If your website has received a manual penalty notice from Google, then your first step is to repair the site so it complies with Google’s quality guidelines. Once that work is done, you'll then have to file a reconsideration request to get your penalty removed and return to Google's search results.
However, Google's message doesn't provide you with any guidelines about what you need to include in your request.
Here are some tips to help you write a good reconsideration request.
Clean up Your Site
If you received a manual penalty, then you need to take some kind of action. If it is a penalty about unnatural links, then you will need to identify the unnatural links, take steps to remove them, and then disavow the ones you can’t remove.
If your penalty is in regards to an on-site issue, such as selling links that pass PageRank, then you need to remove or nofollow those links.
A full discussion on what needs to be done to recover from a penalty is outside of the scope of this article. But, please know that you must make efforts to make your site more compliant with the quality guidelines before filing for reconsideration.
Show Google What You've Done
Have you spent weeks or even months trying to remove links? Then show Google proof of this.
It’s one thing to say that you have emailed 600 webmasters, but it's even better to include a link to a Google document that shows proof of those emails. Similarly, you can include a link to a Google spreadsheet showing your links and what efforts you have made to try to remove them.
Why use a Google document? In this video, Google's Distinguished Engineer Matt Cutts explained that a Google employee won't open an external file or visit an unknown website for fear of picking up malware.
When you do your reconsideration request, be very thorough with your documentation. In your links spreadsheet include a reference to documents containing a copy of every single email sent and received as well as screenshots of contact forms submitted.
It may not be necessary to be this thorough, but in my opinion, the more information you can supply, the better.
Throw Your SEO Under the Bus
Did an SEO company build spammy links on your behalf? Did you purchase links from a paid blog network? Google asks for you to include this information in your reconsideration request.
It may be helpful to mention that you have hired a particular SEO company, but it is still important that you take responsibility for their work.
Mention Your disavow.txt File
If you have filed a disavow.txt, then mention it in your request.
Have a Pleasant Tone
Many of the people who write a reconsideration request tend to have an angry tone. And really, who would blame them? In many cases, this penalty levied by Google has cost them large amounts of money and has taken up valuable time.
It’s understandable for a penalized site owner to be upset. However, anger or threats won't win over or bully the webspam team member who reads your request.
There is no need to mention that you spend thousands of dollars per month on AdWords either. The webspam team doesn't care about this. They just want to see that your site has reformed.
Make it Clear You're Now Committed to Following the Rules
Google wants to see evidence that you have learned your lesson and won't continue to try to game the search engines.
In most cases, if you can document your efforts at cleanup well, then this will be a measure of good faith. It may also help to make a statement that you're now committed to the quality guidelines.
How Long Does it Take Google to Respond?
Once you have filed your reconsideration request, it will get read by a webspam team member. In this video, Cutts explains that if you have manual action taken on your site then yes, your request will be read by a human being.
(If no manual action was taken, then you'll receive an automated message that tells you that there was no spam action found on your site.)
In most cases you should expect to hear a response within two to three weeks. Occasionally, the response time can take as long as six weeks.
Google Reconsideration Request Example
Here's an example of a reconsideration request that has worked well for me in the past:
Dear Google Webspam team member,
Thank you for taking the time to read our request. Our site was recently given a penalty for unnatural links. In reviewing our links, we now see that we have tried to manipulate the search results by using links containing anchor text from syndicated articles. We also purchased links from [company name]. Although these actions were taken by our SEO Company, [insert name], we take full responsibility for their work. We no longer employ this company.
We have worked hard over the last few months to remove as many of these links as possible. We have contacted webmasters using their email address available on the site, their whois address and also via contact forms where available. This spreadsheet shows all of our links and what efforts we have taken for removal:
[link to Google Spreadsheet. IMPORTANT - Make sure you change the privacy settings on the Google Doc so that anyone with the link can see it]
This document shows the original source code of each of the emails that we have sent to webmasters:
[insert link to Google Doc]
And this document shows screenshots of contact forms that we have filled out.
[insert link to Google Doc]
We have submitted a disavow.txt file to ask Google to disavow the unnatural links that we were unable to remove.
Thank you again for reading this request. We have worked hard to resolve the quality issues on our site and are completely committed to following the Quality Guidelines from this point on.
Crafting a good reconsideration request is important when it comes to getting you unnatural links penalty removed. Be thorough in your attempts to reform, communicate your efforts to Google clearly, and indicate that you have learned your lesson and you're on your way to recovery.
But don't stop there. There's much more work to do after a manual penalty is lifted.
Have you had experience with filing a reconsideration request? Tell us how about it!
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