This is a TRUE & SUCCESSFUL story from Dale Gillespie, one of our customers.
“Below you will see presented an interesting recovery story from one of our great customers, Mr. Dale Gillespie. Happily, he chose to share with us his experience regarding a Google Penguin Recovery and a successful implementation of a 301 redirect strategy mixed with 404 on pages affected by unnatural links. It’s a great story about perseverance, patience and thinking ahead!”


I’d like to share with you my experience regarding a Google penalty that we’ve received and tell you how we managed to get rid of it and be back on the track again. Was a pain of a job to be honest! But it was made drastically easier, yet still laborious, as a result of perseverance and the use of cognitiveSEO.

1. Multiple Google Penguin Penalties

We were aware of the fact that we had some SEO problems with our existing domains but in the spring of 2013 things became more clear as all of our domains were hit with algorithmic penalties.

As a multimillion turnover and long established car dealer group, we were simply badly equipped for the internet revolution and had taken bad advice. We ended up with all of our sites having directory links and potentially bad links in their profile.
The sites that we’re talking about are:


Below  are the screenshots taken from analytics, where the drops can be easily spotted.
Smaller sites were worst affected by the Google Penguin Update from May 2013 and other Penguin updates had caused minor drops in traffic. The stronger more established sites weathered the storm but the drop’s were definitely affecting business. Drop

Google Analytics Screenshot – Ranking Drop Drop

Google Analytics Screenshot – Ranking Drop


2.The Rebranding Decision

With all our domains being penalized by Google Penguin, something needed to be done in order to recover our ranking, so we started working on some plans of action. A marketing strategy was agreed to rebrand as “Jennings Motor Group” and move all our penalized sites under one new domain, named

Jennings Ford Link Profile


The main concern was doing 301 redirect for all sites to a new domain in the context where we were lightly highlighted by the fact that the penalties would then affect all traffic and search rankings.

Also, our domains had real world value with over 14.000 cars on the road for all the brands that we commercialize. They had solid natural search that could not be abandoned, backed up by the domain names, press radio and other re-enforcement. Therefore, among our worries was how do we make sure that any branding change won’t affect our hard-earned SEO value.


 Jennings Motor on Press

We wanted to tell both users and search engines that our original pages were no longer relevant and that the most relevant and up to date information can be found on a brand new page but also transfer our old domains’ search engine rankings to the new web address.

Car buying requires about 10 website visits before a decision and even after a decision is made, people keep coming back to look at the car before they get it physically. So, maintaining our brand’s authority and awareness was crucial for us.

3. The Implementation of the 301 Redirects

After analyzing the situation, the agreed process was to implement a 301 redirect.

The process was implemented around the 8th of May 2014 and the 301 was done on a page to page basis, for each website individually. We also did 404 to some pages. We had to do further tidy up after this impacted traffic. So, long story short, we combined multiple domains into one single motor group domain so we had to tidy up the backlinks from these sites individually then 301 into the main site.

JMG 301 Redirect

Therefore, we started to try and take out all the other activities that creates solid organic traffic from real world radio, TV, press etc. It seldom drops off a cliff as we would ramp up ads which in turn generate increased organic traffic. We now needed to establish as a standalone site to do some natural link building and some content marketing for it. We retained the legacy of the other redirected domains so we also needed to do some cleaning in the link yard. We’ve started cleaning the new profile and started building on the value of JMG with high quality content and unique PR activity.

4.The Immediate Penguin Recovery Results

Happily, JMG was established quickly. The website evolved with rapidly improving functionality and quality content. Our bounce rate were reduced and our conversion rates improved consistently.

Google Penguin Recovery 301s

The first 301’s occurred in August 2014 producing a burst in visibility but, as expected, a rapid decline followed, resulting from the combined effect of all the bad links. The Google Penguin recovery was not done yet!

6.The Google Disavow “Dilemma” and the 404 Recovery Technique

Although sustained link building altogether with quality content and correct 301 redirect was done, there were still bad links in our profile, therefore we considered the possibility of submitting a disavow.

On the other side, we thought that every site has some spammy link ratio and maybe it was more important to get our profile as clean as we possibly could. Using cognitiveSEO to identify the bad links, contacting the linking sites and get them taken down and creating good content strategy should do just fine for our profile. We had created the mess so we had to clean it. Disavow was not a route we wished to take but more of a last resort.

Jennings KIA - Links

Until now, we have not done a disavow but we have clear in mind that it is an option, although we avoid it by killing off some of the internal pages with 404 rather than 301.

7. A Bright Future Ahead of Us!

If you look at the SEO Visibility over a longer period from, let’s say August last year until today, you will see the huge improvements we’ve made. The big backlinks tidy up that was done using cognitiveSEO with constant monitoring got us here. This year has kicked off with some good sold traffic improvements and we are enjoying solid traffic levels.

Jennings Motor Group SEO Visibiity

Monitoring is a never ending job. Yet, after all this efforts,  we can now proudly look at our link history chart and see a promising evolution of our OK links. We do not have unnatural links in our profile no more and the suspect links evolution trend is descending. As I said at the beginning of this post, it was a pain of a job but we managed to get things right after all with a lot of hard work and using the right tools.

Link Historiy Evolution

This is not a paid post and cognitiveSEO didn’t make any kind of agreement with the author. This is the successful Penguin recovery story of Dale Gillespie, written and documented by himself.


About the author

Dale Gillepsie


Dale Gillespie
Digital Marketing Manager
Jennings Motor Group

20 years experience in the motor trade in systems, sales, marketing and analysis roles. Responsible for heading up the Internet car sales team along with online automotive marketing and website development for Recently refreshed his skills with a Post Grad in Digital Marketing in 2012/13.

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