The Justice Department and states including California, New York, Colorado and Virginia filed a lawsuit against Google alleging the search and advertising behemoth illegally monopolized the online ad market through a yearslong practice of self-dealing, anticompetitive acquisitions, and forcing businesses to use multiple products and services that it offers. source

This will be one for those 'paid media' gurus who will be watching for sure, and for many that have been subject to several of Google's own penalty system most likely a sweet read.

Traditionally there have been 3 ways to get visitors to your website;

  1. Searches via Google (paid and SEO)
  2. Direct to your website (people know your brand)
  3. Referrals from 3rd parties (backlinks)

That last one is the focus for this blog......

A few years ago a company I had just joined a month earlier was subject to a site wide penalty by Google for having significant number of historical unnatural backlinks to their website. 

Google can issue partial penalties that mean certain pages on your site will go blind but to have a full site wide one was exceptional.

When I say 'unnatural' I mean backlinks dropped on thousands of non related websites by a bot.

In simple terms the companies website was no longer visible for organic search........anywhere!

From a dominant position (#1) in search, the company lost all organic visibility and subsequently a lot of traffic and revenue too.

Not the best news for any company to get, as you can imagine. 

The board were obviously perplexed and looked to me for all the answers. They saw it as something that's a common occurrence and somewhere in my marketing box of magic tricks (next to the marketing coloring in stuff) lay a 'get this fixed' blueprint!!

For those operating and investing in the vagaries of SEO you will know there is no silver bullet, no quick fix, and unless your really shit at what you do this is most definitely NOT a common occurrence.

How did this occur you might ask?

Sometimes marketing teams don't really know what questions to ask of their agencies, sometimes they get lost in vanity metrics without doing the right amount of DD on those amazing stats.

Now don't get me wrong I don't think this was a deliberate act of malice, but I do think it was downright incompetence on both sides, particularly as this issue was highlighted as a key potential problem to the agency and marketing team during my first week with the company.

The fight back began;

At the centre of this strategy was our new brand positioning and content led belief system which was centred around our 'Surprisingly Easy' campaign.

To deliver on this meant an internal brand alignment program along with the development of some key aspects of the company App. This needed to include the development and record time implementation of a new website, with a clean URL structure and architecture that made it easier for consumers to access content and complete transactions.

From this base, we set about driving growth through high value sharable content. As well as regularly updating our on-site blog for quick wins, we developed a broader strategy of ‘big’ content designed to earn links and press coverage.

This was obviously an extremely costly exercise but not as expensive as the lessons that were learnt.

Oh, and those tweaks on the App and website to support the 'surprisingly easy' campaign saw our conversion levels go through the roof from a pedestrian 3% to a sky rocketing 19%.

Have you ever been subject to a Google penalty on your website?