How to Recover from Any Google Penalty
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Every year, Google tightens the reins on what’s acceptable – and what’s not. The search engine giant won’t hesitate to dole out penalties to websites that offer subpar content, participate in sketchy SEO activities, or perpetuate inappropriate language.
Google wants to share only the highest quality links in its search results. If your site fails to meet expectations in one way or another, you could very well be hit with a punishment that hinders your SEO efforts, and as a result, your website’s overall success.
Unfortunately, many website owners don’t know how to start fixing the problems behind these penalties. So many websites resign themselves to depleted rankings in SERPs – but you don’t have to.
In today’s Foxxr post, we’re sharing some manual tactics for addressing Google penalties, as well as methods for diagnosing the problems that could have caused a penalty in the first place.
Google is only getting stricter with algorithmic updates – Penguin and Panda really set the tone for what we can expect moving forward. If you want to protect your website’s rankings going forward, you need to tackle your outstanding issues ASAP to avoid punishments in the future.
What Is a Google Penalty?
In the simplest of terms, a Google penalty is a punishment for a website that fails to meet Google’s guidelines. There are two main types of penalties: manual and algorithmic.
A manual penalty will include a message from Google explaining what your website has done wrong. It will likely point out unnatural links or low-quality content that’s below the search engine’s expectations for websites. You will be able to address the problem, then submit your company’s website for reconsideration.
With an algorithmic penalty, you’ll need to do some more digging on your own to learn the root of the issue. Using a Google algorithm tool, or with your own tactics, track down the time period in which your rankings suddenly decreased substantially.
Once you’ve pinpointed where your traffic plummeted, ascertain which Google update rolled out in the days right before. With a little research, you can likely find a correlation between the search engine update and the sudden decrease in web traffic.
The question is, what exactly do you need to change in order to improve your standing with Google again? We’ll dive a little deeper into this later in the article.
How Do Google Penalties Affect Your Website?
Normally, you’ll realize you received a Google penalty when you read the message from Google or when you notice your traffic has dropped dramatically.
You may also find that the penalty:
- Removes your website from SERPs so it won’t show up on Google.
- Lowers your rankings for targeted keywords.
- Makes it difficult (or even close to impossible) for your target audience to find you.
In short, a Google penalty will definitely hurt your website traffic, as well as your online reputation and revenue. You’ll want to begin diagnosing the cause of the penalty quickly so that you can update your site and regain your good standing in Google’s SERPs.
What to Do as Soon as You Realize You Incurred a Penalty
Time is money. The longer your website is penalized, the longer it will be difficult for your audience to find – and the more revenue your company will lose.
Most commonly, a big, sudden dip in organic traffic will be the telltale sign of a penalty. More importantly, your conversion rate will plummet.
Fortunately, Google allows for recoveries to occur in as little as 72 hours. Some penalties certainly take longer to resolve, but regardless of your issue, you can eventually regain your standing and remove the punishment.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to responding immediately:
- Lookup Google’s latest algorithm updates. What could have suddenly changed in Google’s regulations that resulted in a punishment?
- Use a Website Penalty Indicator to diagnose the key issue. This will help you pinpoint minor algorithm changes that could have caused problems for your site.
- Conduct a manual, paid or Free SEO audit of your website. You’ll need to determine if there are any black hat SEO failures hindering your success.
Once you’ve found and fixed the problem, you’ll need to file a reconsideration request – just like thousands of other sites do every week. Google will then evaluate your website and determine if it no longer violates guidelines.
If you’ve properly addressed the issue, you will receive a message in your Google Search Central Tools saying that your site is no longer in violation. On the flip side, if the problem still exists, you’ll have to start your troubleshooting all over again.
Why You Might Have Received a Penalty from Google
Let’s jumpstart your recovery process by discussing some of the top reasons why your website might have been penalized recently. If you’re guilty of any of these issues, you’ve likely received a penalty already or will soon.
1. Keyword Stuffing
We hope by now that most websites understand the dangers of keyword stuffing. If you’re overloading your website with keywords in hopes of ranking well, you’ll likely harm your website more than you help.
Ensure that you are using keywords to enhance and bring relevancy to your content. Google has no patience for keyword stuffing and will penalize certain parts of your website or the entire site altogether.
To regain your online visibility and website traffic, remove any irrelevant keywords, overly repeated phrases, long lists of phrases/numbers, and other words that don’t actually add value to your website.
2. Sneaky Redirects
Have you been trying to hide redirects to other websites – possibly to paid affiliates? Google doesn’t appreciate that, and you’ll likely incur a penalty until you remove sneaky redirects.
