June 6th 2020
Have you recently received a Google penalty?
Google assigns penalties to websites that don’t comply with its complex rules for a Google-friendly site. It’s far easier to receive a penalty than most people assume.
There are two kinds of Google penalties: manual and algorithmic. Both are frustrating and can influence your ranking in search results.
Lower rankings can harm your visibility and reputation, slashing conversion rates and local traffic.
If you’ve recently received a Google penalty, the first thing to do is stay calm. There are plenty of things you can do to recover from a Google penalty, and all of them are in your power.
In this post, we’ll discuss the ten steps you can take toward a Google penalty recovery. Read on for insight!
1. Identify the Type of Google Penalty
There are two kinds of Google penalties any site can receive: an algorithmic penalty or a manual penalty.
Google relies on both human employees and algorithms to check to ensure that sites are following its guidelines.
Manual penalties are fairly straightforward and are often easier to resolve. These occur when an actual Google employee finds your site and identifies a violation of some kind.
Google is actually quite nice when it comes to manual penalties. A notification will appear in Search Console indicating that a penalty occurred. Google will provide reasons as to why this penalty was assigned and what you can do to fix it.
With a manual penalty, simply follow the clean-up steps that Google provides. They may involve some of the tips we’ve outlined below in this post.
Once you’ve resolved the issue, Google requires site owners to submit what they all a “reconsideration request.” This document essentially outlines your knowledge of the error and the steps you took to resolve it.
Algorithmic penalties occur when one of Google’s algorithms finds an issue with your site. These may occur through Penguin or Panda, algorithms that check for link quality and content quality (respectively).
Since these algorithms are automatic, they won’t notify users of a penalty. However, a penalty may be fairly obvious to you if you notice a dramatic decline in your SEO performance.
Site owners don’t receive a message in Search Console about an algorithmic penalty, so it can be difficult finding solutions. For the purposes of this post, we’ll be discussing what you can do to tackle an algorithmic penalty.
The good news about an algorithmic penalty is that you can initiate a “clean-up” immediately. Google’s algorithms are always updating, so they’ll quickly recognize your clean-up efforts. Therefore, you can recover from an algorithmic penalty potentially quickly (assuming the right steps and corrective action was taken).
2. Identify the Reason for the Penalty
It can be tough to identify the reasons for an algorithmic penalty. This is particularly the case if you are new to the world of SEO and website management.
Luckily, there are plenty of tools at your disposal when it comes to parsing the motivation behind a Google penalty. SEMrush, for example, can help marketers check for penalties related to any recent algorithm updates.
When using SEMrush, analyze your site’s organic visibility. Any
severe dips in this visibility are often indicators of Google penalties.
“You can also identify dips in traffic and SEO rankings by reviewing Google Analytics or your site’s performance reports.”
Mr. Barocas also notes that
“a comprehensive website or SEO audit can provide insight into whether or not a penalty arose.”
If these tools do not reveal the reason or existence of a penalty, we still recommend going through these steps to ensure that your website is consistent with Google’s guidelines.
3. Review Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and Algorithm Updates
If you aren’t already familiar with Google’s webmaster guidelines, be sure to review them now. It’s important to be well-versed in Google’s rulebook, even if you haven’t received a Google penalty.
These guidelines give site owners of all backgrounds clear stipulations about what is required for stellar Google performance. They cover content quality, SEO campaigns, and “bad” practices that can earn penalties.
We also advise familiarizing yourself with Google’s recent algorithm updates. After all, many algorithmic penalties occur as a result of Google updates. Begin with Penguin and Panda, Google’s primary algorithms for inspecting link and content quality.
Going through Google’s webmaster guidelines and algorithm updates frequently rings a bell for site owners. Once that bell rings, a solution may be evident. Otherwise, keep reading.
4. Check and Remove Bad Backlinks
Backlinks are any links to your site found on other sites. High-quality backlinks are those that use appropriate anchor texts and are closely linked to your page or site content.
Spammy or low-quality backlinks are found on sites that don’t relate to your content whatsoever. Sometimes these are “bought” backlinks or the result of spammers.
Bad backlinks can easily lead to a Google penalty, especially if they are the result of “black hat” SEO practices.
You can easily inspect your site’s list of backlinks and remove any that are influencing your Google performance.
A great place to begin with link clean-up is Google Search Console. Navigate to Search Console’s dashboard and click “Search Traffic > Links to Your Site.” You can also use a variety of backlink identifier tools. Some of the best ones are available on platforms like Ahrefs, Moz, and Majestic.
This may seem rather tedious, but at this point, you’ll want to go through all of the links on your list of backlinks. Identify whether or not each link is “good” or “bad.” In other words, determine which ones are high-value and relevant and which are obviously spammy or irrelevant.
Once you’ve identified the “bad” backlinks, it’s time to remove them. If you are on the fence about some links, it’s better to be safe than sorry––put them on the nix list too.
You can eliminate links in two ways. One way involves reaching out to the sites themselves and requesting a physical removal. For some sites, this may be perfectly viable.
