Background: I started with a free site teoalida.webs.com in 2009 then moved to teoalida.com domain and WordPress in 2012. Being unaware of the bots harvesting email addresses for spamming purposes, I did not bought Whois privacy and also did not used anything to protect my email address inside website.
My email address has been picked up by Indian Webdesign & SEO companies and after moving to .com domain, I started getting almost daily SPAM promotional emails from them saying that my website have errors. Since my business was small, I had enough free time to reply at every email thinking that was a personal email sent by a visitor of my website willing to help, when they were actually sent in bulk to thousands of website owners’ email addresses harvested using an automated bot.
Several times they replied me with a detailed PDF report that indicated errors on my website and what should be improved. One of the things they reported was the missing ALT tags, which, at that time I was not aware of their importance. I only used TITLE tags for a couple of images to show a description when you point mouse on them.
These SEO companies wanted to me to let my website in their hands promising that will put #1 in Google for few hundred dollars per month. Being a small one-man business, I could not afford them, also I did not wanted to let my PERSONAL website in the hands of other persons (actually hiring them may have been a huge mistake, as most of them use blackhat SEO techniques that increase risk to be penalized by Google, then they charge you more money to recover).
A warning that I did not taken in consideration
I NEVER employed any SEO company or paid any kind of SEO service, I started doing SEO myself following the suggestions they offered me, raising traffic from 100 daily visitors at beginning of 2012, to 300 at beginning of 2013 and 500 in October 2013. But I done SEO in wrong way, the main mistake was to excessively describe each image in ALT tags, for example on /singapore/hdbfloorplans/ where I have 100 images of most common HDB floor plans, I added at EVERY image ALT and TITLE tags saying “HDB 4-Room Model A floor plan (100 sqm)“, instantly adding 200 additional keywords “HDB”, “floor plan” and “sqm” on a single page.
I done same thing on /design/houseplans/ and /design/apartmentplans/ again pages with around 100 images. These 2 pages have been the first to be penalized by Google, in mid-2013 for few months they were no longer appearing in searches and traffic dropped with 90%. I should have taken this as a WARNING that I do something wrong, but I did not paid any attention and continued adding ALT tags stuffed with keywords.
Whole website hit by Google Penalty
On 12 October 2013 whole site was removed from Google search results for most keywords, causing traffic drop from 500 to 150 daily visitors.
I started in webdesign 5 years earlier, collaborating with a friend at his website, he gave me some tips for SEO including doing link exchange for other sites to increase ranking. I was still following his outdated advices, being not aware of Google Panda and Penguin algorithms made purposely to downrank websites doing link exchange.
Shortly after penalty, I made some Google searches and heard for the first time about Penguin update which I suspected that may have blacklisted my website, but I did not know exactly why, and also I noticed that there is no longer possible to make a reconsideration request in Google Webmaster Tools (I made such reconsideration request 2 times during the Webs era and they indeed raised traffic).
Few days later I opened a topic in https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!msg/webmasters/aRnMsub6Z-c/HWBQh6kkaEAJ asking for help. This was another big mistake, as Google Product Forums are NOT moderated and any idiot can post anything he wants. What is your HONEST opinion about the attitude of people replying me?
In the above forum I received many accusations, insults, bullying, making me guilty for illegally raising ranking when they were actually mistakes done unintentionally, as well as comments about my education level, saying that I deserved to be penalized, NOBODY providing an actual solution for what I was asking in original post “how to remove Google Penalty”.
Notably Lysis, a big idiot troll who was posting in every topic something contradictory to what original poster said (in another topic, a BBC representative asked why received a warning from Google, and Lysis replied “spammers sucks no matter their size” effectively accusing major news agency BBC for spamming.
Beside all the bullshit received from so-called forum helpers, they pointed me few things that made me to realize how many MISTAKES I done!
I also received several emails asking me if I can post a link to their website promising me that they will post a link to mine. I replied them and done link exchange as taught by my friend 5 years earlier. I created a page www.teoalida.com/links to post them. In early 2013 I read in Google Webmaster Guidelines that we should NEVER engage in link schemes, so I stopped doing this, but I did not deleted Links page. I forgot about this page and the IDIOT in Google Webmaster Forums found it, half of the arguing in forum was about this Links page.
