How To Get A Google Thin Content Penalty Revoked
5 votes, 4.60 avg. tacos (89% full)

When the PBN update rolled through we had a ton of sites hit with Thin Content penalties, including one site that we had plans to funnel the traffic to build a genuine “real” business from.

On a whim just before Christmas, I decided to submit the site for reconsideration and it was approved, penalty revoked!

I’ll detail everything about the site below, minus the domain and sensitive information. The reason for withholding that information is because we are running some experiments to see how quickly (if at all) we can get the site back beyond it’s pre-penalty traffic. It seems that whenever someone does the right thing and reveals 100% of information, some absolute pelican (that’s Australian terminology for halfwit) decides to negative SEO it for fun.

So although being able to reveal the exact domain would be both interesting and beneficial for you at this point, I believe the recovery process will provide more benefit so for now, it’s not really the “No Hat Way” to withhold juicy details, but I’m going to on this occasion. Hope you understand!

Let’s get to it…

Here’s the traffic to the site leading up to the update:

traffic before the thin content penalty

It was getting well over 10k visits per month even in the off-peak time in the niche and was worthwhile investing some time into in terms of monetizing it outside of Adsense (which was a poor way to monetize due to very low CPC).

Traffic fell off a cliff with the PBN update and resultant Thin Content penalty. You’ll see a little spike in traffic in October. That’s from Reddit and other social media activity we generated after the update.

traffic decline

 

Back to the story…. We pretty much decided to write off the money sites that got manual penalties. We figured our time is better invested in other projects than trying to recover sites that may never recover anyway.

However, we toyed with the idea of doing a site recovery case study where we’d aim to get 50% of traffic back via non-SEO tactics within 30 days of a penalty. A steep ask, but we started anyway using tactics like Brian Dean’s Skyscraper Technique. We only ever got part-way through it and abandoned the idea in favor of other priorities.

However, in auditing all our sites recently I decided to see what would happen with this particular site if I submitted a reconsideration request… We’d put time into new content and a new design, so why not spend a few minutes to do a reconsideration request and (hopefully) use that as a template for everyone to learn from?

During our abandoned recovery case study, although we were not aiming to get the penalty revoked, we had done a lot to the site that I felt would warrant a revoke. The keys were:

  1. New theme
  2. Vastly improved look and feel
  3. New non-SEOd content
  4. 9 new pages (shows continual development), three high quality articles in particular
  5. Built Facebook community (I ensured that I did a couple posts on the FB page just prior to the reconsideration request)
  6. Generated socials signals (well, paid for the bulk of them but some were natural!)

The actual content on the site was solid pre the penalty. All written by Interns or North American/Australian writers and the bulk of it vetted by me as I’m familiar with the industry the site is in. The content was very factual and comprehensive but it was ultimately highly optimized and designed to get Adsense clicks as opposed to being super-helpful content. So in Google’s eyes, it was closer to Thin than comprehensive, plus it was in a Webmaster Tools account with a dozen other sites that got hit (those were of lesser quality).

Reconsideration Request Template

Here’s a copy of my Reconsideration Request email, minus any sensitive information:

“Hi there, Since the thin content penalty was given, I’ve comprehensively updated this website in terms of the look and feel (new theme) and also additional 9 pieces of new content, including the examples below:

{Example Post #1}

{Example Post #2}

{Example Post #3}

Each of the three articles above have generated social media shares and interactions (one of them over 800 social media interactions between Pinterest pins, FB likes and tweets).

I’ve also invested in growing the Facebook community of the site > {Facebook page URL} (now over 400 Facebook fans).

I must say though, I’m not certain how the content could be interpreted as “thin content”. The content is all unique, hand-written (typed) content and very informative (in my humble opinion).

In fact, some of the review articles on the site were actually contributed to by the companies themselves. This one is an example > {URL of article where a company had provided most of the content} with {company name} having contributed to the detail within the article and I’ve updated it based on their feedback on numerous occasions.

