How to avoid and recover from Google penalties
The most common and likely reason Google will penalize your website is if you used spammy methods to promote your website. In such cases, it can really be very difficult to recover from a website penalty. However, if you follow the guide provided in this post, you will be able to avoid Google penalties and also learn how to recover from a Google penalty.
Key Warning: Avoid Things that Google Doesn't Like
Google will penalize your website if you did something that Google does not like. Here are some of the SEO techniques Google hate:
Buying Links / Paid Links
If another web site links to your site it benefits your search rankings. However, how did that link get on that other web site? Was it placed there because you had something interesting on your site that someone wanted to link to? That's excellent. Did you pay someone to put your link in the footer of their site and it just so happens that the word in the link (anchor text) is a very highly searched term that has a lot of competition? That's bad. Many companies, including large corporations, have been penalized for buying links.
Sites Full of Ads
If your web site is covered with trash, it is not very welcome in Google's neighborhood. It's not a bad thing to want to make a little money by having advertisements on your site. However, if it's difficult to separate the ads from the content and if the ads are intrusive enough to provide what Google considers a “bad experience” for the user, your search rankings will falter.
Google loves to find text, gather it, and add it to its database. There is a bad practice that some site owners and webmasters follow and that is hiding this text so only the search bots can find it. This is done by having white text on a white background or manipulating the code of the web page to hide text from a person visiting the site yet enable a search engine crawler to “see” it without difficulty. Being sneaky like this is a great way to get your site banned from Google's search results.
This is becoming more and more apparent with each algorithm update. You may have noticed that the first page of the search results are more and more being monopolized by big brands. If your business is online only, it is becoming more difficult to compete with the big brands when it comes to search rankings. You may have the best prices and top notch customer service but to Google, if you're not a Fortune 500 company, then you're not going to be on page 1 for the most competitive search terms. This is one of the reasons to have a search engine optimization specialist work on your site, to use their expertise and knowledge in order to have your site rank up there with the big boys.
One way to battle the big brands is to be niche. We've seen niche websites, focusing on specific products and categories, be able to rank above Amazon and other major retailers. Focus your product line and content you deliver for better results.
A common practice among site owners trying to manipulate search results is to create thousands of pages targeting a different keyword search term and having very little useful content for its visitor. If a web page's content consists of a short paragraph of text with a search term used abundantly within the text, it's not very useful to a visitor and is not worthy of a good ranking.
Google is looking for new and fresh content to add to their huge database. If it finds the same content it found on another web site it's not going to show much interest in what you have to offer. If your site sells a product and has the same exact product description provided by the manufacturer that every other web site selling that product is using, that is considered duplicate content. If you post an article on your blog from one of those free article sites that several other blogs have already posted, that is also considered duplicate content. Make everything on your site original and unique and watch your search results improve.
Text In Images or Animations
As mentioned previously, Google is looking for text. Images, Flash and other web animations sometimes go beyond what can be done with standard HTML. The search robot that Google uses is not very good at reading these types of files, although they have been improving. Google has stated that it has the ability to read text within images now, but in our opinion, that text is still less valuable than true text on your website. Morale of the story? Don't bury any type of quality content into images or non-readable files.
Google is in a hurry and knows you are too. It wants to show the web sites in the search results that give the best user experience. If your web pages load slower than others it will not rank as well as one that is fast. Make sure your web site is optimized for speed with compressed images, streamlined code and a fast web server to ensure that your visitors are not frustrated by a slow web site.
SEO Practices Google Loves
On the other hand, there are basic SEO practices that Google loves and we recommend you take them seriously.
Freshness: Google loves to crawl new content and add it to their database. For this reason it is a great idea to add something new to your web site on a regular basis. Whether it’s a new product, a new web page, or a new article, an upgrade of existing article, providing something new to Google will keep it happy and content.
Content: Related to freshness is content. Not just any content but content that is related to what your web site is offering. The addition of keywords related to what your site focuses on will provide an indication to Google what your site is focused on. It will also bring in new visits for different but related search terms from visitors that have a vested interest in what you are offering.
Urls: What’s a url? A url stands for uniform (or universal) resource locator. In laymen’s terms it is the unique name of the web page address. When creating a web page, Google loves it when it finds words in the url that are related to the content found on the web page.
Speed: Google loves to get things done quickly. Although this is not a particular quality that you look for in a partner, it is a determining factor in deciding where to place your web site’s listing compared to another web site for the same search term. There are hundreds of elements Google considers when deciding where a web page shows up in a search result. This mathematical algorithm is made up of a number of different ingredients. One of these is the amount of time it takes for a page to load. If it loads quickly, Google gets a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. If it takes forever, your site will get the cold shoulder as well as lose visitors.
Quality links: If you want your web site to send a signal that it is a worthy resource, obtain a link from a highly trusted and established web site. For example, having a site linked to from the New York Time’s web site will be loved by Google much more than a link from a newly created blog with very little history. Trust is very important in any relationship and having high quality links pointing to your web site will instill this trust and solidify your standing on the web.
Age: This is one factor that is somewhat difficult to pull off inorganically. When it comes to age, older is better. If your web site’s domain age is older than your competitors, your site will probably show up higher in the search engines. If your domain name was purchased last week and your site is brand new, it will take a little more time to get great rankings.
Generally, Google wants you to avoid automatically generated content. You should not participate in link schemes, you shouldn't create pages with little or no original content. Do not cloak your web pages and avoid sneaky redirects, hidden text or links, doorway pages and scraped content.
