The Dreaded Google Penalty – Part 2

Graphic of an angry Google

In Part 1 of this article we explained how our site had been issued with a Google Thin Content penalty and provided some details about what that entailed and our approach to getting it removed. Its been quite a mission in working out exactly what this penalty relates to, as we shall see in this series of articles the name applied to the penalty by Google was actually very misleading.

As severe as these penalties are on web site performance in search engine results, and the size of and dominance of Google in the search engine market, you would think that their guidance material would be very good with easy to follow tools that help you directly address what Google is not happy with and get it changed. But no, which was a surprise to us. Not only is the penalty notification general in what policy you are meant to have breached, the guidance in getting back into better standing with our friends in Mountain View is not particularly helpful either.

The best help we found was actually in forums and other sites and reading about what others had experienced going through the same issue and how they tackled the problem. Because our approach was to: 1. improve the readers experience; and 2. get the penalty removed, we had to make sure the work we were putting into the site would address both. Although one would expect that if goal 1 was addressed goal 2 would be achieved too, but this isn’t necessarily the case. And like most people, we only have so many hours in the day we can dedicate to our web site.

So we began making changes earlier this month, with the structure and content being the first areas to target. We changed the home page to hopefully make it easier for readers to get started in solving the Keurig problem they needed solving. We set out the three easiest steps that we felt people could use to find the answer they needed. We removed many ad placements and moved them all further down into articles. Part of this was advice from others in that having ads “above the fold”, so this was one of the first things a reader would see, reduced a reader’s experience and Google didn’t like to see it any more. And on reflection the site probably had too many ads in any case and certainly on pages that did not warrant them. For example there were completely removed from our Privacy Policy, Contact Us and Terms of Use pages. And on all other pages they were reduced down to only one or two ads (Google allows a maximum of three ad placements per page if you are using their Adsense program).

We started to beef up our main page that lists the most common Keurig issues and introduced a new section that set out questions we had received from readers and a detailed response back to them. The purpose of this change was to provide even more detail, in particular where the issue could be quite uncommon and so hadn’t made it to the main solutions page.

As part of helping readers to find better quality solutions and quicker we upgraded the search function on the site. This is now provided by Swifttype, which provides, we hope, better quality search results (the irony is not lost). What this function also provides is a report on search queries that have not provided the reader with what they were after. This enables us to then get some content produced that will help in the future.

One of the issues that arose from our research about what others had experienced with this penalty was addressing site load speed. In other words, how long does the site take to load when someone clicks on its search result. Our site wasn’t too bad, coming in at around 2.5 seconds on average. But we knew this could be better and for those on slower connections this could make a real different. Looking into this some more, two of the most common factors that slow down WordPress type sites are large photo sizes and two many loaded plugins. Without going into to much detail, a plugin is a small program that provides additional functions to a site, for example the search function Swiftype is a plugin.

In reviewing the photos we used on our site some were very large in size, ie their electronic size, not the size on the screen, and so we ran all of these files through a service provided over at After doing this and a few other changes we managed to get the load time down to approximately 1 second. So a big improvement and one we trust will help.

The other two big changes that we made was adding this blog section, which includes news about Keurig in the market, for example when they have promotions and sales on, and our views about different things around coffee and in particular the single serve pod market. The second addition was the About Us page. It hadn’t dawned on us we hadn’t done one before. This provides a bit of back ground as to how we got to where we are with this site and a little about us. We hope this will help readers identify a bit better with us (for example when writing to us they are writing to human and not some machine) and that we are just the same as them in enjoying Keurig and we have been where they are in having a machine that is it working how it should.

So after a couple of weeks work we submitted to Google our request for their reconsideration. We thought these changes, and quite a few technical “under bonnet”, ones, we had sorted out the problems and Google would be happy. But oh dear. About two weeks later we received their response and no …. sorry your site still violates their Guidelines and so the penalty still applies. Of course there are no specific examples provided, so we were at bit of a loss as what to do next. We had read in our research that it could take a number of reconsideration requests before Google was happy.

We must admit it was quite disappointing in receiving the notification after two weeks waiting. We thought that perhaps if it wasn’t successful they might provide a bit more detail. For example, “we see the changes you have made and these have helped / not helped / made or it worse and we suggest you look at these specific pages”. But alas no, one receives the exact same email that was sent in the original notification. And the request one sends in just isn’t please look at my site again. You set out in some detail what changes have been made.

So back to the drawing board …. Part 3 will continue with our journey as we “work” with Google in improving this site.