How Bad is a Google Penalty, Really? Costs of Black-Hat SEO

I’m so glad you asked! Those of us in the SEO world are very careful to not excite the wrath of Google, but those less acquainted with the field may be left asking, “Why?”. It’s tempting to think, “Maybe I can get away with it for a while, get a huge boost, and then when the penalty comes, fix it. There’s no way it could hurt more than it helps, right?”

Historical evidence says this is incorrect. Consider, for example, several high-profile cases of Google penalizing websites. Several of these websites were knocked from the top of page 1 down several pages.

Many of them stopped ranking for the brand’s own name. Today Google showed that they’re still keeping up on penalizing rules violators (at least ones whose violations become publicly known) when they brought the hammer down on Thumbtack, a B2C services directory. Thumbtack is pretty cool, but they apparently have a very sketchy way for business owners to promote themselves which violates Google’s link building guidelines.

Based upon SEMRush data, Thumbtack has been manually penalized by Google since 6 June. It has stopped ranking for its own brand name on Google SERPs altogether. This has cost them an estimated 240,000 hits in the past two days. That’s a little less than half a day’s traffic for them, and I don’t want to think about how much money for them or the business that use Thumbtack for leads.

Lesson: the costs of black-hat SEO can be severe. Don’t get knocked off the results pages!

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