There truly is no better online resource in Australia for factual information about {niche} so I trust that the above information is sufficient to have the thin content penalty revoked. Regards,”

That was sent on 18th December.

Here’s the response on 23rd December:

manual google penalty revoked

Cool!

Here’s how it’s performed since the penalty was lifted:

traffic after

The site is now back to over 250 visits per day. I expect that to climb as the keyword rankings are increasing consistently.

 

13 Key Points on this Reconsideration Request:

Here are my thoughts on why this reconsideration request was approved… At least some of the contributing factors. I can’t say from a sample group of one site that this is the definitive guide, but I will be doing more reconsideration requests for other sites to see if we can find some common remedies. Would be nice to know!

There are three components to this reconsideration request that I feel contributed to the positive result:

  1. the improvements/alters made to the site
  2. the way the reconsideration request was written
  3. the duration between the penalty being received and the reconsideration being submitted

I’ll summarize them all below:

1. Time to submit:

The more I think about this, the more I think it is an important factor. Our reconsideration request was submitted 2.5 months after the penalty was received. Having read through what Perrin from NichePursuits.com was doing to over-haul aPennyShaved.com and the fact that his reconsideration requests have been denied, I just wonder if those changes were made over a long period of time and if the reconsideration request was submitted later, if the result would have been different? He did a ton to improve the site for Google, but it got rejected.

Now, the cynic in me says that Google staff would surely be aware of nichepursuits.com and aPennyShaved.com > they’d be crazy not to have staff following popular blogs and projects. So them approving the reconsideration request would essentially give thousands of gray hatters out there hope. Not a smart move for their campaign against PBNs. Maybe aPennyShaved.com was destined to be rejected right from the start?

But that view aside, think about this… If you were Google and had site A that was overhauled and submitted for request within a few weeks of a penalty vs site B that was overhauled and worked on for 2.5 months before the request was submitted, which comes across as a more genuine attempt?

Site B every day of the week. So give this consideration.

2. New theme:

The site was basically totally over-hauled. It was turned from an average-looking site to a terrific looking site. Here’s a screenshot of the original site:

  • Basic woo themes template, no customization
  • No header image or logo
  • Adsense ad block centered in main content area, above the fold
  • Advertising banner on right side

old site

 

Here’s the new site:

  • Slider (yuk!)
  • De-optimized
  • Logo in header
  • E-book opt-in in right sidebar
  • Featured posts above the fold
  • Recent posts below the fold (not in screenshot)
  • Facebook fan box in right sidebar (also not in screenshot)

website upgraded for Google penalty reconsideration request

3. New non-SEOd content:

  • 3 articles were added using Brian Dean’s Skyscraper technique. These were featured above the fold under “Featured Posts” above. They have social signals (referenced in my reconsideration request).

4. Added content:

  • In all, 9 new pages of content were added. These were along the lines of previous content, but I believe that adding new content after the penalty shows genuine effort and an attempt to improve the site.
  • I did not remove any content (like I outlined in the request, it was genuine content).

5. Built Facebook Community:

  • We were looking to generate FB traffic, so ran some paid advertising to get the community from around 100 fans up to just under 500.
  • I don’t think this is super-important to do after a penalty and you probably don’t want to sink $300 in paid advertising to maybe get a penalty revoked.
  • There’s nothing to suggest that this is a requirement, but it probably helped to demonstrate a genuine attempt to build a “proper”site.
  • I’ll now be getting social media profiles setup and optimizing for followers asap when launching a site so that there is a chance for generic growth as opposed to having to buy the likes with FB ads like we had to (the FB community for the site was very dormant).

6. Removed Adsense:

  • This is an easy step to take. We had Adsense on the site up until the day I submitted to request. I removed it before submitting.

7. Removed De-indexed PBN links:

  • There are still some PBN links pointing to the site, but I removed most of the de-indexed links and some of the other PBN links too. Not all of them but a few. Given that some PBN links are still in place, I presume this step was not crucial which is interesting. It’s not hard to tell a real site from a PBN site, maybe this is not checked as part of their review process?

