So your site has been hit with a Google manual penalty. Now what? You are probably trying to decide whether to fight the penalty or start fresh with a new website. In this article I will explain why I think one option is better than the other, but to cut to the chase, 9 times out of 10 you are going to want to start fresh. But understand that I really mean “start fresh.”
In an article that I recently published, I reviewed several of the Pros to starting a new website, even in the midst of dealing with a Google manual penalty. Some of the Pros I mentioned were getting rid of spammy link connections, being able to completely revive your site, and having the opportunity to refresh your brand. However, when creating a new website, you need to do it correctly. There are a lot of webmasters that think they can just copy all of their content and place it under a new URL, but this will leave you in the same position – with a penalty.
Why You Should Start Fresh
While starting fresh means that you will lose the time and money you put into your old site, it is the best decision from an SEO standpoint for several reasons. First, as Google experts have continuously pointed out, it is generally much harder to dig yourself out of a manual penalty than it is to start a new website entirely. Second, even if your site’s manual penalty ever gets lifted, there is an extremely high probability that it will never rank as high as it did before the penalty. These are the two main reasons we recommend creating a new website entirely.
The graph above shows the web traffic of a company that was hit by a manual penalty that was eventually lifted. As you can see, the site traffic never quite reached the level it was before the penalty. Because you cannot know how your site will recover, and therefore cannot be sure your recovery efforts and funds will be worth it, we recommend starting over. This way you know where all of your money is going and that the efforts will pay off in the long-term.
Unfortunately it is the case with many websites that receive manual penalties, that they are too far gone to be worth wasting more time, money and resources to salvage. This is especially true of sites that were working with black-hat SEO companies for an extended period of time. The longer black-hat SEO was used before the Google manual penalty, the harder it is to recover.
A quote from John Mueller at Google explains how some sites may be better off starting over:
“It’s never a decision to make lightly, but there can be situations where a website has built up so many problems, that it may appear easier or faster to start over with a fresh & new website, rather than to try to fix all of those problems individually. This isn’t an easy way to get past problems that have been built up over the years, it’s a lot of work to create a new website, even if you already know the business area.”
How To Start Fresh (Without Getting Penalized)
One question we get asked often is: Does Google know that I am moving my website and are they going to immediately penalize me because they know my business name? The answer to this question is that Google is an algorithm, not a person. Therefore, if you create a new website correctly, the algorithm will not be triggered and Google will not know you are moving your website (unless you notify them). Since they will not know you are moving, they will not immediately penalize you or your business. Google is not in the business of punishing webmasters, rather they are trying to make Google search better for users. If your new site is user-friendly and is using white-hat SEO, Google will welcome you gladly.
However, it is possible to start a new website incorrectly. If you redirect your old site to a new domain or copy all of your old site content over to a new URL (after deleting the old one), your penalty will follow you. This is because Google’s algorithm crawls and indexes all internet site content (which is now they are able to track repeat content). When you move an entire site that Google notices as having been penalized, they will put the same penalty on the new site.
In this video, John Mueller explains penalty redirection (start watching at 23:00).
If your company’s website has been hit by a manual penalty and you would like to consult with us about whether or not to start a new website and what steps to take after that decision, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.