It’s exactly a month since I joined Majestic SEO as their Brand Ambassador in the US, and not a day goes past when I’m not made aware of just how fantastic this company is.

While I was being courted for the role, I canvassed many industry people privately, asking them what they thought and why. The response was unanimous that what Majestic had built was very special, very unique and very niche.

When we demo it at events like SMX East last week and Pubcon in a few days, it’s great to show all the features and help some SEOs do some competitor analysis on the fly, but I’ve been on the look out for stories from the industry about how marketing managers have used Majestic to affect real change and glean results for their businesses.

Look no further than Nick Mueller from Zetta, who came to our stand in New York last week not to see a demo, not to ask a question, but to say thank you for helping him and his company get out of a deep black hat hole.

Here’s his story:

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This is the story of how I overcame a penalty from Google and got the “Manual spam action revoked” message into my company’s Webmaster Tools account last week after being hit by the infamous “notice of detected unnatural links” message back in March 2012. The super summarized version of the story is that I wasted a lot of time and sent a lot of pointless emails sent until I found Majestic SEO, identified the exact links causing my penalty, got many of them removed and got Google to accept my reinclusion request.

Here’s How I Tried to Cleanup My Backlink Profile Without Majestic

1. Downloaded the “Top 1,000 domains that have links to pages on your site” report from Webmaster Tools and went through it 1-by-bloody-1 to manually identify spammy links bought by our now-former SEO agency.

2. Hired contractors from oDesk to find email addresses for the webmasters of each of the sites with links to my site using the manually compiled list mentioned above.

3. Emailed each of these webmasters with a sharply worded message saying they had to take down the specific link immediately. Actually, I think I said. “Within 48 hours.” It was really just to get their attention, which it did, in the form of many vicious refusals and insults. My personal favorite is reproduced in the screenshot.

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First Reinclusion Request Fail and Discovery of Majestic’s Backlink Report

Even though I got a lot of replies from webmasters who seemed like professional insult-comics, some people did respond that they were taking the links down. I also got lucky that an article submission directory that had actually created the majority of these thin and duplicate content links responded saying they would take down a large chunk at once.

So, feeling confident, I submitted my first reinclusion request and send an email explaining the situation to Matt Cutts using every possible configuration of his address. This was in early June 2012, a little more than 2 months after getting the “notice of unnatural links” message in late March.

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Then the request came back 4 weeks later from the Webmaster Tools team and Matt himself: Reinclusion rejected!

My spirits were crushed, a lot like my site traffic, until I reached out to a friend who recommended Majestic SEO as being a better way to see my site’s full backlink profile, which I could use to take down more links.

Using Majestic’s Backlink Report to Find Penalty Causing Links, and An Email That Works To Get Them Down

Here’s what I did next, that got my site free of the penalty:

1. Used Majestic SEO to create a .csv of my site’s backlinks sorted by anchor text. The huge chunks of different exact match keyword terms I found enabled me to instantly identify the ~250 bad links that were causing my penalty.

2. Found the contact information for these webmasters using WHOIS searches. There’s a guy on oDesk who’s really good at this, let me know if you want his name.

Majestic Blog Screenshot 3

3. Sent this email to each of the webmasters. This nicer tone, along with adding their domain name to the subject line got excellent results. The moral of this part of the story is that if you’re actually a nice guy, prentending not to be offends both legal and natural practice.

Oh Yea, Penalty Revoked!

After sending messages to each of the spammy links I found using Majestic’s anchor text report, I noted in the spreadsheet which webmasters responded and which links were down. Then I submitted a spam report in Webmaster Tools for any link whose webmaster didn’t respond, and noted that in the spreadsheet. Finally, I added the spreadsheet to my Google Drive so it could be submitted as link in the reinclusion request.

Like clockwork, 4 weeks later my site’s penalty had been revoked. It’s been nothing but a new traffic and qualified leads party since then, and if it wasn’t for Majestic I’d still be stuck at the penalty pity party.

Nick Mueller is a Marketing Manager at Zetta.net. Follow him on Twitter @nickmueller

If you have a story like Nick’s, then let us know and we might publish it on the blog too!

