In this day and age, site traffic from search engines such as Google is the lifeline for many online businesses. With the strong demand for businesses to reach the top pages of Google, comes a lot of SEO companies bidding to outdo each other by providing the ‘best results’ for the best price. Not only that, but with the online market for each industry and sector only getting more and more competitive comes more businesses which your website needs to compete with.
Due to this, getting your website seen on Google requires more efforts which see’s digital marketing companies and SEO Freelancers pushing the limits of link-building and Keyword optimisation without trying to get caught out by Google’s guidelines, thus being penalised for what would be deemed ‘spam’ link-building or ‘spam’ Keyword stuffing by Google.
If your website is suddenly hit with a Google Penalty, this can prove a major setback and may leave you wondering how on earth you’ve been hit with this, even though you’re following all the t’s and c’s of Google guidelines.
If you are hit with a Google Penalty, do not panic. We’re providing some steps which can help identify firstly if you have been hit with a Google Penalty and secondly how to get the penalty removed and stay removed from Google’s penalty box.
Has my website been hit with a Google Penalty?
Just because your website has dropped a few ranks, doesn’t instantly mean it’s been hit with a Penalty. Although if it’s not at all visible on Google, you may wish to dig a little deeper. Unfortunately, if you have suddenly seen a dramatic drop in visits which lasts for longer than 48 hours, it’s extremely likely you’ve been hit with a Google penalty.
Check Google Analytics
To help identify if you actually have been fit with a penalty, we recommend the following actions. Assuming you have Google Analytics setup, login to your account and head to ‘Acquisition > Overview’. From here you can set the date ranges to the point before and during when you believe you could have been struck with the Google Penalty.
You should be able to identify from the analytics provided if you’re seeing a drop in ‘Organic Search’ traffic. If you’re seeing a notable spiked decline, it’s a good sign you have in fact been hit with a Google Penalty, and it’s not just you that’s not seeing your website in Google. You should be able to distinguish the point in which you have been penalised, this is important to note going forward.
Fetch as Google
Secondly a recommended way to identify if you’ve been hit with a Google Penalty is to use the Google Webmaster tool ‘Fetch as Google’. To use this tool, you’ll need to login or setup a Google Webmaster account and link your website.
This tool allows you access to some basic measurements which Google Fetches from your website by running HTTP responses. If you do see any errors while running this, it could be a reason why you’re no longer being ranked on Google, for example if your website is being blocked by your robots.txt file, this would make your website uncrawlable by Google. The best action to take for this would be to ensure your robots.txt file is readable. You can view more on Fetch as Google here.
The overall best resource for this is Google’s Webmaster tools. If setup correctly it detects any issues with your website and alerts you via email if any issues are detected. This tool will notify you instantly if your website has been hit with any Google Violation, for example a Google Penalty. Not only will it notify you, but in most cases, it will also provide details on why it’s being blocked and next steps to take to resurrect the problem.
Overall, if you’ve suddenly tanked on Googles organic ranking, it’s safe to assume your website has been penalised by Google and you should follow these steps as provided below.
I’ve Been Hit with a Google Penalty, How Do I Recover?
There’re two primary types of Penalty actions which Google take.
Type 1. Google Manual Action Penalty
These are usually notified via the Google Search Console and require immediate action to be taken to get your website back in Google’s good books. This Penalty isn’t related to Google’s algorithm changes, for example through Google Penguin. These are penalties for spammy behaviour which has been brought to their attention.
Reasons for a Google Manual Action include:
- Low Quality Links To Your Website
- Spammy Link Building Tactics
- Web Scaping
- Links To Your Website From Black Listed Websites
- Your Website Has Been Hacked
- Unsatisfactory Website Content
- Black Hat SEO Tactics
- Keyword Stuffing
- Unnatural or Hidden Redirects
Identify Poor Backlinks
Luckily, there are tools out there which will make this process much easier, my favourite tool for identifying bad backlinks is Monitor Backlinks. To use this tool simply login to your Google Analytics account and import the links from Webmaster Tools.
The tedious part to this is going through each backlink, then identifying the bad ones from the good. Once you have found the bad links, you’ll need to put in a request to them for removal. Make sure you take your time with this and not to overlook any links which shouldn’t be there.
If you’re certain your website’s in the clear from all mentioned above, your next action should be to have a regenerated XML Sitemap, you can use this free tool https://www.xml-sitemaps.com and then have Google recrawl your website, more details click here, however you should also read below, as further action will be required.
Should you be concerned about a Google Manual Action?
This solely depends on if this effecting your Google ranking and search engine traffic. Not all Manual Actions will affect your Google ranking, some may simply be a warning from Google to notify you that something’s not quite right. Within the Google Search Console will be a reason why you received the Manual Action Penalty, from here you can then take the next appropriate steps to have the penalty removed. For example, if it’s due to spammy back links, it’s best you take action to remove these before putting in a request to Google to recheck your website.
To stay on the side of caution it’s recommended you follow any advisories by Google to avoid any further, and possibly more severe Penalties down the line.
To have the penalty removed you will need to contact Google directly asking for a reconsideration request. When contacting Google, you will be required to provide an honest account of why you believe you’ve been penalised, it’s more than likely Google can investigate further and will require you to backup any false claims you make. Being honest and open about the situation will get the situation resolved quicker and have the penalty removed quicker.
Type 2. Algorithm Penalty
These types of penalties are trickier to resolve. This type of penalty is where one of Google’s algorithms (primarily Panda and Penguin) has detected something which it doesn’t like. To fix this it’s down to you to do the detective work yourself, sifting down to find out why you have the penalty, which includes finding out where the penalty started and then backtracking from there.
Google’s Algorithm Penalties are most commonly related to Panda and Penguin. Panda is the content focussed algorithm which will prevent websites with poor content, duplicated content or poorly constructed content from appearing in Google’s search results. Google Penguin is focussed primarily with poor backlinks, where websites will try to mass link build to help their website look more important than it actually is. This is where links are coming from poor or spammy sources.
With this type of penalty, you’ll need to do the investigation yourself which will include the following:
- Check any outbound links from your website which might go against Googles policy
- Ensure your website doesn’t have duplicated or stolen content
- Check your website doesn’t contain any black hat SEO techniques
- Always ensure content is well written
- Make sure you have enough content on your website, Google doesn’t like to see ‘thin content’
- Check your website doesn’t have any hidden links, i.e links which blend in to the background or aren’t accessible or hidden
- Above all, use common sense, if you know your website may contain material is not seen fit by Google, it’s best removing this all together
Even though you may have been getting away with content similar to the above, any new updates to Google Penguin or Panda can easily make these a lot rules a lot more stringent.
Google’s updates to Penguin and Panda are few and far between, when they do come out with an update there’s a possibility it could have effected your website ranking in Google. To help keep an eye out for new updates and keep on top of any new terms, I’d recommend you follow MozCast or Algoroo often for new updates which might not be officially yet recognised by Google.
It’s important to understand that being penalised by Google can happen to any website and recovering from this is possible. I would recommend checking out Google’s Webmaster Guidelines as seen here.
If you’re still uncertain or need help, we have qualified professionals who’re able to assist you and answer any questions you have, as well as carry out work to get your website ranked again. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation or 01423 429279