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Thanks Google – Glad to Be Home

Dear Google Thank you for letting us back in your index. Our home page is creeping back on the first page for our brand name – our internal pages are rushing back in, and traffic is returning. [update: 4:30pst - home page ranks #1 again for "iacquire"] You taught us a powerful lesson – it’s…

Dear Google

Thank you for letting us back in your index. Our home page is creeping back on the first page for our brand name – our internal pages are rushing back in, and traffic is returning.

[update: 4:30pst - home page ranks #1 again for "iacquire"]

You taught us a powerful lesson – it’s not one that we will soon forget. But the battle scars have only made us stronger. They’ve forced us to take a step back, and ask the right questions. Questions like, “Forget what we think we know and forget what the industry or others have told us, if we really want to plan a strategy for our customer to dominate natural search, and we want that strategy to be long-standing, powerful, and unbreakable… how do we do that?” The answer to that question echoes in our updated services, and that’s not B.S. We’re a reinvigorated agency – our transparency is total – and we are fully confident in the strategies we are recommending. Rather than divert the story we plan to tell you about The Future of iAcquire in an upcoming post.

Quick History

In case you had missed it, iAcquire had a bit of a parting of the ways with Google back in late May. Google’s war on paid links came close to home when we were accused of buying links for clients, which subsequently led to Google’s big hand swinging hard on the back of our head. We admitted that for some clients we had allowed the use of financial compensation as one of our many tactics to build links. I mean, it’s hard to build links, and clients want to be aggressive and they want to rank.

The Old Process

We didn’t have a network per se – we setup unique and quality relationships between relevant publishers and customers at scale. And, in cases we allowed for financial compensation when that’s what motivated the publisher. Often clients don’t want to invest into heavy duty content marketing, and the other requirements that come with long term, large scale intelligent off-page SEO. I don’t blame them. I don’t blame us. Ultimately, we were gently or perhaps strongly reminded that Google holds the cards, and it’s their index.

For those customers that have wanted to stay aggressive and not seek better ways to win in search; we can no longer offer the brute force model facilitated by payments to webmasters. Playing by the rules is something we are doing, and we’ve all but broken our own backs to make things right post de-indexation. We had to part ways with some amazing employees, and some amazing clients, and it hurt. It hurt bad. We’ve taken some hard losses, but ultimately it expedited our goal of moving iAcquire from being viewed by some as a link acquisition vendor to being a strategic content creation and distribution partner.

We Did Something About It

We’ve tripled down on the creative/content department. We bolstered our video and data visualization capabilities. We beefed up our content team, and hired magazine editors, newspaper editors, journalists, content strategists and idea generators. We’ve added a Strategy capability which includes market research and social strategy. Now we have idea sessions, and the office is buzzing like never before – people are having a blast. We’ve really become a creative shop, but surely haven’t lost that strong competency of outreach and relationship development – it’s one of the things that truly separates us.

The Content Marketing Org Chart

Content marketing was already cannibalizing other areas of our business, and we’d defined that division of our business as where we’d be investing our future resources anyway. This became the catalyst for us to get more aggressive with that evolution.

Kyle, you rock!

Over the last several weeks we’ve had our best and brightest on the road, meeting with clients – not just those that had bought links in the past, but also those that hadn’t. We had a strong wake up call – it was a wake up call to the entire industry. There are several industry vets working at iAcquire. Among the group there are deep relationships throughout all of SEO – in-house, agency-side, consultant. Google’s move on iAcquire echoed loud across the chasm of Search.

Few of you can say that when you saw iAcquire in the press you didn’t say “oh crap, that’s a big move – let’s do an audit of our own policies.” And, you can’t tell me your clients didn’t start asking questions about your own services and tactics. We got called to the table, and we had to pay the piper. Whatever the reason, I’ll reiterate the same; “Short term strategies are just that – short term. If you really want to make your brand shine in organic search you have to do things the right way – and if you’re playing ball with the big boys you have to be serious about your total strategy. Go big or go home.”