8. Social signals:

  • We paid for some social signals, Pinterest pins in particular. But around 20% of them are real. I believe this type of interaction is a sign to Google that the content is user-friendly. Certainly can’t hurt having social signals!

9. Explained why the content is quality:

  • In my reconsideration request I provided a URL of an article that was genuinely useful and had in fact been contributed to by the company I was reviewing! You could do this yourself (even if it wasn’t true) as a tactic to argue that your content is genuine, accurate and valuable.

10. Kept my points factual:

  • There’s no point writing about thoughts or opinions. I kept all my points factual and backed each point up with evidence or facts. This takes away and gray (grey, for us Aussies) areas. You can argue with facts, but not opinions.

11. Humble tone:

  • I was not abrupt or disrespectful in my email and if anything (I believe) came across humble and abiding. The tone to me reads well to a reviewer.

12. Thoroughness:

  • Although the reconsideration request was succinct, it was thorough. I took some time to document each improvement or fact-based argument before I wrote the request so that I could (hopefully) put the reconsideration beyond doubt.

13. Made it easy for the reviewer:

  • Sentences were short, succinct and to the point. Each sentence was backed with relevant evidence/facts so it was an easy read for the reviewer (a real person remember).

 

All up, I’d say the total time to do this would have been around 15-20 hours. We had VAs do the bulk of it and outsourced the writing. But if you were to do it all yourself, 15-20 hours in this instance would have been about the mark. This factors time for everything from writing 9 new articles (depends how well you know the niche), updating the site’s theme, removing PBN links, writing the reconsideration request, building the FB community (including posting to the FB page regularly).

You could have VAs do most of it and get the time down to 5-10 hours of personal time easily. So from that perspective, worth the effort if you have a genuine site that has a penalty sitting over it.

Feel free to add comments if you have any experiences to share. If you’ve been successful in getting a penalty revoked, leave a few pointers on why you feel yours succeeded as that will help others with penalties hanging over their sites.

Interested in being part of Thin Content Penalty testing?

In our next two internship intakes I’ll be submitting a few more sites for review. You can be a part of the testing group by helping with the experiment and gain a first-hand insight into what works.

We’re also testing a bunch of white hat seo techniques, outreach, gaining natural links and building authority sites. In the first 3 weeks of our most recent intake, we’d

  • Improved our strategy for getting wikipedia links to land them more regularly
  • Identified ways to find very low hanging fruit for niche-relevant links using broken link building
  • Tested outreach tactics and had niche-relevant blogs inviting us to do guest posts!
  • In that same testing we’ve connected with dozens of niche-relevant blogs for our money sites that I’m sure will result in many more successes
  • We’re about to roll out our non-SEO experiments now to test some non-Google traffic tactics I’ve got floating through my mind

If you’re interested in being part of an upcoming intake, just register here and I’ll add you to the February and March applicant list!

 

How To Get A Google Thin Content Penalty Revoked
5 votes, 4.60 avg. tacos (89% full)
  1. I got “unnatural links coming out from website” penalty for one of my websites instead of thin content.
    Just because of one paid do-follow text link on homepage. Right away I removed the link and email back for reconsideration.
    Google took penalty out, but my traffic only about 50% back to normal.

    I think Greg layout great tips here. Like in my case probably to remove AdSense will be useful!

    Greg, how is traffic right now comparing to the way it was before penalty? is it the same or better? or still lower?

    Thanks,
    Yaro

    • Hey Yaro, traffic peaks Mondays and Tuesdays of each week for this site. Got to a peak of 270 this week. Expect it to be close to 300 visits next week, so around 60% back to where it was prior to the penalty.

      • Interesting. My traffic went back about the same %.
        I am curious if the penalty never completely disappear.
        I will try to contact Google spam team through internal employees and report back.

  2. Hi Greg,

    Did you have PBN links pointing to that site? Did you do anything with the link profile or was it all content related?

    Good stuff and thanks for sharing

    Frank

    • Hey Frank, yes PBN links pointing to it which is why it got the penalty. I removed a handful (maybe 3-4) PBN links from PBN sites that had been de-indexed. But other than that didn’t do anything with the link profile.