The IDIOTS told me that I have 700 backlinks of which 500 from a single website but without explaining me how I can check backlinks, personally I was seen in Alexa that I have ONLY 45 sites linking in. 24 days lays later, some forum member informed me about Ahrefs (a tool that analyze backlinks), and by this way I saw for first time how many links I have from my former website (teoalida.webs.com), I was not aware that ONE link posted on sidebar that appear on all pages counts as multiple links on every page. Another mistake was that I was not aware of importance of anchor text, I had many links with “here” or “_” anchor text used to ensure indexation of some pages. I was NOT doing this purposely to increase traffic in Google.
I deleted the Links page as well as the links from Webs.com site, and the forum IDIOTS made me guilty for doing illegal things to raise traffic and said that I will never recover the lost traffic, instead of providing an actual solution or to answer to my original question “how to remove a penalty after its cause have been corrected?“.
I had to look elsewhere for solutions, I fixed all reported mistakes, I done all what the idiots told me, and the IDIOTS blamed me that I did nothing, putting me in confusion what I missed to do.
After 1 month the IDIOTS finally answered my original question: after the cause of penalty has been corrected, I may not see traffic recovered until next update of Google Penguin, which may be in few months.
How I found myself the solution to lift Google Penalty
I analyzed what I did prior to penalty and on 9 January 2014 decided to remove the ALT and TITLE tags from all images of HDB Floor Plans page, as well as repetition of “car models” from Car Database page, despite that NOBODY ever told me that this could be a problem. Surprise, next day 10 January penalty was lifted (after 90 days). NO Google Penguin update was meantime.
I was not sure if the penalty has been removed due to cleaning ALT/TITLE tags previous day, or due to something else corrected earlier and penalties are scripted to last a period such as 30, 60, 90 days.
Considering that nobody ever told me anything about ALT tags, and even Google guidelines recommend describing every image on ALT tags. I put back the ALT tags, risking to be re-penalized, and in this case I will know what was the cause of penalty, and re-removing them will lift penalty again.
BIG MISTAKE! Website was re-penalized on 23 January. I immediately removed ALT tags, but penalty was not immediately lifted. I did few additional changes then I left website untouched and I was PATIENT…
Someone has told me that second penalty may be longer or even permanent, Google do not give us a second chance to “spammers”.
Surprise! On 24 February the second penalty was lifted (after 32 days ONLY), without doing anything recently!
CONCLUSION: the HDB Floor Plans page (the page with highest traffic, biggest number of Facebook likes and most “thank you”) was the cause of all this bullshit. Penalty was due of keyword repetition, not due of Penguin and links exchanged (as the forum IDIOTS said). ALT tags are not bad, but having 100 floor plan images, all with ALT and TITLE tags, caused 200 times repetition of word “HDB” and “floor plan”. I made some diversity by alternating “apartment” with “flat”, “sqm” with “sq m” but was not enough. The keyword density was not high in terms of percentage, but due of lengthy article, the word repetition may have been triggered Google anti-SPAM algorithms twice.
The golden rule is to optimize websites for users and not for search engines, which I did. NO users have complained that keyword density on page is too high/spammy, but Google determined that it is. This can be called false positive?
After 4 wonderful days, on 28 February 2014 I got penalized for the third time!
What the fuck is wrong now with Google??? Entire February I have done NO CHANGES on website, to be bad or good. There are NO ALT tags anymore on that page. I no longer think that above conclusion is correct. Should be patient another 30+ days or should do something?
The 3rd penalty was lifted on 27 March and next night I got a new penalty!
On 31 May the 4th penalty ended after just 2 days, again this is LACKING ANY LOGIC. I am not yet convinced that I am 100% safe from future penalties.
By this way I also noticed that penalties are placed / lifted always at 2 AM GMT.
In these nearly 6 months in which had website barely appearing in search results, number of customers and projects has been low and this allowed me to do a lot of research on internet reading about SEO and I became myself a SEO expert, and shortly after penalty was removed, website traffic hit 800 daily visitors instead of 500 daily visitors before penalty, contradicting what the IDIOTS from forum said (that I will never recover traffic because it was gained illegally).
My income also doubled, proving how much money I can make from selling databases thanks to SEO and multiple sales, which later convinced me to retire from architecture business where each project is paid ONCE and there are no multiple sales.
I continued adding ALT tags to every image, but instead of “HDB 4-Room Model A floor plan (100 sqm)“, I added only “4A” to avoid keyword repetition.
