Zombie Websites – Will Penguin Raise Them from the Dead?

Zombie Websites
Zombie Websites caused by Google's Penguin Update

After the Penguin update many businesses were left with zombie websites.

Zombie Websites

Sometime in 2012 my world collapsed.

I had high rankings for this website for lots of commercially important key phrases.

So, companies that sold into the IT Contractor world advertised here and got quite a few customers through advertising here.

Google Rankings

Then one Saturday morning in 2012 I did my weekly check of my Google rankings.

Something was wrong.

Whinging IT Contractors
Whinging IT Contractors

I couldn’t find them on the first page any more where they had been.

What had happened? Where had they gone?

Was it something temporary?

It wasn’t.

Penguin Update

Google had implemented an update which became called the Penguin Update.

It penalised websites that had low quality links.

It turned many previously successful websites into zombie websites.

As I wasn’t an expert in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), I outsourced it to a number of compaies, usually in India.

They got results and they weren’t too expensive.

It worked out well and was worth paying for.

Google Musical Chairs

I didn’t take too much notice of what they were doing as they were experts and I wasn’t.

However, with the advent of Penguin, my Google rankings collapsed.

In the months that followed advertisers after advertiser left us after seeing the plunge in the amount of traffic we were sending.

Golden Rules of IT Contracting
Golden Rules of IT Contracting – if you want to get rich

We managed to keep some but at lower rates than before.

The same thing was happening to businesses all over the world.

It was like a game of musical chairs where the music stopped after the latest Google update and there were no chairs for us.

Someone else said it was like a deadly game of snakes and ladders.

Newsletter Mailing List

What saved me was my members list of around 8,000 mainly contractors that our Newsletter went out to.

I started to send out a few ad articles on the Newsletter along with the other articles.

I also built up our social media presence as a buffer against any future Google penalties and now have 9,300 LinkedIn connections as well as a Twitter and Facebook presence.

New Clean Websites

I also set up other ‘clean’ websites like www.UKContractors.org and ITContractor.org to eventually take the place of ITContractor.com.

I had also hired quite a few SEO experts to fix the problems I had with google and hopefully get the website back to where it was before.

Quite a few took money off me but weren’t able to fix the problem.

I talked to other zombie website owners who said the same thing, i.e. that after a Google Penguin penalty you never fully recover.

Spammy Website Links

Penguin punishes websites with too many low-grade spammy links.

Want to Succeed as a Contractor
Want to Succeed as a Contractor in the future

When I looked into it, I found that my SEO people had got me links from gaming and even porn websites as well as from low quality websites and websites set up for the sole purpose of giving people links link factors as they are called.

It was an eye opener.

Disavowing Links

I was told that the best way to recover was to get rid of as many of those low quality links as I could and then Disavow the ones that I couldn’t.

I did this – indeed more than once.

However, it made no difference.

I hired SEO people who told me that there were other reasons why my website was now ranking lowly.

They made changes, took their money, and didn’t make any difference at all.

I discovered just a couple of days ago why this was the case.

Recovering from Google Penalties

I was doing some research on the internet (Google of course) to find out how you recover from a Google penalty.

I found two things.

Firstly I had been told, by SEO experts, that Google punishes website pages rather than websites. I had been told that if I put fresh content on the website that Google could well rank that highly.

This is normally true – but it is not true of Penguin.

Sackings and Rate Cuts
IT Contractor Sackings and Rate Cuts

Penguin punishes websites.

Penguin Updates Recovery

The second thing I found out was that you can only recover from a Penguin downgrade at the next Penguin update – and the last one was in October 2014.

That means that any changes that I, or other website owners, have made since that time to recover from the Penguin penalties would have made no difference.

Those that I paid to make those changes didn’t tell me that.

A fortune must have been spent worldwide by website owners like myself for changes that made no difference – and which those doing the work for them would know would make no difference till the next Penguin Update – if at all.

Closing ITContractor.com

I had decided, recently, that I couldn’t recover with ITContractor.com. Nothing I did made any difference.

It still got quite good traffic from loyal readers, from people reading our newsletter and from social media like LinkedIn where I post links to all the articles.

However, it was getting low traffic from Google – perhaps just 20 Google searches a day found the website.

Working on UKContractors.org

So, I decided that I would concentrate on the other websites like www.UKContractors.org and put any fresh content on there.

I could still route that fresh content to the Newsletter and social media websites.

I stopped adding new articles to ITContractor.com a few weeks ago.

I loaded them to UKContractors.org instead.

Workaholic Contractor in IT
Workaholic Contractor in IT – how to beat it

Hopefully that ‘clean’ website would get not just the page views from the newsletter and social media pages but also moe traffic daily from Google.

Valuable Website

I got in touch with an SEO guy to tell me how to effect the change properly without incurring any penalties, e.g. could I move the advice articles (about 2,500 of them) from IT Contractor.com to UKContractors.org without incurring a penalty for duplicate content.

Here’s what he told me:-

“Your original domain appears to be a very valuable one, and much better than your other domains, and so I’d say it’s worth fighting for.

“You can wholly transfer from one domain to another, which is something Google allow for, and I’ve done successfully for a client.

“But I think that would be a bad idea in your case, for the two reasons I’ve mentioned:

1) the original domain is much better and

2) it has ‘it contractor’ in rather than ‘uk contractor’ (which in my mind is too broad a phrase)”.

Recovering Successfully from a Penguin Penalty

So, as he reckoned that ITContractor.com was a potentially valuable domain (it has been going since 2002 and has 4,000 articles), I decided I should maybe fight for it and continue to load articles.

It was during my reserch about how to recover from a Penguin penalty that I found out that the only way to do it was during a Penguin update – and, as I said previously, there hasn’t been one since October 2014.

Preparing for a Downturn in IT Contracting
Preparing for a Downturn in IT Contracting market

The good news is that I also discovered that there is a Penguin Update imminent.

Indeed it was scheduled for the back end of 2015 but has been delayed.

The other good news is that it is going to be real time updates after that, i.e. if you make a change to help you beat the Penguin penalty it will be reflected shortly on your website.

Owners of Zombie Websites

So, I’ve decided to keep adding new articles to ITContractor.com as well as UKContractors.org till we see what happens with the new Penguin Update.

However, there must be loads of other people with websites who have simply given up and maybe shut down their websites after all the effort and expense that they had put into recovery had made no difference at all.

Their hired SEO expertise would not have told them that they would have to wait for the next Penguin Update – which didn’t happen that often.

However, there must also be many zombie websites that are just sitting there with low rankings which used to be high rankings prior to Penguin in 2012.

Imminent Penguin Update

They may have done the work to get rid of their dodgy links but, as they saw it, to no avail.

Will the next Penguin update from Google, which is imminent, suddenly raise these zombie websites from the dead and raise them to where they used to be in the Google rankings?

Will the zombie websites ‘walk’ again?

Unemployed IT Contractor
Unemployed IT Contractor – the trials and tribulations

I’ve tried so many things since the penalty which didn’t work that I don’t dare hope that this might be the case and that suddenly ITContractor.com wil ‘take it’s true position again’ in the rankings.

But we shall see soon!

From Zombie Website to Living Website?

Even if it doesn’t make much difference at first, at least I know that any steps that I take to fix the link problems will be reflected in the rankings straight away as this Penguin update will update in real time in the future.

What did my recent SEO expert advice me again?

“Your original domain (ITContractor.com) appears to be a very valuable one”.

I do so hope he is right.

The latest Penguin update is imminent.

Everything that I have is crossed!



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.