What is a Google Penalty?

As part of an effort to provide the most relevant, accurate web pages for a user’s search query, Google introduced their Webmaster Guidelines. These are a set of ‘best practice’ SEO recommendations which webmasters and developers should adhere to in order to avoid any risk of the site being penalised, or, in worse-cases, blacklisted. Any sites which deliberately partake in these illicit practices may be penalised by Google which is known as a Google Penalty. Sites affected by any Search Engine’s spam actions may no longer be indexed in their directory.

Over the years, important algorithm updates by Google, such as the Google Panda and Penguin updates, have aimed to improve the quality of sites which are appearing in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS). Sites were punished for a variety of violations including having poor quality Content and participating in paid or excessive link schemes unnaturally. The basic principles which Google have stipulated are:

  • Target a website’s visitors as opposed to Search Engines.
  • Don’t deliberately deceive or mislead visitors to a website.
  • Consider the reasoning behind any website updates and avoid any unethical shortcuts.
  • Aim for your website to be unique, engaging, relevant and ahead of all the competition within the same industry.

Google Penalty Removal Steps

If you think your website has been impacted by a Google Penalty, perhaps due to a significant drop in Organic rankings, Net Sixty Six have put together some steps to follow which should help get your website back on the right track again.

Google Penalty Removal Request

1.)  Algorithmic or Manual Penalty?

Determine which type of penalty your site has incurred. To check for an algorithmic penalty, you will need to analyse your Google Analytics data for any sudden drops in organic traffic. You do not get notified if your site is hit with an algorithmic penalty. Algorithmic penalties do not require a reconsideration request.

Manual penalties are given by a web spam team member at Google who will manually review the site to see if it adheres to their guidelines. For manual penalties you will need to file a reconsideration request after the removal work has been done. To check for a manual penalty check the “Manual Actions” tab under “Search Traffic” in search console.

2.) Panda vs Penguin

The next step is to determine which Google penalty is impacting your site performance. The Panda update targets site quality issues;

  • Low quality/thin content
  • Hidden Text
  • Duplicate content
  • Keyword Stuffing
  • Cloaking (Penguin Targets Low Quality Links)
  • Low quality, Article Directories, Blog Comments and Directories
  • Over optimised anchor text links
  • Spammy footer links
  • Paid Links
  • Link schemes

3.) Panda Clean Up

For a full Panda recovery a full content and site quality assessment is needed to ensure your site follows Google’s guidelines from site architecture to content auditing and page speed improvements. It is important that user experience is improved. Panda is part of Google’s core ranking signals, which means Google will pick up your improvements on the next crawl of the website.

4.) Penguin Clean Up

Backlink analysis and auditing is required, by using a range of link checkers gather a list of your sites entire backlink profile. Highlight any links that may fall short of Google’s guidelines like the examples mentioned in section 2. Contact the site owners of where these links have been placed requesting a removal of the link. For any outstanding links which are impossible to remove, create a disavow file and follow this format domain:lowqualitywebsite.com for each domain you want to disregard and submit to Google.

5.) Manual Clean Up

Similar to the steps above but as a manual penalty has been reviewed by a Google engineer, a reconsideration request is required. A reconsideration request should contain your findings, what has been done to the site to meet Google’s guidelines and ensuring it won’t happen again.

Following on from these steps, keep checking your website’s Analytics data for signs of recovery (traffic spikes following on from the resubmission request may be associated with the penalty being lifted). Also check for messages in Google Search Console and keep analysing the quality of your backlinks, repeating the process of link removal requests and submitting the disavow file(s) where needed.