Has your site been penalized? Understand how to recover from Google penalties and continue your strategy.
If your site visits suddenly dropped or you stopped appearing on the front page of search engines, your site may have been punished.
And now you need to figure out how to recover from Google penalties to recover the work you’ve done so far.
The first step in resolving any penalties suffered by the site is to find out what that punishment was.
Generally speaking, there are two broad categories of punishments offered by Google: Manual Actions and Algorithm Penalty.
Read on for more details on each of these categories and how to find out if you suffered from any of them!
First: Recognize what penalty your site has suffered
Google has a team that specializes in analyzing websites and finding out if they are using Black Hat tactics to manipulate the search results offered by their search engine.
When this team detects something wrong on their site, they apply a Manual Action – that is, a punishment by the employees themselves.
To find out if you have been hit or not, just do the following:
- Sign in to your Google Search Console account;
- Select the Search Traffic menu;
- Click on the Manual Actions tab.
If you have not received any Manual Actions, but still felt a sharp drop in your visits, the problem may be an Algorithm Penalty. Keep reading to learn more!
As you may already know, Google has several algorithms that help define search results for your search engine.
To improve the service offered, the company constantly updates these algorithms to correct some errors and provide the best possible service to its customers.
It is possible that one of these updates has implemented a new criterion out of the over 200 that Google uses to define search results performed on its search engine and that is the reason for its poor performance.
In this case, you were not directly penalized by the company, but you are doing something that Google has defined as negative.
The first step in detecting any such punishment is to verify that you have received a Manual Action. If you have nothing in your Google Search Console account, then you may be penalized algorithmically.
The second step is to search to find out if there have been any Google algorithm updates. We recommend this Moz page, where they list and update all changes the searcher has made.
There are two main algorithms that will influence your performance on Google: Panda and Penguin.
Panda is an algorithm that seeks to ensure high-quality content for Google users. Already Penguin is focused on SEO and detecting low-quality links.
Therefore, if a change in Panda or Penguin coincides with your drop-in visits, then you are likely to have been penalized for this update. How to solve it?
Now, how do I recover from Google Manual Actions?
There are 10 main types of Manual Actions that your site can target. Check out:
Hackers can hack into your site to spam or even implement malware that may be harmful to you or your users.
In this case, you should contact your site’s hosting service to quarantine your site to review the situation.
A skilled technician should be able to explain how the hacker broke into your page, what he did and how to fix the problem.
Once you have everything set up, you should ask Google to reconsider your site.
User Generated Spam
If your site allows for some kind of user-generated content, such as comments, then you are subject to user-generated spam.
To resolve this penalty, follow this step-by-step:
- Look for places where some user may have spammed (comments on posts, forum profiles, etc);
- Analyze user-created content to identify spam (comments unrelated to article topic, ad-like text, etc.);
- Remove this content from your site;
- Implement measures to prevent further spam through comments or other avenues;
- Request a reconsideration of your site for Google.
Structured Spam Marking
Using rich snippets can be helpful in structuring your site for search engines, but misusing this feature can cause Google to be penalized.
If you received this Manual Action, it means that Google has applied a restriction to certain parts of your page.
They will be listed in the Manual Action itself, so it will be easier to solve the problem.
Just remove the tags selected by Google or edit them to comply with the company’s rich snippet guidelines.
After that, just ask for a reconsideration.
The Google Spam team will also review the content you post on your site.
In this case, it means that some of your articles have been identified as Copied Content, Auto-Generated Content, or a problem with Affiliate Programs or Doorways.
A good tool for finding copied content on your site is CopyScape. Just throw your articles there to find out if they conflict with articles on some other page.
After you have removed all content that is considered superficial or problematic by Google, ask for a reconsideration of your penalty.
Cloaking is a technique that builds the site in one way for Google’s robotic eyes and another for its users’ human eyes.
That is, visitors see one page and Google sees another.
Sometimes this kind of situation can happen without malicious intent, due to a page programming problem or the misuse of some feature, plugin or script.