See you in Vegas!!!

@MelCarson

Comments

  • Brad Dalton

    Google tells me i have no manual penalty yet has taken all my traffic and i now get 16 hits a day from them compared to 2,500.

    October 10, 2012 at 9:38 am
    • Dixon

      Brad – Almost all of your back links seem to be comments in WP blogs with the anchor text Brad Dalton. Google doesn’t need to penalize this, the algo just “assimilates” the information.>

      October 10, 2012 at 10:49 am
  • Jim

    Great article, but just one question – how did Nick deal with webmasters who demanded money in exchange for link removal?

    October 10, 2012 at 9:48 am
    • Nick

      > Hi Jim, for the webmasters that asked for payment, I actually just paid them. I never got a request that was more than $5 per link, which to me was worth it. The total I had to pay ended up being less than $50, and those webmasters acted very quickly once they were paid.

      October 10, 2012 at 6:49 pm
      • Henriet Jackson

        > Hi Jim, for the webmasters that asked for payment, I actually just paid them. I never got a request that was more than $5 per link, which to me was worth it. The total I had to pay ended up being less than $50, and those webmasters acted very quickly once they were paid.

        ————————-

        So i think this could be a new money making sheme for some bad guys, just creating lots of bad backlinks and then demanding money from webmasters to remove them. This could become a real problem…

        October 10, 2012 at 10:11 pm
      • Dixon

        Oh Henriet – I fear that was the inevitable fallout from Penguin. I think it’s unfair to say one site creates a whole market. I cannot see that ending until Google’s disavow command becomes live.

        October 11, 2012 at 7:04 am
  • Jamie

    It would also be good too see the style of reply and wording you used in your reply to the Google Webmaster Team.

    I have also read a few conflicting reports some say that using the GWT links will be a good enough method of removal compared to the Majestic backlink report.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:49 am
  • Trevor Nelson

    Great Article, its always good to see a success story.

    I’m currently in the middle of the removal process, and based my first wave of deletions off majestic seo data. For this specific site at least, there weren’t nearly as many indexed links as our profile actually had. Literally about 10-15% of our links showed up. After some time and work invested, our reconsideration request was denied.

    I know majestic seo is a great tool, but for penalties it is incredibly important (I think) to aggregate many data sources. I’ve heard majestic has a phenomenal crawler, but with the websites I have managed its indexed them sub par.

    October 10, 2012 at 1:29 pm
    • Dixon

      Try flipping to the Historic Index if you are missing lots of links. It may be that we have seen them, but because they are not from well linked pages themselves, they feel out of our Fresh index.

      I agree, though, that in particular for Penguin, aggregating GWT and Majetsic is great. However – what is really useful in Nicks article is that he says: I found “Majestic SEO, identified the exact links causing my penalty” and if Nick has the chance to comment, it would be great to add which ones he felt WERE the bad ones. Clearly, filtering down to the dross is a huge part of the puzzle.

      October 10, 2012 at 2:12 pm
  • Gert-Jan van den Heuvel

    I think now the Penguin update has been carried out, some good guys will fall down along with the bad guys. There has been a too great difference for people sticking to the rules like I tend to do, in comparison to some kid that just buys links for a company and charges them double what I charge, a month …

    These things will forever be on Google’s todo-list I guess. And I think there will always be people who did everything according the rules, but still suffer from this. But I’m sure that, like the article above shows, if you are honest, you will get back up out of the ban.

    And offcourse, Google is big, so just stick to their rules, if you want to play their game. Majestic SEO Free helps me a great deal with this…

    October 10, 2012 at 1:30 pm
  • Jousha

    HI, I do not think removing links will get your old rankings back it has not been proved mathematically. Another point is that google does not show which links are the problematic one’s also Majestic does not know all the links out there for your site. Only the ones it can index and scan.

    October 10, 2012 at 3:58 pm
    • Dixon

      That isn’t the experience of this case study. A “penalty revoked” email from the reinclusion process in GWT is about as “mathematically proven” as you can get. (OK – not mathematically proven, but suitable circumstantial evidence if you ask me). Majestic SEO and Google pretty much follow the same rules when it comes to scanning and indexing.

