramatic drop in traffic and is hard to diagnose and treat. Sort of a terminal illness for your website’s search engine results.
Google penalties are generally caused when you try to optimize your website using techniques that are against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Basically, Google drops you from its search results. In this case, a local Glenwood Springs Real Estate business, The Best Way Home, hired someone to do search engine optimization back in 2012. That so-called SEO expert signed them up for nefarious link schemes, built doorway pages and generally stuffed too many keywords into The Best Way Home’s website. Julian Hardaker, the owner of The Best Way Home, didn’t do anything wrong at all – he just hired the wrong person. Julian is a succesful and popular realtor here in Glenwood Springs and actually won the Post Independent’s Local’s Choice Award for Best Realtor.
When I spoke with Julian the first time a year ago, his website ranked #1 for one keyword phrase: his brand name, “The Best Way Home.” The website hardly ranked in the top 50 at all for any other phrases! At the time, he wanted to improve his rankings. After doing some research and diagnosing the problem, I came to the conclusion he didn’t need website optimization, he needed to have the penalty removed. We decided to work to remove the penalty, and not to bother with “optimizing” for better rankings until his site was no longer red-flagged with Google.
In an effort to remedy the Google penalty, a 3 step program was implemented:
- We actually de-optimized his website and removed many of the keywords, which were repeated over and over and also stuffed into the footers, image tags, metatags and elsewhere.
- We deleted a “doorway” website that existed solely to target Google and redirect people back to his main website.
- We found 97 websites linking to him that were “spammy” and of no value. We prepared a list and submitted it to Google Webmaster’s Disavow Backlinks Tool.
These three tasks were completed by the end of February 2014. Meanwhile, it seemed pointless to try and “optimize” his website for better rankings, so, we started five additional steps – all meant to drive traffic to his website regardless of how he ranked in Google.
- We purchased targeted words and phrases on Google Adwords and bought traffic directly from Google.
- We tried to capture every visitor’s email address so we could email market to them. We also put a “cookie” on them so we could retarget them with ads.
- We setup a powerful drip-marketing email campaign using InfusionSoft.
- We used Facebook to post his homes for sale along with Facebook pay-per-click advertising to drive more visitors directly to his website.
- We used “retargeting” in Google Adwords to follow his website visitors around with ads for 60 days after their first visit to his website.
- We started building links from several key websites that would send qualified visitors directly to his website (such as the local Chamber of Commerce and Yelp).
What happened? In the middle of June the once banned website suddenly appeared in Google. It spontaneously ranked #35 for Julian’s benchmark keyword phrase: Glenwood Springs Real Estate. Great news! We immediately began optimizing his webpages and began building out more high-quality links and citations from local directories, yellow pages sites, and review websites. After doing this all summer, The Best Way Home has moved up from #35 to #12 in December 2014. In addition, he has garnered top 10 rankings for a whole bevy of targeted keyword phrases like:
- blue lake carbondale homes for sale
- elk springs glenwood springs
- pinyon mesa glenwood springs
- ironbridge subdivision glenwood springs
- oak meadows subdivision glenwood springs
- castle valley ranch real estate
- cerise ranch carbonale real estate
- lakota canyon ranch real estate
In fact, back in February we started tracking the top 50 keyword phrases he wanted to rank for. Those keyword phrases moved up a combined 1,788 spots and a full 1/2 of them rank in the top 20 now. His average phrase moved up over 35 spots in Google in the last 7 months. Undoubtably, there is still work to do to continue improving rankings. However, zero movement was possible until the penalty was mitigated.
Google stands between you and potential clients on the web – is your website visible in the search index?
BlizzardPress has expert knowledge and years of experience with search engine optimization and marketing. Whether you have an SEO issue that needs tackling or would just like a bit more traffic from search – we can help! Call or email us today for a free consultation – (970) 930-1882.