Penalty Recovery Case Study

In this case study we are going to showcase how we (well.. mostly me) recovered a content driven website in the jewelry space and even surpassed pre-update daily clicks just in time for holiday sales.

What is even more interesting, this allowed my client to raise over a million dollars for their investment portfolio. They were able to demonstrate that they (with my help) can recover search traffic when rankings go south.

Here is a pretty striking screenshot of the project:

Here where the Phases of Recovery:

  • Match Competitors Ranking Factors
  • Fix Website Structure – make it easy to crawl important pages fix internal links
  • Branded Traffic Boost.

TLDR? Check Out the Video We Made Explaining the Process:

How Google Penalties Happen?

Every 3 months or so your niche will experience a “refresh” or algorithm update.

An algorithm update happens every so often and shakes the entire internet.

In my opinion and after doing SEO for nearly 10 years, I’ve noticed that Google will “refresh” its results for a specific set of search results every 3 months or so.

My educated guess, Google simply doesn’t have enough resources to constantly update individual keywords.

Rather, they split the internet up into sections. They update a few million results, the following few weeks they update a few million results, so on and so fourth.

They regularly clean house, getting rid of the results that don’t meet the current search criteria and reward the ones that stand out.

Why Google Updates and Refreshes Are Good/Bad

They are good and bad.

This is great because every 3 months or so you have the opportunity to boost your rankings.

This is bad, because well… no one enjoy losing a ton of targeted search traffic.

Why Did Rankings Drop?

They clearly got hit with a refresh. There was no major algorithm updates at the time. Even worse, a number of very high authority websites, such as Forbes, entered their space and were eating up the SERPs.

Optimize for All Ranking Factors

At all times, you must ensure your most important pages are optimized for current ranking factors. These change all the time and have vary based on your keyword. keeps a pretty great list:

Often times, when a lower authority website overtakes a high authority website its because they are riding a wave of a few ranking factors google is prioritizing in the current search environment.

For whatever reason, they created a lot of trust, whether it be topical authority, great backlinks, superior Onpage SEO, etc. Generally speaking, only one or two of those factors brought them to the the top search results.

When Google no longer favors previously gave you a boost, your traffic drops 🙁

If everyone else is doing it, you do it too

One of my best SEO mentors once gave me the advice “don’t be the nail that sticks out.”

Phase One: Update OnPage Ranking Factors

Nowadays everyone talks about standing out. Which is great, but if you are not meeting the fundamental necessities of a given keyword result, you’ll likely fall out of the top 10 results.

How To Identity Ranking Factors for Your SERP

I personally like to use the SEO tool called Cora, they make it very easy to identify the top ranking factors in a given result:

The first step in our recovery was to fix any OnPage SEO issues that stuck out for major pages that previously drove a lot of revenue. Namely, we targeted highly correlated factors.

Phase Two: Fix Website Structure

Another common problem I’ve noticed with content websites is that overtime webmasters inadvertently make it hard for Googlebot to access important pages.

Often websites will start off with a very clear structure, here is a very simple example:

Overtime, say over a period of 3-5 years, often the path becomes distorted, new pages are added and it is not clear on how to prioritize the the most important pages. It can become very confusing for search engines and users alike.

Here is a simple example, based on the drawing below you can see there is no longer a clear path to the most important pages on the site:

A big part of this recovery was restructuring the website to make it more clear which pages are a higher priority to both people and search engines.

Phrase 3: Branded Traffic campaign

Once everything was fixed onsite, we moved to offsite factors. Namely, branded traffic.

In my opinion, branded traffic is one of the most overlooked trust factors in SEO today. Think of it this way any legitimate brand will be searched on Google, likely from other forms of advertising.

As an easy example, Walmart gets a ton of branded searches every month, making it pretty obvious to search engines that they are a real brand:

There are a number of ways to run branded traffic campaigns, for example PR campaign’s where you promote your brand, etc.

After fixing all major onsite issues, we launched a branded traffic campaign, then a few weeks later traffic came back shockingly fast:

Want Similar Results for your Website?

Well…. A lot of the above is easier said than done. Strategic SEO is our speciality, Contact us today and we will review your website.

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