When partial penalty revocations are not enough

Today seroundtable.com featured John Mueller’s confirmation that Google Does Partial Penalty Revocations, bringing some attention to one of the hot topics in the SEO world.

While this may bring some hope to webmasters who might have abused only gray-area approaches of backlink acquisition, in many occasions it turns out to be impossible to clean up your act. If you’re knee-deep in bad backlinks, take it from me, you’re better off starting fresh. Don’t try to fool the reconsideration team, as you’re probably wasting time and getting a bad reputation. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Recreate your website with all previous content on a new domain (preferably with a slightly new layout, so that users understand it as the next version);
  2. Approach all the good linkers, asking them to update their links before the old content becomes unavailable;
  3. Inform your audience with a front-page announcement that the future design is available at the new address;
  4. Start posting exclusively on the new domain;
  5. Monitor your new domain for growth: you might not reach yet the same traffic, but once you see a positive trend…
  6. Shut down the old website! You don’t want to do 301 redirections unless you’re sure that the pages you’re redirecting are not responsible for the penalty (in that case, do get rid of the penalized pages)… and you don’t want to keep the old site up, confusing search engines with duplicate content sources. If you do, consider using a 302 redirection.
  7. Learn from your mistakes, and remember that failure is often a necessary step to success.

It takes courage to leave a website behind, but in most cases where the backlinks are too many and too varied to fix, this is your only viable option. Remember, you don’t want to be the webmaster that ended up with this:

“Within 5 days, all my new re-directed pages were indexed by Google and ranking on page 1 again. Then came the shocker…on day 7 after the 301 redirection. My new domain and all the internal pages were back to pages 5 and 6.”

What do you think? Have you ever had the courage to follow the suggested procedure? Did any other strategy have a positive long-term effect?