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Here’s a theoretical scenario: You’ve been hit with a manual penalty from Google. You take all the time and effort it takes to complete a link audit and remove all the bad links you’ve accumulated, and made sure your link profile doesn’t look questionable to Google’s eyes. You resubmit, but even after weeks your website is still flat-lining. What the heck?

As it turns out, that link audit and resubmission process was only half the battle. Google does use over 200 different signals to determine ranking, but links are still the heavyweights in the arena. Now think back to all those unnatural links you just removed. Often, those “bad” links were some of the most powerful in your profile, and you don’t have anything healthy replacing them.

I have some bad news. If you got hit with a manual penalty, you most likely used questionable or downright spammy methods to climb the rankings before, and that doesn’t cut it anymore. There is a way to recover, but it takes basically restarting your SEO process to get your site back in the rankings, and this time you can’t take short cuts.

Search Engine Watch suggests a four step process to getting your sites ranking again, but if you loved the spammy old ways of the web, these steps may seem counter-intuitive or just boring and difficult. Unfortunately for you if you feel that way, there aren’t many other options, and there will be less the more refined Google gets. Chuck Price put it best when he said, “adhering to the webmaster guidelines is no longer a “suggested” course of action, it is required.”

The four-step process will help you clean house on all the remnants of less savory SEO methods, and make your site look as clean and reputable as it should. Don’t try to toe the line again or take advantage of any loophole you find. You only really get one chance to come back after a manual penalty. If you get hurt again, it will be nearly impossible to fix everything.

Receiving an email from Google saying that they have noticed unnatural links associated with your website is never a good thing. The best outcome still involves losing organic search traffic from Google for at least some time, plus the email means you have work to do really quickly.

Search Engine Watch writer Chuck Price has seen webmasters respond to manual penalties and many of them actually make their problems worse, especially when they panic. Webmasters who panic when they receive a manual penalty website tend to fly into manic states running around doing the first thing they can think of to try to get the penalty fixed; thoughts like filing reconsideration requests before actually fixing the problem.

If you’ve received an email about unnatural links or manual penalties, take a minute to breath. There is no reason to panic. You have to do some work to identify the issues and fix your site’s linking problems, but panicking isn’t going to get that done any faster, and might blow your one chance to get your links reconsidered by Google in the near future.

Once you’re calm, it is time to get to work. Price has suggestions for how to get your page back in order no matter how many bad links you have. However, if you have been actively building thousands of unnatural links, you will have to make huge efforts to make up for the spamming.