Our New Content Marketing Process

Fast tracking the evolution of our content marketing solution was the best thing we ever did, and we can’t wait to tell you more about it in the Future of iAcquire post.

To all of our friends, clients, and colleagues – thank you for sticking with us, and not abandoning us. You knew we have always done great work for our customers – we’re glad you didn’t run away. Your support has given us hope that SEO has grown up, and, I for one am excited about the next chapter of iAcquire, and our industry. Right now I’m pretending to take a much needed vacation (shhh, don’t tell my wife and kids), but it’s hard. It’s hard because I can’t wait to get back – times are so exciting now in our industry, and all I want to do is create, improve, learn, and grow. That statement is one that is shared by my business partners. We still aren’t perfect, but we’ve turned a big corner, and we’re happy to be recognized for that effort. We’ve got a lot more we want to show you so stay tuned.

Thanks Google – Glad to be Home.

 

  • Yousaf Sekander

    Congratulations. Love the straight talk in this post, wishing you and your team all the best.

  • Krystian Szastok

    well done for getting back into G index!

  • http://twitter.com/rymcl Ryan McLaughlin

    Congrats guys. Looking forward to the “Future of iAcquire” post.

  • http://twitter.com/RichardOrtiz2nd Richard Ortiz

    Congratulations on finding yourself indexed again! Great to hear about your content strategy and how you turned a negative into a positive and reinvented your process.

  • http://twitter.com/JamesPiper90 James Piper

    Congrats iAcquire! The content coming from here and Mike King has been incredible — welcome back :)

  • http://www.poweredbysearch.com/ Dev Basu

    Congrats on making it back in the index guys! A hard lesson no doubt, but kudos on developing a defensible content and link outreach program.

  • Benjamin Beck

    Glad to see you guys back

  • http://twitter.com/tpavlik Travis Pavlik

    Always nice to see companies staying nimble and willing to make changes. Glad to see you guys work it out

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  • http://www.irishwonder.com IrishWonder

    Congrats! Great news indeed – there is life after Google ban

  • Hyder Shaikh

    Congrats!! That’s a very good news!!

    So, you’ve bulk up your content management team..pretty fascinating!!

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  • http://www.scottcowley.com/ Scott Cowley

    Welcome back to the index.

    Can you provide more detail on what you did to be reinstated? Were there any technical changes made to your site or backlink profile? Did iAcquire do anything other than communicate with Google that its policies toward link buying had changed? And why did reinclusion take so long?

    I ask because while Google has a right to enforce what it perceives to be infractions against its quality guidelines, I am extremely wary of the fact that Google wants to start policing specific business policies and processes instead of changing ranking factors algorithmically. This, to me, would seem to overstep the bounds of their jurisdiction and would suggest that they could exclude or reinstate any site based on political or competitive motives.

  • http://twitter.com/RoryT11 Rory Truesdale

    Well done guys, but you shouldn’t have been deindexed in the first place.  The whole fiasco back in May just stunk of Google being out of touch with the realities of the industry, particularly at a highly competitive level.  Still, you’ve adopted your strategy and showed your agility as an organisation, so more power to you for that!  

    The fact that you got deindexed, yet your business survived four months without organic traffic should also serve as a lesson to other businesses about building reputation and cultivating other sources of traffic.  Don’t just rely on Google…it can be a risky strategy!  

    I’ll stop rambling now….welcome home! :-D

    • http://www.iacquire.com/ Joe Griffin

      Thanks Rory – we appreciate the defense of iAcquire. At the end of the day Google holds the cards, and I think that is the lesson. Our clients have been very supportive, and those that apply have been really good about adapting with us. That’s all we could hope for – thanks again.

  • http://www.SunburntSEO.com/ Matt King

    Link Building just got more expensive.