  3. I know you added 9 articles/pages but how many articles/pages total did you have on the site when the thin content action was removed? About how long was each article/page?
    Thanks!

    • Good question Brian. Approx 70 pages on the site when the penalty was given and the articles are around 700-1000 words. And the articles added were 700-1000 words also, with the exception of 3 articles that are the ones I referenced in the actual reconsideration request and these were 2000-3000 words.

      • 70 pages with 700-1000 word articles is a huge amount of content to get a thin content warning. I can only imagine receiving the penalty if the previous pages were spun content or didn’t pass copyscape. I’m surprised you didn’t have to remove any previous content in that scenario.

        I’m really hoping to hear stories about thin content reversal on sites that initially had 3 to 5 pages and were used as PBNs. I’m finding a discrepancy between what amount of content is accepted prior to receiving a penalty (not much) and the amount of content required to remove the penalty (much more).

        Did the email submit form actually have a functioning account with mailchimp or other provider?

        Was your new layout a free popular wp template with a few minor edits to the footer bar etc, or originally created?

        Have you tried 301ing burned PBN sites to indexed PBN sites with success in transferring the link juice?

        Thanks

        • email submit wasn’t linked to anything from memory.

          New layout had been customized. But don’t think that’s super-important

          Not tried 301ing, but could certainly trial it

          And re the volume of content, I know everyone that gets a thin content says their content was good quality, but ours definitely was. But Gs definition of thin content isn’t to say that it’s crap quality, thin content means it’s there pretty much for SEO and monetization purposes. If all your articles are highly optimized, it’s pretty clear that you’ve got SEO in mind as opposed to users.

  4. Time to submit may not be a factor, it’s often speculated on but I’ve submitted reconsideration requests within a couple of hours of them being denied in some instances and the penalty has been revoked fine.

    What matters most is identifying the cause of the penalty and dealing with it, if you remove the cause then Google removes the penalty and every thing else you do is secondary to that. Social signals, new design, new content, they will all help with the recovery later, for the actual penalty removal it’s the cause that counts.

    For Yaro who is suffering from incomplete traffic recovery, two things:
    – even if it’s just one link, the link(s) that used to cause your rankings are now devalued so you need to get new links to replace them. This is often the most crucial part of recovery, some people build content and do outreach like NoHat seem to be doing above which is awesome, many others just build more artificial links :). To fully recover you need new link generation.
    – after the penalty is gone it takes time for Google to have trust in your site again. John Mueller comments here it takes time:
    https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/webmasters/MgN9csBf1vs/discussion
    I’m new here but looks like there’s lots of content on NoHat alone for building content, doing outreach and building relationships and so on, if you focus on link generation tactics based on actual relationships sites can do well again, hope this helps thanks.

    • Thanks Jeremy!
      Just to clarify: it was paid link posted on my site and which was pointing to other some website selling herbal product.
      And yes, i think you are right, just keep outreaching and promoting the website. Build better authority than before.

  5. Recently I got a penalty for one of my micro niche site from Google. And try to understand how to recover my site. I find this great article, and seen few tactics to recover penalized site. I will study this tips after that I submit for re-consideration. I was spend more time to publish that site so need recover that site.

    Thanks for awesome article.

  6. Hi there,

    I was hit with a thin content penalty back in december for one of my sites, I was wondering if you were looking for other sites to do case studies on? I have tried to improve mine so far but been rejected everytime.

  7. I am in a process of building my niche site …still not sure if I have took the right steps so far…

    what I am afraid of is that I am a non Native English speaker but an experienced writer and I know how to research and write original content that actually has value for readers.

    I have a Native English editor working for me, and I always get my content edited by him before I publish on my site.

    I wanted to know if I am writing about 1000-2000w content pieces about various topics related to my site and publish it on my site after getting it edited, will it be acceptable for Natives and also for Google as a good quality site? despite that I am non Native English speaker?

    please give me suggestions.

    Thanks

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