Updated I posted this before Aaron Wall had a chance to reply to my email, his response is now included at the end of the post.
Most people will be aware by now that John Chow no longer ranks for his own name (and many other terms) on Google. This is most likely due to a manual penalty by one of the Google web spam team as a result of his violation of the Google webmaster guidelines.
John left a comment the other day stating that you can’t submit a reconsideration request for a site that isn’t banned. This is incorrect.
Here is what Matt Cutts has to say about reinclusion requests:
What’s a reinclusion request and why would you want to do one?
If you’ve been experimenting with SEO, or you employ as SEO company that might be doing things outside Google’s guidelines, and your site has taken a precipitous drop recently, you may have a spam penalty. A reinclusion request asks Google to remove any potential spam penalty.
After JC left the comment I thought it would be interesting to see what advice some professional internet marketing consultants would offer to help John regain his rankings. If you have a theory please feel free to comment below.
Professional Advice for John Chow
The paid links in the right sidebar earned $1500 in June so removing them totally should be a last resort. John should try to remove any paid links that are unrelated to his site and see if that works first.
Next I would suggest JC writes a post asking anybody that links to him already to alter the anchor text they use to something neutral like johnchow.com or another phrase of their choosing. One of the main problems is that sheer number of bloggers that took part in his link exchange scheme using anchor text like “make money online”.
Finally he should submit a reinclusion request stating that he will never participate in link schemes designed to increase his site’s ranking or PageRank.
It’s hard to say whether that process would get John back in. I think his drastic flaunting of the “paid links” advisement by Google has made them very suspicious and possibly forced them to make an example out of him. My guess is that a Google engineer said “we can’t have this guy who’s getting tons of publicity by selling links without nofollow inspire others to do likewise, so let’s penalize him.”
And they did. I think John might have to literally go through all his past posts and place a “nofollow” on every one that’s paid, make a post stating he’s done that and he wants to stay current with Google’s guidelines, then issue a re-inclusion request through Webmaster Central in a very humble, groveling way.
It’s possible they’ll lift the penalty anyways and that they just wanted to make a quick example so others wouldn’t think it was OK, but if I were him, that’s what I’d do.
I believe Google just needed to Bitch-Slap the guy as an example because he was arrogantly and openly selling links. This helps to promote FUD (Fear uncertainty and doubt) about Google and their ability to punish people who buy and sell links.
I don’t believe the Link-Back promotion was the real problem. You might get into trouble if you link to “Bad Neighborhoods” since a malicious competitor trying to sabotage your rankings can not link-out from your website. However…. The posts where he reciprocates do not seem to link out to “Bad Neighborhoods”.
Here is a quote from Matt Cutts:
“Google does reserve the right to take manual action on spam” … “You can do absolutely anything you want on your site. But in the same way, I believe Google has the right to do whatever we think is best (in our index, algorithms, or scoring) to return relevant results.”
(Go ahead punk… I’ll Bitch-Slap yo’ lazy ass)
(IMO) John Chow might benefit if he were to stop selling links and then post something about it. He could point out exactly how he was selling links, where they were and demonstrate how they are now gone. Also… It wouldn’t hurt to humble himself for being so arrogant in the way he was selling links and admit to making poor decisions.
I think he is playing it smart by publicising it, so he gets more links and trusts out of it. If he is popular in real life (in the minds of many people) then eventually Google will have to rank him for at least his personal brand related terms (like his name), or risk eroding the value of their own brand.
Some great opinions here and certainly something for John to think about. John clearly wants to make money from his blog and isn’t too concerned about ranking well in Google so the key issue is, will johnchow.com make more money violating the Google guidelines or by grovelling to Google and asking for his rankings back.
What do you think? Should John grovel?