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BACK TO BASICS: How to Submit a Reconsideration Request to Google

by Virginia Nussey, October 17, 2011

Google recently revised its "reconsideration" process, the steps by which webmasters or site owners appeal to the search engine to review and revoke penalties. Understand Google's reconsideration process to ensure you're prepared if your site ever goes afoul of the search engine's quality guidelines so you'll be able to get it back in Google's good graces.

View this recent video, "How do reconsideration requests work at Google?", to find out:

  • What webmasters should include in a reconsideration request.
  • What Google does when they receive a reconsideration request.
  • What a webmaster can look for after Google reconsiders and possible Google responses.

What is a Reconsideration Request?

Sometimes referred to as a reinclusion request, Google's formalized reconsideration process considers removing manual actions taken against sites that have violated its guidelines. The request is different from the way you normally submit a site to Google for indexing; this manual submission process is essentially like sending an apology letter to Google. You admit you messed up, tell them how you fixed it and promise you won’t do it again. If they think you’re sincere and that you have fixed the problems and aren’t going to do it again, then they lift the penalty.

Why You Might Need to Request Reconsideration

Suddenly your site stops showing up in search results. What could be the reason? A video posted in Webmaster Tools Help with tips for requesting reconsideration explains a few possible scenarios.

If you know your site has violated the Google quality guidelines:

  • Admit any mistakes made.
  • What has been done to fix these mistakes.
  • Be as detailed as possible.

If your site was in a partnership with another site, and the partner does something that goes against the quality guidelines on both sites, it can reflect poorly on your site. You may find you've cleaned up your site but have trouble cleaning up the site you don't control and they are sympathetic to this situation. Document this in a complete reconsideration request. For instance, if links were purchased in a joint campaign effort, show your exhaustive effort to clean it up and have worked to disconnect ties to paid links.

If you don't know what your site did to warrant a penalty:

  • Read Google quality guidelines carefully.
  • Look at things to avoid and ask questions of those working on the site.
  • Consider the benefit of a third-party review to help you identify any violations of quality guidelines.

There are instances when you would use a reconsideration request when you aren’t at fault. For instance, someone bought an expired domain name that can't get ranked because it was previously banned by Google for spamming. The site owner can request reconsideration by explaining the situation.

False Assumptions of a Penalty by Google

There are some technical issues that are sometimes thought to be the cause of penalties by misinformed site owners, like server down time. However, technical snags are not the cause of manual actions that remove a site from Google search results. Duplicate content is also sometimes suspected by site owners to be the cause of a penalty, but usually the problem lies elsewhere. If technical problems have occurred and you notice inconsistent rankings or visibility in search results, wait until the site is back to its previous state before requesting reconsideration.

How To Compose a Reconsideration Request

To file the request, fill out the form located at https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/reconsideration.

Specifically, you need to answer this question:

"Tell us more about what happened: what actions might have led to any penalties, and what corrective actions have been taken. If you used a search engine optimization (SEO) company, please note that. Describing the SEO firm and their actions is a helpful indication of good faith that may assist in evaluation of reconsideration requests."

Your request should be focused on why you believe the site was penalized, what happened to cause the penalty, what steps you have taken to fix the penalty and ensuring that it will not happen again. Make sure the issues are fixed before filing, and make sure they don't have to worry about your site violating quality guidelines in the future.

The form is limited to about 5,000 characters. The Google spam team has only limited time, so make your request concise while stressing the work that has been put into improving the site and adhering to Google’s guidelines. Summarizing the changes made to the site, especially the efforts to add unique content, would be more helpful than the outline about changes to specific pages.

Google has that that they will disregard a reconsideration request when it contains intentionally misleading information. Google also warns against spamming the reconsideration form, explaining that it doesn't help to send multiple requests at the same time. Instead, submit one detailed, concise report, and get it right the first time.

What Google Does After Receiving a Reconsideration Request

Requests are reviewed promptly by a member of the Google search quality team. If you have new relevant information to share, file a new reconsideration request. If reconsideration does happen and a penalty is revoked, it can take some time to see the results of it. Thankfully, Google has improved the transparency of the reconsideration process, greatly reducing the guess work down by anxious webmasters awaiting reconsideration.

First, a site owner will receive confirmation that a reconsideration request has been received. A confirmation that the request has been processed will shortly follow. The result of reconsideration by Google may be notification that the manual action against a site has been revoked. Likewise, Google may inform a site owner that the site is still in violation of the search engine's quality guidelines. In most cases, Google tells site owners that a site has not been affected by a manual action against the site.

If you feel your site has been hit by a penalty for violating Google's quality guidelines, there is action you can take to redeem your standing in the search engine. Review Google's provided documentation and submit a thorough yet concise reconsideration request explaining the reason for the penalty and what has been done to remedy the issue. Remember, you don't have to go through this process alone. If you'd like a professional SEO organization to help you improve your site to meet Google's guidelines and repair its reputation with the major search engine, please contact Bruce Clay, Inc.