How John Chow can get his Google ranking back

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  • July 8, 2007

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 reinclusion 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

Patrick Altoft,, 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 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.

Rand Fishkin, SEOmoz,
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.

Dave Zuls, Hawaii Online Advertising, 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”.

Check them out for yourself.

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.

Aaron Wall, SEO Book,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 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?

Patrick Altoft

About Patrick Altoft

Patrick is the Director of Strategy at Branded3 and has spent the last 11 years working on the SEO strategies of some of the UK's largest brands. Patrick’s SEO knowledge and experience is highly regarded by many, and he’s regularly invited to speak at the world’s biggest search conferences and events.

  • Douglas Karr

    I don’t believe so. There is such a HUGE gray area between paid links and unpaid links.

    Examples: If I’m a franchisee and I have a blog where I continuously display links back to my product… is that a ‘paid link’?

    If Mike Harrington gets taken out to lunch by some entrepreneurs and then he posts about their product, is that a ‘paid link’?

    If Scoble is invited, all expense paid, to a conference and he writes about it, is that a ‘paid link’?

    If Fred (A VC) writes a post about a business he’s invested in, is that a paid link?

    In the examples above, each of the persons benefit directly from mentioning it on their site. Should they all use nofollow on those links? I think not.

    The fact that John Chow doesn’t even rank for John Chow in Google is just plain stupid. Search rankings aren’t between the blogger and the Search Engine, they are for the person searching.

    I don’t care if John has a gazillion sites that point to him and state “Make Money Online”, the fact is that John is one of the best site in the world to find advise on making money online!

    So… if Google returns someone else for ‘Make Money Online’ or for ‘John Chow’, they aren’t hurting John Chow – they’re actually hurting the readers who would benefit from his site. That’s bad business.

  • Jeremy Steele

    I still think his rankings dropped because he got way too many links in just a few months.

  • Robert Irizarry

    I’ve read John Chow stating that he doesn’t depend on Google traffic which makes me wonder how he’ll respond. However, how sustainable can a blog remain that includes ignoring Google as part of its strategy? Is it really feasible long term considering Google’s impact on so much of the web?

  • Hawaii SEO

    In my opinion… It’s still too early to decide.

    First… He should measure the traffic before and after the banishment.

    I used to navigate to his website by searching for his name but now I use a bookmark. He receives the exact same traffic from people like me, the only thing that changed was the method of navigation.

    After the impact on visits and revenue has been done he should do some sort of Risk/Reward evaluation to help decide if he should sell even more links or grovel.

  • Patrick Altoft

    One other point to note is that if his site has a manual penalty then the text links he sells won’t be passing any weight.

    How long would you pay to have a text link on a site that didn’t pass PR?

  • Matthew

    I think he should just take a wait and see like he is doing. He obviously doesnt need google to make 10,000$ per month so why stop selling links like some advised?

    Miss out on 100$s of dollars per month… or get ranked on google. I know where what I would vote

  • Gavin

    I have to agree with Douglas that its stupid, on Google’s part, not to rank John for his own name.

    It’s good that John doesn’t need to worry about his ranking as he is getting hit heavy with traffic anyway. This latest saga with Google is giving him even more exposure so he’s probably laughing it off.

    Was good to see him do a piece on you Patrick. 😉

  • Mick

    I don’t think John should do anything, period.

    He has built himself a reputation over the past year and that should carry him through this “penalised” period and beyond.

    The longer he continues as he is with his blog and the longer Google omit him from their results the more and more incompetent they look, Google are not the be all and end all of the internet.

    Of course Google traffic is wondeful, no doubting it, I just feel Google sometimes just can’t see the world outside for looking at it.

    Situations like not ranking for the phrase John Chow (even in the first few pages at least) is like sitting in the daek wearing sunglasses.

    Maybe John should tell Google to kiss his ass!!! 😉

  • Jeremy Steele

    Why only get a paid link for PR? That is exactly why google is making them worth less, far too many webmasters are buying only for PR. Just imagine how much click through traffic you could get from a site like John Chow for a nice paid link spot.

  • Satish

    Stay strong John – you got this… I think.

  • Patrick Altoft

    Jeremy, some sites will get lots of clicks but a lot of the links he sells are not related to his site so won’t get any traffic from it.

    For a site like blogstorm I would be quite happy with a nofollow link from Johns site because its traffic rather than PR that I would be looking for if I was to start buying links.

  • Alex Ion

    Jeremy, Patrick is right.

    If John is not selling for PR why not have the nofollow up there ? It’s easy!

    I don’t think John’s traffic decreased. Maybe it really increased with so many bloggers writing about him. Sweet!

