• Wil Reynolds

    Oh one more, watch which clients you link to, that’s all I am sayin.

  • Josh Ziering

    Glad to hear you guys are back. I’ll keep an eye on the outgoing client link profiles. I think the best answer to “negative SEO” is to get clients out of that “near the edge” state as quickly as possible. I might be pitching increased month 1 and 2 budgets in the future to account for this on new(er) sites.

  • RSGmike

    Wow. Wow. Wow. Emotional, thoughtful and most of all a great lesson.

  • Old Welsh Guy

    And as importantly, watch which clients you take on, because no matter HOW many other companies they have had hacking together backlinks fro them, when they tank it will be the current SEO guys who take the blame.

    Life would be so much easier if Google had a system that worked. all those PHD’s and they still haven’t worked out that natural links don’t count for jack, your G.slap proves it.

    buold good content that people will link to…. but if somone pours enough crap link at ya, your going down.

  • Hobo

    I could not believe all that nonsense people where telling you about your title tag….

    Addition regarding your post – people should watch how fast they build links, especially to a new site (year old per say), and mix that anchor text up….

  • Ian

    Wil, good learnings. And I have to say, good job maintaining a sense of humor through it all. I know it was only 12 hours, but I also know that can be a lifetime when it’s your own company.

  • Chris M

    I’ve noticed big changes in outbound links and the relevancy thereof. I recently ran some tests on exactly that topic and see rankings decrease simply because the site being linked to didn’t have highly relevant content to the site holding the link. I dug deeper, looked at their link profile and all the other things, but there were no bad signs.

    Lots of juggling going on in the SERPs at the moment, glad you’re back, enjoy that beer Wil!

  • Ian Scott

    Hey Wil – glad to see that your site came back. One little thing – I wouldn’t say your site was “banned” as it was on the bottom of Page 3 – so in that sense, it was not “deindexed.”

    But at the same time, dropping like that is pretty scary and Google has been doing some weird things – I’ve seen some pretty strange stuff going on myself.

    1. Definitely some penalties for large numbers of new links detected – in one case, they weren’t even backlinks, but some kind of hosting server error where Ipaddress/somedirectory/subdirectory AND http://servername .com/somedirectory/subdirectory got picked up by Google, exponentially increasing the number of so called “back links” with a huge drop in the SERP’s.

    2. Weird definition of “quality.” I’ve seen very thin sites get promoted to Page 1 for competitive search terms while other sites that do have quality content get demoted.

    Just weird.

    Anyhow, Congrats on your getting your rank back.

  • seoisamyth

    Basically you state your site is ranked again because you have friends who know the right people at Google? Wow.

    You do mention that you feel sorry for people who don’t have the connections you do and then suggest that they get some real quick.

    So to sum up, SERPs are directly related to the degree of separation between a site’s owner and Matt Cutts who can make manual adjustments for you or members of the algo team.

    Thanks for the great advice. I’ll make sure I attend more parties and stop wasting time on all that other crap you’ve been selling your customers.

  • Stephen Hamilton

    So what actually caused this to happen to you Wil? Have you been able to work out why?

    Glad to hear it seems to be working out for you – may even be something you look back upon as a positive in 12 months time!

  • Shawn Collins

    Sorry to hear about the hassles. I am spooked by your comment about linking to clients, though, since I link to all sponsors and speakers for Affiliate Summit – dating back nearly a decade.

  • Cathie

    I’ve been terrified all month about Google’s “over optimization penalty”. So what is a quality link as you say. Is the one I’m making right here quality or spam? Lol.

  • fthead9

    What a day, thanks for the recap. Glad to see you’re back at #1. I’m sure it will take awhile to digest it all but do you really think the 404s were the main cause?

    I honestly think April 2012 may go down as the turning point for Google’s web dominance. Between the domain parking mistake, questionable hype of over-optimization, blog network attacks even though they still allow ridiculous exact match real estate footer links flow (sorry minor belly ache), and just a general breakdown I think it may be over for their indestructible image.

    Forcing Google+ on everyone, linking accounts and sending people into endless loops, etc. it just smacks of a crumbling kingdom.

    Jumping off soapbox, again thanks for the openness. Looking forward to more insights as you digest everything that happened.

  • Ian Scott


    where in the world did Wil ever imply getting his rank back was due to having friends at Google? Are you projecting or something?

  • cmcneil

    Wil glad that things worked out. Most websites that are hit with negative seo or DoL (Denial of Listing)attacks will not be so lucky because they do not have the same influence that you are fortunate enough to have (well earned by the way).