Don’t mask your redirects. Linking to a legitimate partner or affiliate is fine – but don’t be sneaky about it. Limit your number of redirect links and continually ask yourself, “Do my readers really care about or benefit from this link?” If not, you might consider removing it.
Any unexpected, sketchy redirects should be removed immediately. Only then can you submit your website to Google for reconsideration.
3. Thin, Shallow Content
Ever since the Panda algorithm update was rolled out, Google has been strict on content obtained from “content farms.” You’ll likely receive a penalty if your content is:
- Poorly researched
- Lacking in important detail
- Full of fluff/filler text
- Generally low-quality or shallow
If your website has been auto-generating blog posts, cranking out spam content that holds no value, or scraping text from other sites, you need a new content marketing strategy.
The fix is to remove all subpar content, then replace it with useful information that actually benefits your readers. Google will only remove the penalty if you have eradicated the content that is thin, duplicated, and irrelevant.
4. “Free Hosting”
This phrase is a problem within itself. Free hosting, in most cases, equates to poor hosting. You might not be paying for the service, but you will deal with problems like spam and unreliable loading speeds – both of which could lead to penalties.
Focus on bettering the user experience with a worthwhile (paid) hosting service. You’ll pay more, but you’ll also spend less time dealing with Google penalties and user complaints.
Some of our top cost-effective hosting service recommendations are:
You may also take advantage of high-performing web hosts like WP Engine for better SEO results.
Long story short, cutting corners when it comes to hosting doesn’t do you much favor in Google’s eyes. Make the switch to a hosting service that you – and the web search engine – can both trust.
5. Hidden Images or Text
Does your website have images/text that is obscured or that redirect users away to another site? That could certainly lead to a penalty. Google should see the exact same image as your users do.
Even if you don’t think you have any cloaked images on your website, check your plugins. They could be hiding an image without your knowledge, leading to a penalty and therefore poor performance in SERPs.
6. Paid-For or Irrelevant Links
Say this twice: buying links or joining a link scheme will never serve your website well.
Not only is this a clear violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, but it’s also shady. As Google Search Central says, “Google and most other search engines use links to determine reputation.”
You will quickly earn yourself a penalty (and a bad online reputation) for including links you bought or links that are totally irrelevant to your website’s topics.
A much better plan would be to invest the proper time and resources into building quality links. A shortcut might be tempting, but at the end of the day, there’s a reason that Google catches hundreds of thousands of websites using shoddy link building services.
7. Spam Comments and Profiles
Whether it’s a slew of comments left on your blog or user profiles that don’t really exist, spam is a culprit of Google penalties. If you have recently received a penalty, check your website for spam. This includes:
- Advertisements hidden as comments.
- Irrelevant links or topics posted by commenters.
- Inappropriate user-generated content.
Make sure that someone is actually moderating all content that winds up on your website, in user-profiles and comments. Once you’ve removed the spam, you can submit for reconsideration, but don’t let unmoderated spam pop up again or you’ll wind up in the same place.
8. Misleading or Inaccurate Content
Finally, you might be punished for publishing misleading headlines, posts, and web copy on your site.
As we said before, Google is looking for quality. If you’re resorting to inaccurate clickbait titles or stories that aren’t factually accurate, the search engine will likely dole out a penalty after crawling your website.
Be especially careful if your website deals in medicine or self-help. Avoid making big claims like “this product can cure cancer!” Google will view this as both misleading and factually unsubstantiated.
If you’re ever worried about what kind of content Google marks as a violation, take a look at the “Discover content policies.” The search engine does not allow:
- Paid promotional material that is misrepresented as non-sponsored/editorial content.
- Adult-themed content.
- Content on voting/election processes that is outdated or inaccurate.
- Dangerous content that could cause harm to humans/animals.
- Copyrighted content from others.
- Hateful comments or speech.
- Manipulative media created to deceive or mislead.
- Personal or confidential information that should not be shared.
To avoid penalties in the future, ensure you are creating high-quality content that meets all guidelines. When in doubt, cite your sources and double-check for accuracy. Let Google know that you are doing everything in your power to be transparent, honest, and factual.
It’s not any website owner’s first choice to deal with a Google penalty, but they’re more common than most think. As soon as you’re hit with one, it’s time to begin the recovery process and regain your SERP rankings.
Whether it’s keyword stuffing or bad links that did you in, tackle the issue quickly. If you’re not sure what the problem is, let us know. We’re happy to help cultivate a strategy that will help you seek reconsideration quickly.