Search Love – How To Get Out of the Google Penalty – Paul Madden

Paul Madden, one of the founders of LinkRisk gave a great presentation at Search Love about Removing Spammy links.  This was particularly useful to those who have had a Google penalty.

Paul started the presentation by taking the audience through his history and how started his career in link building, from building scraper sites, to working in affiliates and now helping companies remove links.

Pre 2012 – links either counted or they didn’t. So people used to throw as many  links as they could to see their rankings improve.

Post 2012 – Google changed their stance. This was a major change and increased the pressure on link builders.

Google adopts very quickly and link builders have to as well.  Google introduced Penguin last year which was directly aimed at those who do SEO.  They introduced link penalties. So Paul and his team needed to change. As a result, Paul helps companies who have been affected by the Google updates and now have a penalty.

Paul Madden Search Love


Last year, Paul and his team started gathering data, primarily for their own users and now grown into LinkRisk. They crunched 3,500 profiles.  They analysed the risk of nearly 100,000,000 URLs. An average site has 26,000 links. Paul and his team then threw all the signals in the algorithm, can see all stuff done in past and then can assess it. (site under penalty will look like this).


Paul Madden Link Risk

To get out of penalty, you have to make sure 97.53% of links neutralized. This means they have been disavowed, removed etc.

What links should you remove?

Google 2013 has a long memory. It is not just the links acquired since they changed their stance, it is every link that was every built to your site which you have to analyse and remove.

Do you think you are clean?

Many webmasters think they are clean and have not done any link manipulation.

However, there would have always been someone working on the site:
– Who had a weak moment
– Who had made a bad decision

But bad links do not go away. So look at all profiles, look through the directories (insert the directory slide).

Paul took us through an idiots guide to penalty removal

LinkRisk has done over 100 penalty removals, here are the main steps:

1) Link Penalties

  • Confirm you have a penalty.
  • Look in your webmaster tools and check for manual actions. Don’t rely on GWMT to send you an email. They do not do this anymore.
  • There may be a partial penalty or a site wide one in GWMT. It does not make much difference, Google don’t care where it goes in the site.

2) DIY or Full Service?

Removing Links will take a lot of time, whether you work on this yourself or outsource it. Do not go with an agency who guarantees a result. They will get rid of most of your links and damage your site. You need to sign off and approve every stage. Go with a company that is honest and transparent
You need a guide not a sales man, It is a fluid process.

3) Before you start – read the GWMT guidelines – the section on Link Schemes

In it is says cannot buy links, no exchange links, text adverts, advertorials

Google now hates sidewide links, forum comments, links embedded in widgets.

4) Gather all data you can

Spend longer on analyzing the data that you would ever think.

5) Plan for multiple attempts

  • Record everything of what you have done.
  • You will have to do a disavow.
  • Ask for reincuiision and expect to be told you have not been successful.
  • Repeat until you have been told yes.

6) Gathering data

  • Majestic – fresh indexed advanced report and historic index report
  • OSE, AHRefs, GWMT – you will keep needing to get GWMT again and again. Also reports done in the past.
  • Get all data and then put it in xls file.
  • More important to look at root domain level.

Divid up into
– remove
– disavow
– investigate

7) How do you decide what to remove?

  • the domain
  • anything with SEO and directory in the URL
  • look at the metrics – between data source. Eg DA of 35 but trust flow of 2
  • TLDs – do you have a lot of links from irrelevant countries
  • Anchors
  • Don’t use exact match anchor text
  • Number of links per domain – Google hate side wide

8) Look at every site and investigate

  • Record details as you go –eg these are infographiscs
  • Get contact email/contact form
  • Understand from Google are they risky or natural

9) Contacting

  • Contact as real person
  • Contact from the domains with the penalty
  • Use a webmail account
  • Contact forms et better response but follow up with an email from webmail
  • Two attempts is enough

10) Conclusions

  • Record a conclusion for every domain/link
  • Removed (verify)
  • Diavow (inc paid and non responders)
  • Have a list of the ones you want to keep

11) Correct format

Now do the disavow file
Make sure it is:

In correct format as the below photo illustrates
#comments always start with a hashtag


  • Annotate the file
  • It is a live document
  • Technically you can remove lines …..

Google are very good at keeping records of all data give them.

  • Then disavow
  • Submit your disavow
  • Check its been taken (wait 2 weeks before submitting the re-inclusion request)
  • Submit a reinclusion request

12) Then do re-inclusion

There are no hard and fast rules
– polite but brief
– explain you have changed
– prove it
prepare for fake people to response.

There is not someone waiting to look at it.

The average is 4 or 5 attempts. One of Paul’s customers had 9 re inclusion request. Some get it for one.

When you get denied, check the following:

  • Make sure you know what is still alive
  • Make sure have all the data
  • Make sure everyone has stopped link building

There is no point in link building whilst under a penalty, but I appreciate clients may want you to continue to do so.

Sometimes if you have not been successful, Google send you the example links they want you to remove and ones that you have built. However, this is not necessarily correct. These example links are not coming from webspam team (who have analysed your file).  This email normally contains incorrect data and says you should remove links from good directories like and (which you do not want to exclude).They may also mention forums where there are genuinely good links.

Link removal is a big task and as many resources as you can afford should be dedicated to this project.  The main steps to removing links are:

1. Get rid of obvious links
2. Get rid of commercial terms
3. Be more severe
4. Correct any missed issues

Don’t buy anymore dodgy links in the future, build quality links through content marketing.

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