  • ogletree

    I have had the spam team take a personal interest in my sites after publicly talking about them. It took 3 years to get them back in. I did a re inclusion request. I told them exactly what I had done and fixed my site. Google can do whatever they want to do. The spam team can have a bad day and take it out on you if they feel like it. I had an interview with the Google spam team once and they made a big deal about how spam made them actually sick. They are on some crusade. Remember the top guys on the spam team have more money than they know what to do with. It is almost like a religion.

  • krunal

    Well, Really great Post Smile i appreciate your thoughts on sharing the same.
    My client’s real estate website was hurted same way, but only thing was i purchased link from some unthemed websites but when i removed those links, the site was back in SERPs on 24th Day.

  • miro

    Great info guide

  • Alfa

    I believe his traffic is still up today. But what if the day comes when the Google penalty issue dies down and his site is still not showing for the keywords he used to rank well with?

  • Charles Lau

    With his “army of bloggers” writing about him today, I don’t think he will need Google to talk about him temporarily.

    But since Google is not indexing him, he will not receive traffic from the newcomers… For example, I wouldn’t have known of this guy’s existence if I had not keyed in “make money online” in Google in June 2007. He made me wonder why a blog can be ranked top for such a good keyword. And that I started to “dissect” his contents to learn more about him.

    If Google is going to ban him forever, his most obvious traffic comes from every little blogs out there talking about him and his infamous Google Ban… And when the news died down, there goes the trend to link him often… And hence, the next obvious strategy for John is to carry on with his blog activities of doing “make money batches”, contests to get freebies from him, and his always-new innovative ideas to get more websites to link him.

    And because Google is not indexing him, the newcomers might get confused about the reason why so many blogs are talking about him and they couldn’t find his own name indexed for having such a high-pageranking blog… So he has to continue talking about his no-need-for-google ramblings to keep everybody talking about it on and on…

    Probably, he will become a role model of having a high traffic website without the help of Google… Well, initially he did leverage on Google’s help before when I saw one of his posts talking about his visits dropped when there was a little hiccup of his website not indexed properly only because of technical issues.

    This is going to be a little niche about him to talk about! Smile

  • Gidseo

    I’m sure JC is probably doing good business elsewhere on the web under another title…

  • Matt Jones

    “John Chow might benefit if he were to stop selling links and then post something about it”

    Lets just think about that for a second. Do you really think its worth it financially for him to stop selling sponsored links? What would be the point of getting his rank back if he couldn’t make money from selling links?

  • Chris Tayling

    Not surprising to see the new Anti-Google Aaron Wall’s comment, but he’s got a point – at least he should rank for his name, and anything that doesn’t go against Google’s guidelines.

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  • Uk Wholesale

    It is quite easy for JC to get his rankings back but he needs all of our help.

    Everyone who reads this follow these steps:-
    1) Navigate to a google search engine.
    2) Do a search for John Chow
    3) Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on dissatisfied.
    4) Write a small description saying you are unhappy with the results. You have searching for a blog by its name. The blog you want is nowhere to be found, infact most of the results returned are SPAM – useless. You had to use yahoo or live search to find the site you wanted and u knew what it was called. How are we expected to reply on google if it is filtering relevent results and returning spam, etc. I will not be using google anymore as I nolonger trust the results it is returning. I do trust, I have been a regular reader and an avid fan. I trust
    5) Enter in the URL you were looking for field.
    6) Press submit.

    Thats it. Even google cannot fight people power. If they get a few thousand complaints like this from people who say they wont use google anymore because they cant trust them what are they going to do? Thats right JC 1 – google 0.

  • Chetan

    Rankings or no rankings in google, John is always happy with the traffic he is already having.
    So no much effect is there on him with the google ranking changes for his blog.

  • Grant

    Not sure how John Chow is affected by this, I should not think that long term getting kicked out is a good thing but the short term benefits of all this exposure are sure to be a bonus.

    However I think that John Cow is now getting the most benefits from this. not

    as he his now #1 for the keyword John Chow. pretty sneaky.

  • Ricky

    I recently had some projects for SEO for some locksmith sites based in UK. As all the sites were of same theme I started working on the first two sites. I got good results from google as well as visitors also raised during that time. Then I carried out the same Link building and SEO process for other locksmith sites. All those sites got good results except one. I don’t know why but it didn’t have any listing on Google not even for its domain search. Then I read this blog and realized that the site might be banned by google. Sometimes we have to be careful about the seo campaigns. It can be major damage to our clients and their business.

  • Van

    great info you have here.googled john chow and it seems he already earned back his rank.

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