  • http://twitter.com/supaswag Ingo Bousa

    LOL

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  • http://www.iacquire.com/ Joe Griffin

    Yea, perhaps it will be. Maybe that’s a good thing. At least for big brands. They need to invest into their online brand, and Google organic search is like the front page of the Washington Times – talk about reputation management and PR. For smaller brands maybe that’s not so good. Small brands/companies just have to be smarter, and more creative. That’s not easy, but that’s what it’s gonna take. There’s still room for smaller companies to create great content, even with an aim to attract links – I think Google’s big beef is in avoiding the over-usage of keyword-rich anchor text, and also if you’re building content that is designed to attract links it needs to spread to places that should be hosting that content. And, it needs to be a relevant content to link destination match too. Doing it right is tough – no doubt about it.

  • http://www.iacquire.com/ Joe Griffin

    Hi Scott – thanks for commenting. First off, Google can ban or reinstate any site for any reason. It’s not like the SEC or SOX makes them serve up search results in a certain way. At some point they could lose user loyalty for that type of behavior, but actually Google has been reasonably fair about the way they police their search results. If anything, there are far more concerned about the press with regards to the minimization of true organic search results. If Google’s search results become one big ad that’s a much greater issue.

    What Google cares about most is your intent. Lot’s of people have violated Google’s guidelines in one way or another. As an example Google says “don’t build doorway pages.” Do you know how many sites generate pages for search? You’re talking billions of pages.

    We got back in because Google believes that we are serious about making the right types of changes, and we’ve showed a significant efforts along those lines. Google understands that morphing a business takes some time, and that’s it’s not a totally straight forward process. We’ve followed through on what we said we would do, and we continue to follow through. The key takeaway is that Penguin, and the actions against iAcquire show that Google’s tone has changed. They are getting a bit more serious now, and for that reason we’ve had a change of heart in terms of the way we think about things, and the types of things we’ll be recommending to customers going forward.

    • Stu Draper

      Scott’s concern about the fact ”
      that they [Google] could exclude or reinstate any site based on political or competitive motives,” is spot on.  Joe, your answer, while very indirect, seems to point out that Google put you back because they like you and your intent, more than because you did something for a bot to recognize a change. I don’t blame you for taking the confession route, and I am glad for you that it worked, but I find it so shady for Google to just let you right back in because you promise to change your ways.  

      • http://www.iacquire.com/ Joe Griffin

        He asked two questions. One I answered very directly. The other was about our backlink profile. iAcquire never bought links to promote its own website, so, we didn’t have to clean up anything in our own backlink portfolio. We got back in Google because we DID EXECUTE on major changes in our organization in a very fast manner, and committed to doing the right things going forward.

        • Stu Draper

          So that means that Penguin, an algorithmic change, didn’t like something about your organization, that once you switched, allowed you to be re-entered into the index? I am just pointing out the fact that it is messed up that Google manipulates their search results manually, where and when it wants to, without relying on a non-biased algo. 

          As Scott said, “The key takeaway is that Penguin, and the actions against iAcquire show that Google’s tone has changed. ”

          • http://www.iacquire.com/ Joe Griffin

            Penguin was basically a way or untrusted links (and also shallow content). It wasn’t Penguin that affected us, but Penguin did represent a more aggressive Google. So, that more aggressive Google did affect us in a manual way. 

            Scott, is correct in that statement. And yea, it stinks that Google can manipulate their results however they want – but that’s their perogative. That makes SEO more challenging for the common small business owner, and will probably also weed out SEO agencies that don’t have the fortitude to roll with the punches and always stay on top of the ball.

  • http://www.iacquire.com/ Joe Griffin

    Thanks Yousaf.

  • http://twitter.com/greatfulbread Julian Sutter

    Awesome to see.  I am still bummed that you got deindexed in the first place but welcome back!

    • http://www.iacquire.com/ Joe Griffin

      Thanks man – the lovers have outweighed the haters by a factor of 100 to 1. That’s really encouraging for us.

  • http://www.webhorizons.it Paolo Cappucci

     Enthusiasm is the perfume of life and we must never lose

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  • http://www.eventchecklist.net/ Arwin Adriano

    Congratulations! Nice to see you back with big G’s radar.

