Google Penalty Recovery Guide

Netmatters Ltd
Posted by Netmatters Ltd
18th November 2015

Many people suffer from traffic loss due to Google penalties every day. If you have recently suffered severe traffic loss, our guide to recovery should point you in the correct direction.

What Are Google Penalties?

The most common Google penalty is named Google Panda and the second most common, Google Penguin.They serve completely different purposes but can have disastrous outcomes on the amount of traffic your website receives. Google no longer call Panda or Penguin "Penalties" as they are now referred to as "Quality Algorithms".

How Do I Identify A Google Penalty?

Google Panda

The Google Panda algorithm evaluates the quality of your website in its entirety. If the algorithm detects that your website is providing low quality content, then Google will pair your website with a lower quality score. It makes it extremely difficult for you to rank in the search engine, as well as being competitive for keywords related to your website.

In order to determine whether you are being negatively effected by the Panda algorithm you will notice the following:

  • You have experienced an acute, yet progressive traffic decline that eventually does stabilise.
  • Regardless of how many backlinks you have, you pages still have difficulty ranking.
  • Only certain keywords rank, however not as well as previously. Your website may only be found on page 2 or 3 for various keyword terms.
  • Based on past updates, when certain Google updates are carried out your rankings will drop further.
  • Google panda WONT show up under manual actions in Webmaster Tools.

Google Penguin

The Google Penguin algorithm primarily effects website owners that use aggressive link building techniques in an attempt to increase their online presence and domain authority. This algorithm was introduced in April 2012 and it searches for aggressive and unnatural link patterns to penalise websites that are trying to manipulate search engine rankings.

In order to determine whether you are being negatively effected by the Penguin algorithm you will notice the following:

  • A specific keyword or keyword group are suffering from an acute drop in rankings.
  • The website page that is containing your target keyword may be de-indexed whilst the rest of your website is being indexed.
  • A message in Webmaster Tools may or may not appear regarding unnatural linking, this will be under "Search Queries" and "Manual Actions".
  • In certain occasions pages on your website may be ranking when they are not meant to for your penalised terms.

De-Indexed Pages & Site

There are other Google penalties that exist and do not have official names, these can result in de-indexed pages and/or sites. These are fairly easy to identify and are based around spammy links, low quality/spammy content and/or black hat digital marketing techniques.

To see if your website has been de-indexed, search in Google "www.yourwebsitename.co.uk" and see if anything appears in the search results.

For website pages, you can search for a specific snippet of text you know is on a page (7 words roughly). Make sure that you put this snippet of text within quotation marks.

You can use the command "site:www.yourwebsitename.co.uk" (without quotation marks) and this will show if your sub-pages are indexed properly.

Using Webmaster Tools is another method of identifying further indexation issues on your website, it is a great tool that can retain the health of your website.

Manual Action

Manual actions against your website can be received and result in various penalties. More times than not, these will be severe drops in rankings or being completely de-indexed. If you havea message received in Webmaster Tools under "Search Queries" and "Manual Actions", then a manual penalty has been associated with your website.

Manual penalties can be for any violation of the webmaster guideline or more commonly seen relating to the following:

  • Selling or Purchasing Links
  • The use of doorway purchases
  • Serving different content to users and Google aka "Cloaking"
  • Unnatural Links (refer to Google Penguin section)
  • Thin content on website, not enough content on pages and can be seen as low quality.

Each manual penalty is set for a specific duration of time but as a webmaster, you should act as quick as possible to resolve the issue and file a reconsideration request with Google. It is commonly known for manual action penalties to range from 3 months to the expiry of a domain name.

Gradual Traffic Declines

If you see that your site traffic is gradually decreasing over a long period of time it is commonly known to be the Panda algorithm and minor updates that Google is continuously making to their search engine in order to increase the quality of their search engine results.

Looking at over 200 different signals, Google can cloud their decision to penalise a site. Unless you are up to date with their constant and frequent changes, you may find it difficult to define the cause of a traffic drop. Algorithm changes can result in a disastrous effect over time. An algorithm changes can be as small as placing more of a focus on a sub-headlines (and less importance on the headline) or as large as changing how Google defines high quality backlinks.

You won't be notified of a gradual traffic drop in webmaster tools but here is an example of a traffic drop:

  • Your site was averaging 2350 unique visitors per day in 2012, this dropped to 1700 per day in 2013... and down to 1050 visitors per day in 2014.

The best thing to do with a gradual decline in traffic is apply the same concepts as you would when resolving a Google Panda penalty issue. Using a reliable source of SEO information about Google is key to guide you in the right direction.

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