Case Study in Brief

We took on a client that cannot be named due to legal reasons relating to a Google Manual Penalty back in 2012.

After 3 months of work, we convinced the client to build a new website, allowing them to make a full recovery from their past experience.

How you ask?

The short answer is we removed backlinks, moved website hosting providers, created content, removed footer links, removed development URLs and websites on the same C IP class.

Sound interesting ? If so, read the rest of the case study below!

Client Overview

A client approached us after receiving a Google Manual Penalty back in 2012. We met with them extensively to determine the background story around this penalty

The story stands that a SEO company they worked with created plenty of backlinks and, as a result, their website was ranking really well for specific keywords related to their niche.

Then suddenly – boom! One day back in 2012, all of their traffic and rankings disappeared and they were sent into the abyss!

We were then informed that we were the third company to try to Recover Their Rankings. The other companies had tried, without success. However, they had managed to remove the manual penalty.

After looking at their traffic and the History of Google Algorithm Updates, it became clear that this problem was also related to the Google Penguin Update In 2012.

The previous SEO companies had gone through their Google Link Profile, cleaned up lots of links and created some good content.

However, three months after the manual penalty had been removed, the company’s website rankings and traffic were still not moving for anyone!

At this stage, our client decided to ditch the old SEO company and ask for our help.

In the next section of this case study, we detail the work that was implemented in time for the Penguin 4.0 Real-Time Algorithm release. We wanted to see if the website’s traffic and rankings made any kind of recovery after this as we knew the Penguin Algorithm was causing the issue.

Websites on the Same C Class IP Address & Sitewide Links in the Footer

We started our investigation by looking at the client’s link profile. Straight away, we noticed that their website and all their client websites were on the same (C Class IP Address).

At the time, the client had about 200 clients of its own, each of which had Branded Anchor Text or Keyword-Rich Anchor Text in their footers pointing back to the clients website.

This meant the client had 200 links pointing to their main website which were low-value footer links from their client base.

In the Google Link Profile for the client, Google could see all the backlinks as manipulating the search results because they were not naturally obtained. Instead, they were read as having been put there by the client. This can be seen as Unnatural Links.

To understand this in more detail, read this discussion on Search Engine Round Table to learn what John Mueller from Google has to say about websites designed by links in the footer.

Next, we asked the client to add the No Follow Attribute to all links in the footer and to make them branded text instead of Keyword Rich Anchor Text.

The client was concerned about impacting their existing obtained leads through these links. Because of this, there was no way to remove them altogether. However, branded text and adding the (no-follow) attribute to the links was enough.

Google Footprint from Old Hosting Environment

This is the point where things got more confusing. We were starting to see old Who Is Domain Records for our client on a different shared hosting domain along with records for some of their clients.
It came to light that the original SEO company had identified the manual penalty, removed it and then moved to a different hosting company. In this situation, Google can consider this as an attempt to avoid any negative rankings they had by moving hosting providers.

Therefore, at this time, the decision to move hosting providers did not help their situation.

Remove Redirects from Two Purchased Domains

After some more digging, we noticed that there were two domains which had been purchased to try and improve the rankings and traffic on their website.

Please note the company did not provide us with information about these domains.

These were old domains, but the link profile was very poor on both of them and the names of the domains were somewhat strange.

In summary, these domains were causing more damage than good.

We asked for these redirects to be removed which they were.

Checking Their Link Profile & Cleaning up Links

Even though the previous SEO company removed some bad links, we made sure to check them out ourselves.

We did find some bad links still in existence. One example of this was a guest post with poor content. The website also offered to sell links and the owner had been promoting this through a video too.

We then contacted the webmaster and asked them to remove this link. After receiving no reply, even after several attempts, we used the Googles Disavow Tool to instruct Google to ignore the link.

Note – At the time, the disavow tool was quite new and the links submitted to be disavowed were not processed straight away.

Development Domains Indexed

This was the hardest part where we were completely thrown into different avenues. We identified so many things that were causing massive problems for our client’s link profile and brand visibility.

The client created their website on a development domain, which was hosted in the USA and allowed Google to index it.

This meant there were two versions (development domain and production domain) of the same website indexed in Google search results.

Note – We noticed that all of the websites they had ever created were on a development domain. Every website was indexed with footer links and contact information pointing back to the main website.

We offered them a few different options to halt any further damage to their Google link profile. We suggested that they password protect all websites built on the development domain. This would stop any of them from being accessed by search engines and eliminate any unauthorised users.

In the end, we determined that all of this was responsible for creating low-quality and unnatural links to our client’s website.

After a thorough investigation on the development domain, we also discovered that one of their client’s websites had been hacked.

Looking through the URLs on this website, they were all badly built with words and phrases that, unfortunately, related directly back to our customer’s business. Therefore, the hacked website linked back to our client’s website which was having a negative impact on SEO and their link profile.

We called an urgent meeting with our client to discuss any new websites they were creating and managed to convince them to shut down the development domain. This was to stop any further damage being done.

New Hosting for Website and C Class Ip Address

The scale of the damage was huge. However, we were confident that if they moved their current website to a separate hosting and on a different (C class IP address) from all their clients, they would make a full recovery.

Our plan here was to try to persuade them to move the website after the clean-up and wait for the Real-Time Penguin 4.0 to be released.

After, the release of Penguin 4.0 and the full rollout, our clients began ranking for keywords that they had not been ranking for in years.

Content Creation

During the whole process of cleaning up their link profile, and identifying further issues, we were also creating content for them.

The content creation process was intended to give Google positive signals and help the client rank for related keywords that were relevant to their business.


In the process of trying to recover our client’s website rankings and traffic, we discovered some unusual factors that were negatively impacting their digital presence. Many of these related to past activity carried out by the client themselves. This is why we ask for as much information about past activity when we embark on a new project. With it, we can identify the issue quicker and show real results in a shorter period of time.

We must admit, this project was a challenge but the end result was definitely worth it!

If you have noticed a drop in traffic or rankings, Contact Us to see if we can help!