Ian Lurie - SearchFest 2015 SpeakerIan Lurie will be speaking on “Penalties” at SearchFest 2015 which will take place Friday, February 27, 2015 in Portland Oregon. For more information or to purchase tickets, please click here.

1) Please give us your background and tell us what you do for a living.

I’m CEO and Founder of Portent, Inc. I’ve been in the business in some form or another since 1995. My educational background is ridiculous: History B.A., Law Degree, self-taught on computers, coding and the internet. I’m a bit of a Python and PHP developer, can hack my way around a database, etc. My first love is really writing & teaching, which is a big part of my job at Portent.

I’m definitely a marketing idealist. I think what we do is really powerful, and I love it.

But you want to know about SEO and search: I’ve been tinkering with SEO since the days of Alta Vista. I may have been the first person ever penalized by that search engine (the penalty lasted 4 hours, if I remember right). I’ve been helping folks get out of Penguin and manual link penalties and Panda hell for about 3 years now. I will point out that no Portent client has ever been penalized (knock wood) except Portent (cough).

2) Can one effectively disavow a site out of Penguin / Panda purgatory?

There are really three classes of ‘penalties:’

Manual penalties for link building in violation of Google’s TOS. This is the most severe, but in my opinion the easiest to recover from. A combination of link removal and disavow can get you out of the penalty. But do not expect a ‘full’ recovery, because the disavow process will reduce your link authority. It’s pretty obvious but folks don’t always understand: To get rid of a penalty, you have to get rid of the links that caused the penalty. That means fewer links, and lower rankings.

Penguin penalties. These are algorithmic, and typically apply to specific keywords. Again, these penalties are applied for TOS-violating link building. They’re very hard to track down, because they’re only for certain keywords. While disavow can help, link removal appears to be more important.

In my opinion, there’s no such thing as a Panda penalty. Panda is Google’s way of rating a site’s quality – its distance from perfect – page-by-page, based on factors like content. You don’t get penalized. Google decides your site is of lower or lowest quality and pushes you down in the rankings. Disavow doesn’t help here, because it has nothing to do with external links.

3) At what point does it become not worth the effort to attempt to recover from a site penalty?

I’ve never personally seen this happen. But if you built rankings based purely on link laundering and acquisition, chances are you’re screwed. I’d still say go with disavow first, though, and here’s why: Google is a domain registrar, and they know your IP, and they have a bunch of other ways to figure out whether the person who built a true crapfest of a link profile on domain A just built a new site on domain B. Clean up your act on domain A before you turn-and-burn to domain B, or you may get the same result, no matter how hard you try to hide your identity.

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