It's also not good if your website consists of affiliate links without without adding sufficient value. You also shouldn't load your web pages with irrelevant keywords and you should not use rich snippet markup that is not related to the page. Of course, creating pages with malicious behavior, such as phishing or installing viruses, trojans, or other badware can also lead to a penalty.
A penalty is not the same as a filter
Before you start, you have to find out if Google really penalized your website. A penalty is a manual action from Google. Log in to Google Search Console to find out if your website has been penalized. If there isn't a message in GSC, your website hasn't been penalized.
If you see a massive ranking drop although your website hasn't been penalized, your website might have been hit by a ranking filter. Google's ranking algorithm contains sub-algorithms such as the Panda algorithm. If Google finds that a website has a low quality, they downrank that website.
According to Google's search quality evaluator guidelines, websites should have expertise, authoritativeness and trust (EAT).
There are two types of manual penalties
There are site-wide penalties that affect the entire website, and there are partial penalties that only apply to a section of a website. If you have received a manual penalty, the notification in your Google Search Console account will inform you about the reason for the penalty.
Usually, it's one of the following: Hacked site, user-generated spam, spammy freehosts, spammy structured markup, unnatural links to your site, thin content with little or no added value, cloaking and/or sneaky redirects, unnatural links from your site, pure spam, cloaked images, hidden text and/or keyword stuffing.
Further information about the different penalty types can be found here.
How to recover from a Google penalty
Today, most manual penalties are for unnatural links. This happens when you are buying links or when you are creating link schemes on a large scale. Remove these unnatural links to recover your rankings.
How to improve your rankings after a Google filter
If your website rankings have dropped because of an algorithmic filter, you have to improve the quality of your web pages. It is also important to make sure that your web pages do not contain technical errors that keep search engine crawlers away. These technical errors can happen after a website redesign, after installing a new plugin, etc.
How To Submit A Reconsideration Request To Google After A Manual Action Penalty
Looking to submit a reconsideration request to Google because you received a manual action penalty? Well, you are in the right place then. If you want your reconsideration request to be accepted on the first go, keep reading. Our magic-formula shows you exactly what to do, step-by-step, to get a manual action penalty lifted.
If you want to brush up on manual actions, then check out this video. It explains the differences between algorithm updates and manual actions, tells you what type of sites get hit by manual actions, and shows you how to recover from them.
The 6-Step Process
To submit a successful Google reconsideration request, you have to blend the six secret ingredients: homework, fixes, apology + assistance, supplementary material, future plans for the website, and the actual reconsideration request. Ready? Here we go!
The first step is to analyze why Google has penalized your site. For this purpose, read their manual action email carefully that you have received in your Google Search Console (GSC).
- The email consists of two parts primarily:
- Description of an issue
“Sample list” of URLs where the action has been applied
Remember, it is just the “sample list.” It means you have to do an in-depth audit of your website to identify every instance of the mentioned issue. In case you cannot do it by yourself, then hire a professional specialized in penalty recovery.
After identification, it’s time to fix these issues. Like we mentioned above, do not limit this process to sample URLs and remove all instances of the mentioned issues from your website.
“Identification > Issue fixing > Reconsideration request”
Now let’s move ahead to write a result-driven reconsideration request to Google. Click the “Request a Review” button under manual actions to access the reconsideration request form.
Apology + Assistance
A good apology means letting the other person know you are guilty of what you did, stating an honest reason for your behavior, and taking an optimal action to fix your mistakes. The same goes for a reconsideration request. First, own your mistake and let the Google Webspam Team know you understand that you violated Google’s guidelines. After that, show them in detail what you have done to fix these issues.
If you could provide any supplementary material, it would be helpful for the team and increases the chances of reconsideration request approval. You cannot attach images, but you can add a .txt document. You can also paste image links to Google products such as Google sheets (this increases the odds that the Webspam team will check out those links). Google’s Webspam Team won’t click on any links to non-Google products, so there is no reason to add them.
Plans For The Future of the Site
You should state your practical plan for the future of the site. This section lets the team know you are serious regarding manual action and have formulated a strategy to avoid such issues in the future. Keep it brief, but it helps make the request stronger.
A word of advice: the best sites are those that focus on improving their EAT (expertise, authority, and trust). This ensures they not only stay safe from manual penalties, but also continue to rank well on SERPs. Read our detailed discussion on EAT here.
Make the Reconsideration Request
This is what we’ve been working towards. By following the aforementioned steps, you have laid a solid foundation, and now is the perfect moment to make the request. In a polite tone, request the team to reconsider indexing your site and lifting the penalty.
Stay patient and wait for Google’s response in your GSC email or manual action viewer. If you have implemented the above-mentioned plans, then the response will be positive. By the way, you may get confused by the email because it often includes ambiguous terms such as “adjusted or revoked” in their response.
The best way to confirm the request status is to check the manual action viewer. If you see “no issues detected,” then you’re golden!
You should give your 100% in compiling a reconsideration request to Google. Getting a manual action penalty lifted is not impossible, especially if you’ve made a solid case that you’re serious about fixing these issues and won’t make these mistakes again. The more time your site spends deindexed, the more traffic (and money) you’ll lose. I hope this guide helps you with your reconsideration request, and if you have any feedback, let us know in the comments below.
Do not spam! Don't use automated tools or shady schemes to get backlinks. Google's recent updates rewarded high-quality sites, i.e. this wasn't a ranking drop for low-quality sites, but a ranking boost for high-quality sites. Spam-websites will get a penalty, high-quality websites will be rewarded.