If it isn’t viable for others, you’ll need to “disavow” these links through Google.
5. Go Through Your Content
If you’ve received a Google penalty through Panda, this penalty is due to a content violation. If you aren’t sure what the reason is for your Google penalty, it’s still wise to go through your content.
Google is very clear about the type of content it prioritizes when assigning search result rankings. In general, it loves sites that give their customers exactly what they’re looking for.
Google places a premium on highly valuable, relevant content. If any of the content on your site is “thin” or irrelevant, it can actually catch the notice of a web crawler.
Penalties can especially result if this thin content is stuffed with SEO keywords. Duplicate or plagiarized content can also earn a Google penalty.
If you haven’t done so already, take the time to go through all of your online content. Ensure that all pages are highly relevant and valuable to your visitors. Eliminate any “thin” or insubstantial content.
Also, run your site’s content through a plagiarism checker. Many website audits can also identify instances of duplicate content. You may wish to consider investing in content writing services if you really want to ensure that your site is home to the highest quality content.
6. Inspect Internal Links
A lot of site owners bypass internal links.
It’s valuable to build a healthy network of internal links on your site for SEO purposes. Internal links can also boost your site’s page authority, which can help in Google’s determination of your ranking.
Internal links that lead to redirects or cloaked content can lead to Google penalties. Redirects are much like detour signs. A visitor may click on a link expecting to get to a page about “digital marketing pricing,” for example, and then be redirected to a blog post about Google algorithms.
Redirects may not be intentional, but they can lead to Google penalties easily. This is because redirects can help content slip under Google’s radar, particularly if they are external links.
Inspect all internal links on your website. Make sure that they all go to the appropriate pages. Eliminate unnecessary redirects and build in appropriate links when needed.
7. Get an SEO Audit
It’s common to receive a Google penalty simply for poorly implemented search engine optimization. While SEO is a valuable digital marketing tool for all businesses, it can be tough to launch it correctly.
In fact, even professionals are prone to receiving Google penalties for SEO efforts.
If you are new to the world of SEO, you may be totally unaware of optimization no-nos. For this reason, we recommend obtaining an SEO audit. An SEO audit can give you insight into your campaign performance.
It can also analyze what’s influencing your content’s rankings––both “good” and “bad.” If obtained from a digital marketing or SEO agency, an SEO audit can identify solutions for good SEO habits that you and your team can adopt going forward.
Even if you don’t have a penalty from Google, an SEO audit can still be valuable. View it as a preventative tool against receiving an SEO-related Google penalty.
8. Remove Spammy External Links
Much like internal links, external links on your site can influence whether or not you get a Google penalty. If you incorporate spammy external links, Google will notice.
Spammy external links are those backlinks you don’t want to go near. They may be purchased backlinks, for example. They could also send users to non-relevant or spammy sites.
Examine your sites external link structure carefully. Again, this may seem very time-consuming, but it’s well worth it!
Don’t forget to remove any external links in your content that send users to irrelevant or inappropriate sites. All of your external links should be viable and relevant.
9. Remove User Spam
Unfortunately, users themselves can be responsible for your Google penalty. This is particularly the case for sites that include forums, enable comments, and permit guest posts.
Going through all of your site’s user additions can be a headache. However, spam is often easy to spot, especially when scrolling through comments.
Obviously, spammy user content may look like it’s been composed by a hacker, spammer, or self-promoter. It may also be redundant, include strange graphics, and incorporate odd links.
You may wish to disable comments on your website content for a while as you go through all of your site’s user material to hunt for spam.
10. Monitor Your Site
Once you’ve tackled all of these steps, it’s essential to monitor your site. Checking in on site performance throughout the Google recovery process gives you insight into what’s working and what isn’t.
Keep in mind that you only have to submit a reconsideration request if you receive a manual penalty. Algorithmic penalties do not require you to fill out this document and submit it to Google.
You can monitor your site performance through SEMRush or Google Search Console. Look for increases in organic visibility and improvement in search engine rankings.
Final Thoughts: Google Recovery
At the end of the day, navigating a Google penalty can be intimidating. It may simply be easier (and much more viable) to consult the experts to achieve your Google recovery.
This may mean investing in SEO or website audits. Similarly, some digital marketing agencies even offer clean-up services or consultations about avoiding Google penalties.
If you have recovered from a penalty, be sure to reach out to professionals in the future. Whether your penalty was the result of SEO malfeasance or poor backlinks, the right company can ensure you won’t have to recover from a penalty again.
Google penalties can be daunting, especially if you manage a large site. The first thing to do when it comes to Google recovery is to identify the type of penalty and its reason.
Once you’ve done this, familiarize yourself with Google’s webmaster guidelines and algorithmic updates. Inspect your content and link structures, removing redirects and user spam.
Disavow poor or spammy backlinks that may be hindering your search engine performance. If possible, get an SEO audit to ensure your optimization efforts are in line with Google’s regulations.