    When looking at natural link accumulation rates that occur within any given vertical I am sure they (Google) have already establish a range of a “normal” or acceptable rate of accumulation and they could simply ignoring those links that occur outside of that range. Not a perfect fix, but it would be a start.

    There also needs to be greater merit given to backlinks coming from websites that have verifiable and authoritative author and/or rel=me tags. These could be spidered and indexed and would be easier to tell when it is abused.

    My point is that there is going to be a scourge upon the virtual landscape of pandemic proportions if alternate methods of looking at link profiles are not made soon.

  • Deb Dulal Dey

    Funny things are happening all around. Bad sites are ranking well, whereas good guys are shot down. Just search with the term – “SEO”, a gang of total shit websites appear .. well more search with “content writing” – horrible sites site seem to rule the SERP. OMG

  • Christopher West

    Wowee… Lots is happening these days, and it’s time for everyone to wake up and take a hard look at their sites.

  • Mike Du Toit

    Heard about this yesterday and saw the emails some site owners were getting from Google, I’m glad you guys made it back, but I think your transparency with this, gave people good insight into managing a crisis like this, and it most certainly puts us all in a better position – with clients and ourselves.

  • James Norquay

    Getting very sick of these recent updates, so many quality sites are getting hit hard, at times even totally de-indexed and it is happening on a huge scale for things which are out of their control. Google needs to wake up to it, I think it is a case of people in the Search Quality team just hitting any thing and every thing. Competitors can do any thing to take you down with negative SEO. Even if you have 1000′s of high quality links it seems to do nothing. Time for Google to wake up!

  • Justin M.

    So still no idea wtf actually happened? Or is there a follow up to come?

  • Kieran Flanagan

    Was this not part of the mistake that Matt Cutts admitted to on Google+ where they mixed up real sites with parked domains and everything came back real quick for those sites that were incorrectly hit. If that’s true, then really it has nothing to do with link profiles etc etc, it was just Google messing up.

  • WhatIf?

    What if…..

    Google wants everyone that they send un-natural link notices to, to out their SEO-company (amongst other things they want you out).

    I know that some people do a search for, for example, SEO company and choose one at random to blame when they turn themselves in (or they just snitch on a company they actually paid to do SEO which turned out to be largely based spam links, this is very common).

    Why does Google want people to out companies or link sources if they are not going to take action on the offenders? What if your company was used as scape goats in several reconsideration requests? Or if you have old clients that wanted aggressive SEO done (obv. speculation on my part) and got nuked and pointed fingers at you?

    Some manual reviewer might not know that you and your company has friends and connections and fired away? And that it had to be corrected once shit hit the fan?

    Very much tin-foil hattish….but what if?

  • Matt

    This is some scary stuff! I think I would have spent the entire day papping myself and panicking, not sure what to do!

    I have some respect for the way you handled it, it must not have been easy!

    I think it just goes to show that no matter how big or good your website may be, you can still leave some negative impressions on Google’s algo.

    Link building the correct way is never easy and looks like it is about to get a damn site harder!

    Good luck guys…

  • Michael

    I have seen your Distilled presentations and I like them, I really do your tone and enunciation is great! So why oh why have you taken on the the persona of some low budget rapper? (yo?,dawg?) What has got into you?

  • Nathaniel


    This is my first time on your site so sorry if I have missed something, but why was you removed by google? You say google messed up when removing your site, but what did they mess up on?

    Are you saying that you guys did some bad link building and managed to get rankings back so fast just because you know people at google or something?

  • Nathaniel

    Forgot to add this at the end of my first reply.

    Was your loss in rankings due to the parked domain’s bug that google had?

  • Tom

    Will, this sounds like a total nightmare; glad for the weekend and a few beers I bet!

    Glad to see it’s been sorted and thanks for sharing your story.

    Negative SEO is really worrying at the moment. Let’s hope G get things sorted, quickly…

  • Wil Reynolds

    No I don’t think it was that at all. I think it was something to do with the 301 from to

  • Wil Reynolds

    Lol, I write what I feel buddy!

  • Chris M

    This blog is in need of “reply to” in the comments #justsaying :)

  • Wil Reynolds

    @matt Very scary yesterday. The big takeaway is this…301 redirects got handled differently and a 301 that has been in place for almost 3 years became toxic, I don’t know how or why, but we felt the brunt of it. I feel like it was just the perfect storm that is all. This is also what happens when algo updates happen very frequently on top of each other and they aren’t spaced out perfect storm then happens.

