behind bars - penalized

What to do if Your Website Has Been Penalized by Google

Google tries to be as vigilant as it can be in weeding out black hat SEO practitioners, which is one of the reasons why they update their algorithm on such a regular basis and also why they will penalize websites caught using black hat tactics, such as keyword stuffing or link farming. Black hat SEO is defined as any tactic that attempts to artificially boost the ranking of a webpage through the use of what Google deems as unethical strategies. These penalties can include demoting your site’s ranking or even dropping it from their search index altogether. Obviously, these actions will have a negative impact on your website’s online marketing performance..

While this technically shouldn’t affect your website as long as you’re playing by the rules, there is still a chance that you may be penalized because you’ve accidentally done something that Google identified as being black hat SEO. For example, maybe you used too many keywords in a blog post without realizing it and Google marked it as an attempt at keyword stuffing. This begs the question, how do you know whether you’ve been penalized for black hat SEO, and what should you do about it?

How to Tell if You’ve Been Penalized by Google

There are two main types of penalties – manual penalties and algorithmic penalties. To check for manual penalties, you can log into your Google Search Console. You should receive a message if you have received a manual penalty; however, manual penalties are only given out to websites that are flagrantly committing SEO infractions.

The type of penalty that you might be affected by even if you aren’t purposely using black hat SEO is known as an algorithmic penalty. You won’t get a message that tells you if you’ve been hit by an algorithmic penalty, which means that you’re going to have to do a little detective work on your own. First of all, you should be using Google Analytics in order to measure the performance of your website. If you’re not, you need to begin using Google Analytics right away. Once you have a Google Analytics account, check your traffic graph. If there has been a significant drop in web traffic or if your website isn’t present where your targeted keywords are used, then there’s a chance that you’ve been hit with a penalty. Keep in mind that these changes may not be a result of a penalty but the result of technical problems with your site.

What to do if You’ve Been Penalized by Google

If your website has received a manual penalty, then you’re going to need to perform a backlink recovery so that you can submit your website to Google for reconsideration. If you think that you have been hit with an algorithmic penalty, then it’s going to take a little bit more work. First of all, you’ll want to determine what caused the penalty so that you can fix it. Use Google Analytics to see if your traffic has dropped drastically or if your website has an index issue. You can see the date on which the traffic drop or indexing issue occurred. This is the date that Google ran its algorithm on your site.

Record the date and look it up in Moz’s algorithm calendar in order to identify what algorithms were run on that date. Check to see what algorithms were run on the preceding two days  as well since some of Google’s algorithms take a couple of days to run. This should allow you to see what algorithm cased the penalty, which in turn can allow you to comb through your website to find your SEO infractions and fix them. Some of the causes for the penalty could include the following:

  • Unnatural links
  • Poor link quality
  • Broken links
  • Thin or duplicate content
  • Poorly written content
  • Keyword stuffing

These are all things that you should periodically check your website for in order to prevent being hit by an algorithmic penalty. Once you’ve identified what caused the penalty and have removed or fixed the infraction, you’ll need to submit a reconsideration request to Google.

Being penalized by Google is a big deal. It can cause a lot of damage to your online marketing campaign. The best way to avoid being penalized is to stay away from black hat SEO and to periodically go through your website in order to check up on its health and to fix any issues that could incur penalties, such as broken links or low quality inbound links.

Mohamed Alazzawy
About Mohamed Alazzawy
Mohamed is a Senior Search Planner at Sandstorm Digital FZE working on high profile accounts such as National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD), Etisalat, Meraas, City Index and Souqalmal.com. His experience includes both the technical and content aspects of SEO.
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