  • http://alameenhospital.com/ Moin Shaikh

    The openness and honesty to admit mistakes and to welcome the judgement is the key to be on the helm in all aspects of life be it social or professional – Good job Joe – liked the way the post is written! All the best – Moin

    • http://www.iacquire.com/ Joe Griffin

      Thanks Moin.

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  • Rajesh Magar

    That’s ok after all we all human get learn better from mistakes, Right?

    Have fun with re-inclusion party. And just little bit careful in future.

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  • William Seabrook

    Fresh and honest post Joe – hope you can enjoy some of your holiday now..!

    William
    http://seabrook-associates.com

  • http://www.linkbuildr.com/ Ryan @ Linkbuildr

    Congrats folks and what a fun way to announce the return. Have a great party and I look forward to your future blogs posts…been hungry for them!

  • http://www.seo.com/ Dustin Heap

    Welcome back. At the end of the day it’s Google’s index and they’ll do as they please. As an SEO I hope they do so algorithmically and not to their personal gain/agenda. Ultimately though the key lesson is that you have to play by their rules and do quality/long term work or else you’ll pay the price. Thanks for sharing the changes iacquire is making/has made. Excellent lesson for the rest of the industry. Look forward to the future post mentioned.

  • Ben Cook

    Are you willing to disclose what Google required you to do for reinclusion? You mention that they trust your intent. How did you communicate that intent? Was it simply promising to not pay for links anymore or did you provide more information?

    This seems like the most interesting part of the whole post and yet despite your claims of being transparent, you seem to keep glazing over the issue and offering very few specifics.

  • Alex

    Good read Joe. Way to hang in there, show humility and persevere. You took what was negative and turned it positive. I love the way you said in a reply comment about a heart change.

    Respect all day!

    • http://www.iacquire.com/ Joe Griffin

      Thanks Alex – I appreciate the kind words.

  • http://www.iacquire.com/ Joe Griffin

    Ben, thanks for visiting. I’m happy to address your question. And I’m going add more context and color as well, because I think some of these unanswered questions need to be answered – so I’m going to do the best I can here :)

    In the future, feel free to ask me this stuff – as long as you give me an opportunity to be straight with you I will. We took many of the same actions that anyone else would take. One thing to keep in mind, is that we were not penalized – we were banned. So, that is a totally manual action. Often these penalties are algorithmic. Algorithmic penalties can be overcome by making corrective action on and off-site. Manual penalties are different – I know you know that, but my point is, some have asked why we got back in, and what is behind that. So, first off, it’s not a normal case.Secondly, we have been honest and upfront about the fact that it will take some time to see that every aspect of our agency is up to Google’s guidelines in all areas (I even said in the post above that we are still not perfect). The commitment we made was that we would immediately stop any sort of paid links going forward in our link building tactics, and that we’d audit anything that was already out there and work as expeditiously as possible to kill any of those programs off. You’re talking about certain contracts that might include a component of paid links. That is the sort of thing that requires contract negotiation. You’re also talking about publisher relationships – many of which might have been locked down in certain ways.

    Another point is that just because someone buys, sells, or brokers links doesn’t mean they have to be banned in Google. There are massive paid link footprints and brokers all over the place – it’s not like they are hiding. This movement by Google was a statement – it was a manual statement, and it was a manual reindexation – it was a special case all around.

    The point is, the best possible thing we can do as an agency is to aggressively work on all fronts is to educate our clients about how to still compete in Google in a way that aligns with what they want to see. Myself and a team of 5 others have been on the road, meeting with clients, talking through these things, and also making sure that customers understand that Google’s tone has changed. Violating Google’s guidelines has always carried risks, but with the Penguin update and the actions against iAcquire, there is a new tone out there, and we are talking to our customers about it.

    Many of the leading online brands have engaged in, and currently engaged in tactics that do not always comply with Google’s guidelines – for various reasons – and if you want, we can talk about that too. But the bottom line is that these customers often work with multiple vendors, and they have clean up in many areas that needs to be addressed – not just with something provided by iAcquire (for those that are applicable).