To resolve this issue, do the following:
- Use the Fetch as Google tool on pages marked by the Manual Action received;
- This tool will allow you to see your site the same way Google does;
- Make a comparison of what Google robots get and what normal users get;
- If there is a difference in content, make the necessary changes to correct the problem;
- Also make sure your URLs are redirecting the user to some other page – if so, fix the problem;
- Ask Google to reconsider.
Even on cloaking, Google may identify that some images of your site are working inappropriately.
Basically, the images found by search crawlers are different from those displayed to their users.
In some cases, certain anti-hotlinking tools, which prevent any other site from displaying your server images and wasting your consumer bandwidth, may inadvertently cause cloaking behavior.
Take a look at your site images and make sure you are not using any anti-hotlinking tools, and when you are sure everything is in order, ask for a reconsideration of your page.
Hidden text or too many keywords
If Google penalized you for this Manual Action, the problem is in your articles.
There somehow have some hidden text or are using too many keywords and this is prohibited by Google.
To solve these two problems, do the following:
- Visit the Fetch as Google tool to see your site the same way crawlers do;
- Compare to try to find hidden text on your page;
- Parse your site code to find hidden text that uses specific CSS styles or placement;
- Use the Yoast SEO plugin to measure the proportion of keywords in your articles;
- Once you’ve resolved any hidden text or keyword overflow issues, ask Google to reconsider.
When Manual Action received by the site is marked “Pure Spam”, it means that the page is performing a series of repetitive actions that go against Google guidelines.
There is no “easy” solution to this penalty. If the situation has reached this point, it is because the problem is on the site as a whole.
It’s a good idea to take a moment to review Google’s webmaster guidelines and redesign your page to fit what the company is looking for.
Artificial links to your site
Google’s most feared Manual Action is “Artificial Links to Your Site”. It means that Google has detected that you were responsible for obtaining links deemed artificial to your page.
When you produce really epic article or really cool content, it is natural for multiple pages to link to your material.
However, when links follow a strange pattern or arise from sites that have nothing to do with yours, they are marked as artificial.
To solve this problem, you will need to work a little:
- Start by downloading a list of all links to your site from Google Search Console;
- To do so, go to Links to your site> More Links> Download the latest links;
- Check link-to-link those that go against Google’s linking guidelines;
- The most trusted sites, like Wikipedia, independent or BBC, for example, do not need to be checked. Already totally unknown sites should be verified;
- When you have a list of negative links, contact the owners of these sites to politely ask for the removal links.
You may not be able to remove all links this way. Some people may not read your contact or take a long time to respond.
In this case, use the Link Rejection tool at Google to forcibly delete these links. However, keep in mind that it is ideal to try to remove links manually and only use the tool as a last resort.
Artificial links from your site
This is the same as the previous one, but this time you have an artificial link on your site. Luckily, solving this problem is much simpler.
Once you know which artificial link is creating the problem, simply remove it or add the rel= “nofollow” attribute to it.
What about Algorithmic Penalties? Understand how to recover!
Now that we’ve seen how to deal with Manual Actions, it’s time to look at the Algorithmic Penalties.
The first step is to check out Google’s algorithm update list and find out what has changed. Usually, the search engine does not reveal all the changes it makes, but specialized sites are often accurate in their predictions.
The second step is to understand if the change that affected your site was on Panda or Penguin, as each of them must be handled differently.
If the Panda algorithm penalized your site, the problem is content. Somehow your page does not meet the quality content guidelines of the new algorithm update.
Ideally, you should do a full audit of your site. Check all articles for quality content, review formatting, and make sure material is accessible.
A good idea is to check out this high quality content guide prepared by Google itself. It has a checklist of what to consider when doing such an audit!
If the penalty was with Penguin then that means you are having problems with your external links.
Ideally, in this case, you should do the same work as listed in Manual Action – Artificial Links. That is: download all links to your site, check their quality and contact the owners of the bad links.
One important piece of information is that Google does update site information from time to time.
Once you have resolved your problems with Panda or Penguin, you will not be automatically “decriminalized”, but will have to wait for this update (which may take a few months) to feel the results.
Now that you know how to recover from Google penalties, how about continuing to deepen your SEO studies?