Email communication with a SEO company
I added your email in Analytics, check it!! Someone checked it already and said that is nothing suspicious
To explain Analytics fluctuations:
First penalty 12 Oct – 10 Jan
Second penalty 22 Jan – 24 Feb
Third penalty 28 Feb – 27 Mar
Fourth penalty 29 March – 31 March… WTF?????????
I realized that I made many mistakes, most of them I fixed in octomber-november… should I make a list of all problems fixed?
Duplicate content – 2 idiots copied articles from my website, I contacted them (after penalty hit) and they removed stolen content.
Duplicate META – I installed All in One SEO but kept previous Page Meta plugin without being aware that the new plugin don’t overwrite but add new tags instead, so each page had 2 METAs when the penalty hit.
Off-topic pages – I NOINDEX-ed them.
Links from my former website – I removed 90% of links and for remaining ones I applied NOFOLLOW tag.
Link exchange – I have answered to few unsolicited emails asking link exchange and I put their links on sidebar, but in mid-2013 I realized that link exchange is against Google guidelines so I halted it while the existing links I moved them to a page named “Links” to clean-up the sidebar. People in Google forum found it and half of arguing in the forum was related to the Links page. Some told me to NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW each link and other blamed me that I am doing nothing, the page is still on website, so I had to delete it.
Links to directories – forum people also told me to remove backlinks from directories, but other SEO experts told me that directories are legit and removing backlinks will fall in ranking, and that is a good idea to add in more high-PR directories to counter-balance low-PR links.
Image optimization – the home age was 50 MB, now its size has halved. This job is still UNDERGOING.
Keyword stuffing – original penalty was most likely caused by large number of certain keywords. Due of my hobbies and the nature of website offering info about real estate, ROOM, BEDROOM, SQM, FLOOR PLAN were most used. I accurately described images by using ALT Tags like “Trapeze Tower block floor plan, 3-room and 4-room apartments”, multiplied with hundreds images on website = imagine how big repetition was!). Now I let only “Trapeze Tower”, as the “floor plan” and “apartments” are in page title. GOOD?
I removed some of these keywords and added more keywords such as ARCHITECTURE, DESIGN, SERVICE, 3D MODELLING…. these may raise number of paying customers compared with people who just browsing for free house plans, but I am enjoying customers just few days on month then I get penalized again, my income dropped under minimum salary.
Here is a few examples (the list is compiled in Oct 2013, rankings may have changed meantime)
#1 – Singapore HDB floor plans
#1 – List of HDB BTO
#10 – BTO list
#5 – List of EC
#10 – HDB EC
#10 – Executive Condominium Singapore
#10 – Will prices drop?
#1 – Will prices drop in 2013 Singapore?
#10 – HDB floor plan
#1-5 – floor plan + any place name of Singapore
#1-10 – 3-room / 4-room / 5-room + any place name of Singapore
#10 – hong kong floor plans
#10-30 – 3-room / 4-bedroom house design
#10-30 – 60 / 80 / 100 sqm house design
#30 – Malaysia house design
#20 – Philippines house design
#10 – 40 sqm house plan Philippines
#10 – 100 sqm apartment
#10 – house plan 6 meter frontage
#50 – narrow house plans
and so on…
I am sorry too for my behavior, for not being able to pay your SEO services, but considering my current budget, the only solution is to ask random people for few free advices and post in forums looking for volunteer help. Too bad that the volunteers in Google forums were so idiots.
I have got 2 days ago a promotional email from another SEO company in India, I replied and received a 36-page PDF analysis of my website FOR FREE, they told me that took 1-2 hours making it.
They offered me SEO service for 300$ per month which was approximate my monthly revenue. Looks that SEO services are affordable only for big companies, not for 1-person businesses.
Hope I am not disturbing you asking few free advices. Same thing happen at me, 9 of 10 customers DO NOT PAY. Some are indeed not interested in architecture services, they just asking me for a floorplan and do not care if I spend time designing one or I give a ready-made one. But some are simply IDIOTS, today one Indian asked for a full house project, including 3D design, which would take at least 10 hours, and when I asked him what payment methods he have, he said that he do not see any conditions that he should pay the service!
I did not got money, he didn’t got what he wanted. We just BOTH wasted about 1 hour.
Revamping website or SEO are not necessary at this moment. Doing SEO may lead to traffic increase thus I will get more idiots like above case. I need first to change the strategy of service.
I am sick of indians, dozens contacted me, none paid me so far. I had paying customers in Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines and Iraq. No offence for you please!