  • Wil Reynolds

    @whatif you are asking the million dollar question. But remember if the issue isn’t completely egregious reporting web sites only results in google aggregating the data and figuring a way to figure out how to fix it algorithmically, that’s just my take though.

  • Wil Reynolds

    Fthead9 I definitely do not think the 404s were the cause buddy. The 301 seemed to be the only thing I changed and removing one link to a client.

  • Wil Reynolds

    @shawn hey dude, I think this is a fluke, you should be good.

  • William Cross

    Wow. I was out of the loop yesterday and just saw all this late last night. Sucks to be on the short end of the stick when a glitch happens in algo tweaks Wil, sorry to hear you guys got slammed for a bit.

  • Purple Trout

    If SEO firms are worried about the Google over-optimization update (and other updates), then they probably already know they are using black hat techniques. Perhaps, the ethical firms can pick up some new business by cleaning up a mess. Hate the bad firms that give us all a bad reputation. Glad to hear you were able to recover. It gives us all food for thought!

  • Mike Curtis

    Hi Wil,

    Cheers for posting all of this – its nice to have some definitive, quantifiable information amongst all the vague hysterics that’s surrounding this update at the moment, and its good to hear you guys are back where you should be!

    One thing you didn’t mention was that, at least according to Moz, you have a lot of anchor text backlinks with phrases like ‘SEO Company’ and ‘Search Engine Optimization company’ from directories like Have you considered whether these are a factor in your recent penalty?

  • andrea “gareth jax” scarpetta

    So 301 redirects are now considered a “shady” tactic?
    I wonder what will happens when large corporations decide that’s it’s time for some mega-merger.

  • Dwight Zahringer

    Mad and crazy. We have had a few clients experience the same type of issue that you ran in to. One was a very large site that ranked competitively in #1 #2 for some very strong broad printing terms. “Poof” – they were gone last week and over the past 7 days have bounced up to 1, back to 37, up to 2, back to 13 – no rhyme or reason. On-page issues, yes, overall good BL’s ongoing from the past 4 years. Strong traffic patterns over the years. Now as of the past 3 days, settled at #1, #2 rankings as before. There was a major burp in G’s system – brand name = no rankings for days. Like you, I’m amazed, offended and getting tired of the game – IMO there is big efforts to up the CPC for 2nd quarter earnings as a motivator. More ad revenue = more shareholder happiness. G knows organic will always be played with, even when I’m tired and quit there will be someone there to take my place and game on (like I’d quit anyways, jive talking). Look at our industry of the last decade – I’m reminded, just a little, of the issues with Florida. Was on top of mind this week…. Ah the industry we chose to have fun in….

  • Jeff Loquist

    Man, glad you made it back so quickly.

    Been there, done this except it took the entire length of our peak season to get repaired and it did cause us to fix a LOT of hierarchical issues we were ignoring (though they weren’t actual penalty-issues) and when it was all said and done got a nice little letter from Google saying “Oops, our mistake.”

    Of course, there was no oops check to cover the huge amount of revenue we lost and added adWords cost.

    But, lessons learned…or something (what was the lesson there? Oh, yeah…Google screws up too).

  • Paul Gailey

    Why sacrifice all non toxic backlinks of thinkseer by killing the 301 at the *same time* of that other thing you did?

  • Dave Foreman

    Had two sites penalized this month. They are not comming back. I am not saying the sites were squeeky clean but like Wil they have great signals that they are the real deal and not spam. Of course the sites that replaced them at position number one for top keywords are total spam/ lead gen sites that likely have crazy high bounce rates.

    Why doesn’t Google just base their algo on bounce rates and time on site. Why would you ever ban a site that had good user metrics? The fact is that Google is run by arrogance and pride comes before the fall.

  • Dan

    Nice post Wil. It really made me laugh when you said you were afraid to link back to the bigger sites like CNBC,, and the others because you are afraid for the reciprocal link.

    Whether you were being serious or only semi-serious. It’s a sad state when you can’t return some website love because it would be a “penalty” in big G’s eyes.

    Is this the opportunity Bing has been waiting for? (Yikes)

  • Rick Simmons


    Thanks, you continue to be my hero and real fast thanks for helping to put Philly on the map for Internet Marketing.

  • Dave Hermansen

    It was interesting to watch this play out.. I followed it on your G+ page. I thought it was very cool that you were completely transparent about it. Most SEO firms won’t ever admit that they don’t understand why something is happening. Well played man!

