In the past if you were penalized by the most popular search engine Google, it was pretty much a death sentence.
You could completely clean up the site, file a reinclusion request and own up to the various methods you’ve employed to try and gain an advantage over your competitors.
Things such as inflating your link popularity through excessive link exchanges, buying links, cloaking, hidden text or hiding content from your visitors, and the list goes on.
Your site may be added back to the index after a review and you served some time in the penalty box, and you might even get some of your toolbar PageRank back. But the site would never really enjoy the traffic and rankings and that it could have pre-penalty phase even if you weren’t coloring outside the lines.
If you asked around in the various webmaster circles, the standard answer was dump the domain and register a new one and start over. The old domain was tainted and wold never be able to compete and would always be suppressed. The toolbar PageRank wouldn’t reflect the proper value and some internal pages may not have any toolbar PageRank at all.
Indexing and crawling would also suffer and would be infrequent at best, even with the continual addition of new content and new merit based links pointing to it. Deep content would have difficulty getting crawled, with little chance of it getting indexed and included in the search results.
I’m wondering if anyone has actually invested a substantial amount of time in a site after being penalized. It does take time to regain trust that was lost because of your error in judgement and it would seem that the more flagrant the foul, the longer it may take.
A site I own was penalized over 3 years ago because of my poor choices in advertising (buying links to inflate my PageRank). I was trying to get my deeper content indexed and ranking and was under the impression that the quickest route was by buying links (seen as attempting to inflate/manipulate my own PageRank). It was over a year after removing as many paid links as possible and filing a reinclusion request before I saw some of my toolbar PageRank return and some of my pages reincluded in the index.
It’s been over 3 years and the total number of pages indexed is getting closer to what they were prior to getting penalized. A number of merit based links have been indexed and I’m hoping that these have a positive overall effect. Seeing how there hasn’t been a toolbar PR update for quite some time, and the PR has held steady I’m hoping it’s not on the decline again.
Traffic is slowly returning, and more pages are appearing in the search results. Google is crawling the site more frequently and deeper than in the recent past and there are sitelinks being shown in Webmaster Tools and the SERPs. New content is getting indexed and retained. I’m hoping that all of these are positive signs that the site may fully recover given a little more time.
Like I’ve said in the past, hopefully I can look back on this one day as just a bump in the road. Time will tell as it’s a site that I plan on hanging on to for a long time. 😉