Getting a Google penalty is one of the worst nightmares for webmasters and search engine marketers. Google’s algorithms can easily put an end to months of hard work, bags of money invested in a promotion, and your hopes to attract customers online. In a word, a Google penalty is like a football penalty shot aimed at a goal post of your favourite team one minute before the game ends.
Carry on reading and you’ll learn about the first signs of a Google penalty, and what you should if your website has been penalised.
When should you suspect a penalty?
Webmasters can find out if there have been any manual penalties in Google Webmaster Tools. Just go to Search Traffic – Manual Actions to see if you have one pending.
When a website is penalised by an algorithm, Google doesn’t notify its owner about it. That’s why marketers must know which signs indicate that a website has probably been penalised.
Google penalties are divided into two groups. The first one is algorithmic penalties. They are automated and applied without directly involving Google staff. The second one is manual actions. Google engineers penalise a website manually after they notice that it violates Google’s guidelines.
These are the signs of a Google penalty:
- Significant and sudden drop in organic search traffic. If your site’s search traffic suddenly decreases, then check every possible technical and marketing issue – make sure that you have installed Google Analytics and it’s not the morning of January 1st. If everything is ok, then you should start thinking about it being a penalty. The important sign of a penalty is a drop off in traffic from Google.
- Domain or individual pages are not in the Google index. Webmasters can track a number of indexed pages in Google Webmaster Tools.
- A sudden drop in ranking. Sometimes Google doesn’t exclude a domain or individual pages from the index – it just “banishes” them away from organic SERPs.
How can you check your penalty?
After seeing the first signs of a Google penalty, you must remove them as soon as possible. However, at first you must make sure that your website is penalised, and what the reason for the penalty was.
Follow these instructions to check a Google penalty:
- Check manual actions in Google Webmaster Tools.
- Use penalty checkers, for example a toolbox called Gabblet, a penalty checker by Pixelgroove, or Fruition. The last one can be connected with your Google Analytics account. After that, you can track how Google algorithm changes impact different metrics of your website or check a penalty.
- If you don’t know exactly whether your website was penalised by Google or not, then send a reconsideration request. First, make sure that your website doesn’t violate the webmaster guidelines. Google recommends sending a reconsideration request, if a webmaster can’t identify the reasons for a website’s poor performance and is sure that all Google guidelines are followed properly.
What should you do to remove a Google penalty?
After making sure that your website has been penalised, start working bugs out of it. If Google used a manual penalty, then read a notification in Google Webmaster Tools. There you’ll find the reasons for a penalty and recommendations on how to remove it.
Do you want to read more?
Check out our guide to removing Google Penguin penalties. There you’ll find a lot of tips and tricks based on our own real-life experience.
If your website was penalised algorithmically, then you should first identify the penalty. The following types of Google penalties are the most common:
- Participating in link schemes to manipulate SERPs. In this case Google can give a manual penalty. The Penguin algorithm also penalises websites for link manipulations. In order to fix the reasons for a penalty, you must try to delete all unnatural links to your website. If you don’t manage to do this, then you should use the disavow tool supplied by Google.
- Penalties for poor quality or non-unique content, lots of ads, lack of user friendly navigation, slow page speed. This is where the Panda algorithm rolls in. If you want to remove this penalty, then you should delete all content you have borrowed from your colleagues or competitors. Create useful materials and post them regularly. Don’t overuse ads – one page shouldn’t contain more than two banners or contextual ads. Pay attention to your pages’ load speed and usability.
- Penalties -950 or -30. This kind of penalty is about gross violations of Google guidelines, including cloaking, doorway pages, hidden text and links. Keep in mind that Google often applies -30 penalty to websites that use keyword stuffing.
- Penalties for using a keyword in a domain name (EMD penalty). This penalty is applied to websites that use a pretty popular keyword in their domain names but don’t give users relevant and useful content related to it.
After you’ve fixed any violations, send a reconsideration request. When writing a cover letter, you should describe everything you did to improve the quality of your website. Confirm your actions with specific examples.
How to keep safe from a penalty?
If you have faced a sudden drop in organic traffic, deindexation of your website or fall in ranking, then check if you have any kind of a Google penalty. Use special tools or write in a tech support. After you have discovered that your website has had a penalty, fix all the mistakes you made and send a reconsideration request. If you’ve managed to make your website follow the Google guidelines, then nothing stops your website from moving on.