  • Chris

    nested comments FTW!!!

  • Devon Artis

    Hey Wil, interesting post looking actually reading this is kind of scary.

    You know doing everything right and getting punished for what … nothing!!!

    Well I will follow your advice and start building as many quality links as I can.

    Glad that you guys are back.

  • fthead9

    @Wil thanks for the clarification. Crazy a 301 could cause such a drop but glad you found the root issue to fix. “Perfect storm” sounds like a good name for a bad new algo update.

  • LC

    Hey Wil,

    Glad to see you back at the top of SERP where you belong.

    Do you know of any other websites that slipped dramatically from having a 301 redirect?

  • Kyle

    Hey Wil,

    Glad to hear you guys are back from that nightmare. I’ve been following your seminar pieces for the last two years now and have practically sworn by your “content, content, content!” pieces. The funny thing is regardless of how well thought out some link campaign is, if someone can come in and hijack it with nonsensical links, spam and whatever shady tactics they have up their sleeve, this could start some giant misdirection of what future clients perceive SEO is…and that’s not cool at all. You’d figure that quality content that’s got staying power, as you’ve summarized before, and establishing honest relationships with prospects that serve the interests of everyone involved would be enough.

    I still believe and hope that content will serve as a beacon for domain authority, because I can’t really see websites that have gibberish content and links pointed to non-related sites outranking others who do the exact opposite.

    Great post as always.

  • Arvind K.

    nice ideas shared with great post

  • steven

    Remember the good old days? Avoiding issues like keyword stuffing or link farms. There is so much fear of occurring or impending algo changes going on right now. And even those of us, especially SEER, who have tried hard to stay above board are feeling the heat. At least we are all in the same boat.

  • Andrew

    It doesn’t surprise me that social doesn’t save you. The value of social media nowadays is inflated in my opinion. Like all things, it can be faked, and it’s hard for Google to put a value on the contacts you have in a meaningful way.

  • Roshan

    makes Google algorithm QC essential. If years of branding and genuine business can be lost overnight due to some third party experiments or spammers, it raises question if trusting Google so much is even worth it. Us being in technical circles could have an explanation – negative SEO or so on. But what about average users minding their own business?

  • Marcos

    Wil, thank you for your transparency. Google Search is getting sloppy, I´m noticing it harder than it´s been in a long time to get quality results returned when I search for something. I agree with potpiegirl in that it´s almost as though Google want you to click on thier ads (despite what Matt Cutts is constantly saying about that not being the case).

    What happaned to Seer is very scary for both users and businesses. If good results dissappear people are likely to end up unscrupulous sites.

    It´s almost like Google isn´t testing their algo changes enough anymore, well with so many being made constantly it´s no surprise.

  • Chris H

    I think it is great that you were very open about what happened to you guys. SEO firms usually don’t like to let people know that they incurred a penalty, because if they incurred one, what’s to say that their client won’t.

    Being penalized is really scary, and is something that you hopefully won’t have to experience again. Good job on being transparent.

  • fashion jewelry

    Thanks share, anybody have ideas for link bulinding Frequency, 1000 backlinks at each week will case banned by Google?

  • geri

    Too many people are being naive, it seems to me. While all the internet “experts” weigh in on why the latest links don’t add up, rich lobbyists and legislators are trying to pass laws to control and spy on what we publish on the Internet. The current freedom on the internet is more fragile than the links everyone seems so absorbed in analyzing. It’s time to get out of the tiny logic of links and SEO wizardry and wake up to the reality of control corporations want to take. With the wrong laws in place, any site can be “necessarily” wiped out for any reason to sell BIG Business stuff. Time to focus on protecting Internet rights.

  • James

    Thanks for sharing this learning experience. My site is going on well over a year penalty. Still no clue why and still penalized after much tweaking. You are correct about all the stupid suggestions people make. Unfortunately, i don’t have friends in high places so probably a permanent situation for me. Anyhow, thanks for sharing.

  • Financial Samurai

    I have some friends who work at Google with Matt Cutts, and they tell me that they basically disapprove of all SEO companies and methods beyond the basic value proposition, and making sure content makes sense and is relevant.

    If this is the case, should SEO companies think about changing their own value proposition?

    Thanks, Sam

  • Gab Goldenberg

    had a great laugh at the racist algo comment :D

  • Mark

    Great post Wil and some good advice.

