Before you start optimizing your website for Google, you need to determine whether your domain has received Google’s penalties.
Google penalizes websites that cannot achieve good rankings. That’s why it is one of your priorities to determine which algorithm changes are affecting your website. From there, you can create an efficient recovery plan.
What are Google Penalties?
Are you familiar with hummingbird, panda, penguin, and a pigeon? New bloggers and webmasters that have little to no experience in SEO have no idea what these animal names mean.
These animal names are what Google and the press termed to the different set of changes Google made to their ranking algorithm. Google has officially claimed that they make and create hundreds of changes to its search algorithms every year. It is their goal to improve the quality of their search results.
Each time Google makes a change in their search algorithm, there will be winners and losers. The effect of their algorithm changes may affect your website positively or negatively. If you have a better ranking, it might have a positive result, but if your website is already losing traffic, then its ranking might be completely lost.
Why is knowing important?
It is known for a fact that you cannot achieve greater things in the digital world without the help of Google. Whether you like Google or not, it is the best source of traffic, especially if you aim for targeted traffic.
If you made your website on higher ranks of Google search, it will provide your website several benefits. You cannot just ignore that, right? Don’t waste opportunities.
That’s why you have to be curious whether Google likes your website or not. Determine which Google update you are penalized to take corrective measures.
You will finally understand why your website suddenly lost traffic after recognizing Google penalties. Once you are penalized by Google, the changes in your website traffic become more visible.
How to determine if your website is penalized by Google?
You can determine if Google has penalized your website in two ways. Webmasters can check it through Google Search Console or Google Analytics Traffic. The reports will compare your traffic performance on the dates Google updated their search algorithm.
Let’s identify how you can use and manage both methods in tracking and identifying Google penalties.
Google Search Console Tool
Register your website in Google Search Console. If you are not familiar with the tool, it is previously known as Webmaster tools. It is the medium Google uses to communicate with webmasters and give them details about the potential problems of their website. The data given by Google Search Console includes manual penalties.
Before we proceed, there are two penalties that you need to know and their difference.
If you receive a manual penalty from Google, a human imposed that penalty, he or she comes from the Google Quality team. Manual penalties happen because of several reasons, and it can be a site-wide issue or it is only affecting some pages of your website.
Whatever the case is, Google will indicate the specific issue on their report. They will also provide a list of possible corrective measures that you can do. After you have made the necessary changes, submit a reconsideration request to Google. Wait for their response if the penalty is removed or not.
To use Google Search Console for manual penalties, you have to log in and head over to the SECURITY & MANUAL ACTIONS / MANUAL ACTIONS tab.
If you will read “No issues detected,” then there is no need to worry. Your website is clean, there are no issues and you do not have to take any further actions. In case there’s a manual penalty, read the message carefully and try to take corrective measures then submit a reconsideration request.
The most common type of penalty webmasters receive is the algorithmic penalty, it is automatically given. Algorithmic penalties are not reported to Google Search Console and you cannot submit a reconsideration request. The only method you can use to identify whether you are given an algorithmic penalty is through Google Analytics and Google traffic.
Algorithmic penalties are the result of continuous changes made by Google in their ranking algorithms.
Google Analytics and Google Traffic
The best method to know if your website is given an automatic penalty is to use Google Analytics and review its Google organic traffic.
If you notice a sudden decrease in web traffic during the dates Google made an algorithmic update, then most likely your website is hit that’s why your traffic decreased.
In the Google Analytics dashboard, select your website. Click ACQUISITION, in the drop-down menu of ALL TRAFFIC, select Source / Medium.
On the list, select GOOGLE / ORGANIC. You will see the report on the number of your website visitors from Google search.
Next, go over the reporting period. You can see it from the top right portion of the screen. Go back as much as you can.
Check the dates when your website’s traffic and performance experienced a major drop or increase. Compare the dates whether it is within the days when Google released an update.
Create annotations in the Google Analytics Report. It is easier to mark the dates when the changes are made in the same view as the report graph.
If you notice a sudden drop in traffic on a date or close to the dates that an update was released, search what kind of update it is and check on what you can do to recover.
What happens if Google penalizes your website?
The first thing that will happen if Google has penalized your website is you will lose your Google traffic. Next, you will also lose some or all of Google’s trust. That means you need to show some good faith and be patient until you will gain its trust again.
Google dislikes spammy websites. They do not want those who try to trick their algorithm, that’s why if they caught you cheating, they will remove you from their index.
When you get back to the Index, that does not mean you have recovered your rankings. Your pre-penalty perks are gone, and it is now harder for you to achieve higher rankings.
Google loves showing good websites in their SERPs. That’s why it is bad to violate their guidelines. You need to be responsible and follow the rules all the time.
Length of Google Penalties
Manual penalties are in full effect until you submit and pass a reconsideration request successfully, or until the penalty expires. Some penalties may hold for 6 months, while there are some cases that last for 2 years before they expire.
However, even if the manual penalty expires, it does not mean your website is clean. Your rankings and traffic are still affected and you need to resolve the issues to recover.
An expired manual penalty means the penalty is no longer detected in the webmaster tools. But, if you did not do anything to resolve the issues, your website will probably be given automatic penalties.
If you are penalized because there’s a change in the ranking algorithm, do some corrective measures as early as possible. After you made some corrections, wait for the next release of the algorithm to see if your website has recovered or not.
Some cases recover fast because of the continuous algorithmic changes. However, in most cases, you need to wait for the next major Google update to determine whether the changes you made produced positive results.
What to Do with Google Penalties?
There’s no generic or quick answer for the penalties you receive from Google, each solution varies. You need to search on Google about this, there are several opinions and methods you can implement to revive your search ranking.
To have an idea, you can read the summary steps below:
Unnatural Links Pointing to Your Website
If you did one of these methods:
- Link buying
- Link exchanging
- Guest posting for links
- Commenting to gain links
- Submitting website to spammy directories
There’s a chance you will receive a manual penalty and a message from Google Search Console tools.
You can safely recover your website from unnatural links by asking webmasters to remove the links or have the links on “nofollow.” Document your efforts and use Google Disavow Tool to ask Google not to record those links and send a reconsideration request.
Unnatural Links Pointing From Your Website to Other Sites
Did you sell links or do you have several links in your web pages that point to other websites? If so, remove those links or change them to “nofollow” links and submit a reconsideration request to Google.
If your website has several pages that have little or no content, then it is best to delete them or merge them together. “No index” pages that are not useful and add more original, unique, and relevant content.
Google only wants unique content. If you constantly copy content from other websites, stop the habit. Follow the steps in “thin content” to troubleshoot your website.
If you have a non-SEO-friendly website, it is not a reason for having a penalty. However, in situations when you received a penalty, optimizing your website will help retrieve your search ranking. You can use an SEO audit checklist to determine which elements to optimize your website for Google.
How to Avoid Penalties from Google?
Well, the best way to recover from Google penalties is to avoid it in the first place. Most webmasters, especially the new ones, always look for shortcuts on how to get higher rankings. However, their efforts to get higher rankings quickly results in doing things that Google does not like.
If you want to achieve the best results with Google, you have to be patient and play by the rules. Do not believe in easy ways to increase your website rankings. Those tricks might get you into trouble.
The efficient methods on how to have higher search engine rankings successfully are:
- Publish high-quality content
- Adhere to ALL the webmaster guidelines Google provides.
- Determine and improve the changes that affect SEO.
- Promote website and content through white hat channels.
If you do these efficient methods consistently for months, you will start to have more organic web traffic. Content with high organic traffic will attract natural links, and it will improve your Google rankings.