      October 10, 2012 at 4:11 pm
  • Enrico

    Hi Dixon,
    I spoke with you after your presentation at SMX east last week and I wanted to thank you for your recommendation to look into citation flow and trust flow to identify bad links.
    Actually when I first read the title of this blog post I was expecting a sort of guideline on how to use the advanced functionalities of MS rather than a simple “group by anchor text.

    I was wondering whether you have ever written a post on the topic or if you could give me/us some indications on how to use these 2 indicators to identify bad links (such as.. 90% of times a citation flow lower than 15% is a bad links and so on).

    Thanks again for this tool!

    Enrico

    October 10, 2012 at 4:30 pm
  • Patricia

    Hi,

    Can you give me the name of the guy on oDesk who’s really good at finding the contact information for these webmasters using WHOIS searches.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:43 pm
  • Aidan

    Let me get this straight – where the webmaster of the linking site did not respond, you filed a spam report against him???

    October 11, 2012 at 3:21 am
    • Heath Showman

      Hi,

      Thank you for your post. I feel I have come to a bit of dead end with my attempt to get the holy grail of ” Penalty Revoked ” in the Webmaster tools account.

      After receiving a penalty ( 4 months after my traffic plumetted ) I studied a lot of blog posts and have gone through the whole process of removing the links I considered to be causing an issue. I used the contact us pages & email address found in whois to contact all the webmasters.

      I found most of the webmasters I contacted to be totally great in removing them. 50% took one request, 35% took two, 15% took three requests.

      I am left with 10 URL’s that were suspicious, who refused to reply or acknowledge my request.

      So after creating URL’s for the excel reports documenting my detailed efforts & results I contacted Google wrote what I thought was a good request.

      My spirits sunk 3 days later when it was rejected, with what seems the standard rejection.

      I decided to take a two week break , went back to the report in Majestic and noticed my link profile had improved further so refreshed the links to the excel sheets documenting my efforts and re-wrote the request. This time stating the URL’s that refused to acknowledge my request and accepting that they might be part of the problem

      I have 10% of the backlinks I did when i started. 30% of the linking URL’s. My link profile had changed beyond all recognition so I was really confident of an inclusion.

      However, 2 days later received the same message as before. Site still goes against Google’s Guildlines.

      I am at a bit of a loss what to do next. I am considering offering these remaining 10 sites money to remove the link.

      My point in posting this comment is that contrary to most of the blogs I have read that just making the effort is not enough for Google. You have to remove all of them. Maybe they are having so many requests, they are upping the requirement for a re-inclusion.

      I would really appreciate any advice on what to do with these last 10 sites that will not reply to me.

      October 13, 2012 at 8:59 am
  • latest seo news

    its ok, but can you tell me how can i remove spamy links that i have get by mistake. if you have some idea please reply me on it

    Thank you

    October 11, 2012 at 7:39 am
  • Sha Menz

    While Majestic is certainly a great source of data for link removal campaigns, it certainly isn’t the only one. I would hate to see too many inexperienced people going away from this post believing all they have to do to get a penalty lifted is find links with specific anchor text and get them removed.

    This may have been the primary factor at play for this particular site penalty, but using it as a comprehensive example is a very big over-simplification. In the end, the work you need to do and the links you need to remove is entirely dependent upon the specific tactics used to manipulate the link graph in the first place.

    There are also free tools out there that will help find contact information via WhoIs records without the need to hire people.

    October 11, 2012 at 8:03 am
    • Steve

      Hi Sha,

      Thanks for the comment. Obviously, Majestic SEO isn’t the only tool that can be used to detect potentially high and low quality backlinks, though we do consider our metrics to be some of the best in the industry.

      I would thoroughly agree that this post isn’t a comprehensive guide to links removal – to me it came across as a summary of one mans efforts to undo the work of a possibly misguided SEO agency – which sets the tone for nature of the links and hence the removal process. Obviously, a technique appropriate to one set of circumstances may not be appropriate in another set of circumstances, and if you are suggesting that there is no “one size fits all” solution to resolving bad link profiles then I for one would agree with you.