    It is absolutely crazy what is going on at the moment. As an SEO Agency virtually all of our clients haven’t been affected by what Google is doing but I have one site that is bouncing all over the place. The actual SERPs that have replaced quality websites are of very poor quality and even seen one of those spammy sites coming up which only runs “Sponsored Ads” off the back of a parked domain. When will the madness end!!!

  • adam

    Hi Wil,

    Great post and appreciate the transparency. Quick question for you:

    “The big takeaway is this…301 redirects got handled differently and a 301 that has been in place for almost 3 years became toxic”

    Is there a right and wrong way of doing 301′s then?

  • Lachezar Georgiev

    Great post Wil. Good to see some people with real passion and balls to say everything. It`s a little scary to know you are doing your best to be on the right side and still be punished for following the rules. I really enjoyed reading it.

  • ColdTech Kerry

    Cheers Wil – I’ll grab that beer with you :) Ceri

  • Victor

    Lets don’t use Google. All of us. Ignore it. :-)

  • Jody Raines

    Hey Wil,

    I read your post on Sunday and read it again just now. You are one of the few who I truly respect when they use the word “SEO”, so the fact that this happened to SEER means no one is impervious.

    I’m glad you were able to get back up to speed, but it’s a very important cautionary tale for sure.

    We must have some measure of faith in the search engine gods that they have a rationale for the changes. Thankfully you discovered the causal factors.


  • Lalit Kumar VaaYaa Edutech

    The essence of the article could have been summed up precisely in two lines but it was over stretched …so you are still feeding to google which is as usual hungry for rubbish and un-precise content as ever.

  • Aaron

    Wowzers…..lots of lessons in this rant! Thanks for sharing, and I’m happy to hear you’re no longer banned.

  • Guillermo Ortiz

    Only Wil could take such a crazy situation and make a funny and insightful post about the experience.

  • Alex Zagoumenov

    Wil, thx for sharing great insights and passion!

  • Alisha

    @Will, if the 301 redirect was 3 years old, then how did you discover that it was the cause of your penalty?

  • Merlijn

    What a great post. And indeed staying remarkably funny on this. I learned a lot from this post. But still a bit in the dark on the exact cause for the situation you got in.

  • Qasim

    Now I know im off topic here regarding Wil’s lil downtime but I can say without any hesitation that several of my clients with quite legitimate websites and businesses in high CPC spaces have been hit.

    And as a result have had to significantly increase their spend on Adwords to achieve expected sales.

    But guess what? Several dozen OTHER competitors had also been hit, resulting in massive (40%+) increase in CPC for big keyword themes > i.e. big boost in revenue for Google.

    Just saying…

  • Alex

    Hey Wil,

    Nice post. Still unclear – was it a temporary Google bug, DNS issue or Panda’s echo? How your website is filling after the recent Penduin update?

  • Andrew Gloyns

    It would be great to get more information on how/why this happened?

    Why do/did Google have issues with (If this was the sole reason why the penalty was imposed?)

    Was it because…

    - linked to through joanne’s Author link which 301′d back to Now fixed (

    - had/have a link from a malware infected site (was it malware infected before?)

    or something else?

    Wil, you mentioned to be careful who you link out to. I appreciate you can’t out the site you linked to, but surely linking out to a site can’t/shouldn’t result in a penalty.

  • Thomas

    Bill Clinton Foundation? Really? Let me guess, this ‘foundation’ advocates more secretive ways to grope and fondle and victimize women.

  • Brian Hughes

    Holy crap! This happened to my website on April 17th and I went ape shit! I remember panicking and having this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. It was right after Google’s big algo update like you said. Thank God it only lasted about 12 hours for me as well. I found someone else it happened to that night as well from checking SEOmoz’s question forum. But you are right about building a solid network of influencers that can help in situations like this. Growing up my Nunni (grandmother) used to always say, “it’s not what you know but it’s who you know”.

    So I wonder how many others this happened to and why the hell Google did it? We’ll find that out just as soon as we get a straight answer from Clinton.

  • Dimitri

    Thanks for sharing

  • Bruce

    I have a new website , well 6 months old. How many backlinks
    per day would be safe to build? I don’t want to get DE-indexed by Google. We
    only have around 70 backlinks at the moment

  • Spook SEO

    Hi Wil,

    A lot of people have experienced the same way. This is a lesson that we should really take seriously. Google is our master and we are his slaves. Whatever he says, it’s the rule because we’re living in his world. In connection with the algorithm updates, only those who do good SEO will survive the arena. That’s for sure.