    We really are traveling – we really are trying, and we really are following through. I’d be happy to post the travel receipts. Google has showed a little mercy because this has become somewhat of a public spectacle, but also because we’re taking the actions dead serious. At the end of the day, our ban was high profile, and we also made our actions to clean things up known, and pleaded our case to Google direct. Apparently they heard enough of me contacting them multiple times per week. It was certainly no charity case. We don’t have any special relationship with the folks at Google, nor did we leverage some back door paid search relationship. We’re just trying to be honest about where we are at and what we are doing, and apparently that message was heard.

    • http://www.randfishkin.com/blog Rand Fishkin

      Bravo Joe – thank you for the in-depth response. I can imagine it’s a very complex process, and I feel bad that you guys took the brunt of the message Google wanted to send (when there are so many targets out there). Overall, I’m glad you got hit, glad you’re back in and I only wish that Google would be as transparent about this as you guys have been. Supposedly, it’s part of their “core values.”

      • http://www.iacquire.com/ Joe Griffin

        Thanks Rand – in some ways I’m glad we got hit too – it was a big kick in the butt to transition that division faster. Google did send a message, and I think it was effective for them. Google has definitely been taking a big hit on transparency lately. Part of me believes they are actually trying to be more transparent, but failed in part on that execution. I think Matt’s last post on the Webmaster Central Blog did a much better job – http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/new-notifications-about-inbound-links.html. Hopefully we can all be one big happy family sooner than later :)

    • Ben Cook

       Joe, I don’t doubt that you’ve been traveling around talking to clients etc. My question was more about how you let Google know about your actions & what they required.

      You mention contacting them multiple times per week. Was that emailing Matt Cutts, via a help forum, through an email thread, or did you just do a reinclusion request?

      In those interactions did you detail your previous actions, just the steps you’d taken to address the issues or was it simply you making these actions known publicly & someone at Google keeping tabs on what you’d done?

  • http://www.iacquire.com/ Joe Griffin

    Ben, we made contact through pretty much all of those channels. I don’t know exactly what got us back in at this point. I believe that the various attempts were heard. Many of the communications did include transparency around what we’ve done in the past and also the plans we had to fix things which have violated those guidelines.

    I don’t know if someone at Google is keeping tabs on us, but I’m going to assume they are. I honestly believe that they are at a minimum willing to give us an opportunity to set things right. It’s a good gesture on their part, and we have every intention of following through on our end. We did get some communication back from them, and the big thing is that they want to see us follow through, and they also want us to start preaching the right message. I think they know we have more work to do, and maybe this is an incentive to do that work? I don’t know. I don’t have any concrete marching orders from Google if that helps. We’re just gonna focus on doing what we said we would do at this stage.

    • Ben Cook

       Thanks for that response Joe, that does clear things up.

      One of the things you mentioned though is disturbing to me… “and they also want us to start preaching the right message.”

      Is that just your take on the issue or was there something a Google rep said to indicate that?

      Should people speaking on black hat sessions or topics such as “how to buy links without getting caught” worry about being banned?

      • http://www.iacquire.com/ Joe Griffin

        I wouldn’t take it to mean that if you say stuff that Google doesn’t like they will ban you. There was some indication that our messaging was not fully aligned yet internally, i.e. you’ve got one guy saying one thing, and another guy saying another thing. It’s more about our own misalignment in the wake of a semi-crisis. We didn’t have a disaster recovery plan in place. That was a good lesson to be learned though – understand your risks, and be prepared to respond should something go south.

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  • http://twitter.com/techpertz Techpertz

    Above words will surely encourage webmasters and all.

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  • http://www.inboundmarketingexpert.org/ Inbound Marketing Expert

    Congratulation  iAcquire!!! and Best of Luck.

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  • http://twitter.com/TrafficSalad Traffic Salad

    That’s wonderful and Congratulations for getting Indexed again in Google. Not a lot of webmasters and site owners get back once they get deindexed. Did you know if the indexing was manual or algorithmic? Thanks!

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