      I think there are much wider issues discussed in this post than just removing bad links using Majestic, and I felt there were a number of good takeaways – Nick sharing his experience that a friendly approach appears to be far more productive than one that can seen as aggressive is surely something to be encouraged?

      October 11, 2012 at 10:43 pm
  • Stephen L. Nelson

    I only discovered the MajesticSEO tools (and began using the approach described in this post) on or about Sept 26-ish… I did not get the result I’d hoped for with my sites (which also get hit with the EMD thingy) when the Penguin penalty refreshed a few days ago.

    I’m wondering therefore how long you think it takes for the effects to be felt. E.g., did I maybe need to start a month earlier? Any comment?

    BTW, and sort of related, I’m very struck by how long Google’s WMT takes to show removal of links. I had multiple article directories with, say, 100 links that only “go away” in little decrements slowly. Ugh.

    October 13, 2012 at 2:11 pm
    • Dixon

      Hi Stephen,

      This is only one person’t story. Clearly they were able to find the offending links – but most people are like you and not having so much success. I frankly do not think most people WILL have success, because Google is in no mood to show mercy. Even when sites do get the “penalty revoked” letter, usually the traffic does not return… or the rankings… because the very links that have been removed are the very ones that were giving the site good rankings.

      I will wrote a post on spidering issues to explain the technical challenges every spider has checking links from old pages, as this may be useful. Will try to publish this next week.

      October 13, 2012 at 2:21 pm
  • Misho

    Does google rank domain CF&TF or url, orf any keyword?

    October 14, 2012 at 2:29 am
    • Dixon

      No. They are not licensed to use Majestic’s Flow Metrics in their algorithm. Do you think they should? :)

      Flow Metrics represent our own analysis of the URLs – independent of Google.

      October 14, 2012 at 4:37 pm
  • Faheem Siddiqui

    It would also be good too see the style of reply and wording you used in your reply to the Google Webmaster Team.

    October 17, 2012 at 7:35 am
  • zxcxz.pixnet.net

    Greetings! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering which blog platform
    are you using for this website? I’m getting tired of WordPress because I’ve had issues with hackers
    and I’m looking at options for another platform. I would be great if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

    October 18, 2012 at 6:36 am
  • Cathie

    I used Majestic Seo for a site that was filtered, not penalized by Google. It went from page one to page one thousand or more after Penguin. One blog comment on their site gave the site thousands of low quality links, since they put a repeat of all the comments on their sidebar. And so the one comment was reproduced on every single page of their blog, and it made literally thousands of links. Having too many links with one keyword sunk the site. I wrote the owner of the site but he ignored me. Then I called him and talked to him for awhile. He was nice and he took the link down. But it is taking awhile for Google and Majestic to see that the link is down. Under the “Lost” tab in Majestic I watch the deletions. Now the site is on the 2nd page for some of their keywords, and on the 11th page for their main one, the one they got filtered for.

    October 20, 2012 at 2:12 pm
  • Rajesh Kumar

    You are lucky that by using this method you get the positive result. Its’ was nice to read this article. But in our case we had tried many times to remove the bad links for our site, but all in vain. So in the end we are trying Google’s disavow tool. Now Let’s see what comes out of this.

    October 22, 2012 at 11:51 am
  • Scott Young

    i Do not have time to Remove All links :)

    Should i Redirect (301) my whole business Site on new Domain – is this a Right way to Remove penalty From Google?

    November 8, 2012 at 8:33 am
  • Marcus O.

    Since trying to get a penalty removed seems like it is a process that could take a couple of months, if you include the time it takes to hear back from them. What should be done with the site in question while you wait and are working on cleaning up the link profile? Should new content still be added? Should new backlinks be built?

    November 19, 2012 at 1:16 am
    • Dixon Jones

      I do not think link building makes sense while penalized. Anyone returning from a link penalty seems to have such a traffic dirge that the problems may remain well beyond the penalty.

      November 19, 2012 at 11:26 am
      • Marcus O.

        Thanks for the fast reply Dixon, what about adding new content, is that worth the time and effort? Or do you think it might be a better idea to create a new site to add content to while one works on getting the penalty removed?

        November 20, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Comments are closed.