An SEO penalty from Google sucks. I’ve had it happen to 3 sites I’ve owned in the past. But, it’s possible to recover from this, let’s go over how.
One of the main things people absolutely need to understand is that SEO penalties from Google happen for generally these following reasons:
The ability to understand which of those specific things your page is responsible for doing and correcting it is what will lead to the recovery of the said page as each of those reasons above has their own manual action you can take to correct it.
The problem is that most people who engage in those activities don’t even understand that they are bad and when their site gets hit, they are lost as to why. Well at least now you have the main reasons on why this occurs.
I’ll go over the basic corrections for those issues below, but before we do that, let’s be absolutely sure your page is indeed suffering from an SEO penalty and not just a regular drop or fluctuation in rankings which happens to every single website (see the top 10 reasons), which is normal…
- 1 How to check if Google penalized my website:
- 2 How do you check for a Google penalty? The tools that work:
- 3 A more manual/advanced method of spotting penalties:
- 4 Taking the action to recover from the penalty:
- 5 That is the general way of recovering your site from a Google SEO penalty.
- 6 Note: One more penalty that could occur (and what to do).
How to check if Google penalized my website:
If you notice your page or pages are losing traffic, rankings and so on, the question is, how much traffic and rankings is it losing? If you’re getting 10%-20% less traffic, it may be a period where something causes your audiences to forget looking up your page. It could even be (and likely is) a Google dance.
Another thing that might be happening is that a Google update (like this) has occurred during which MANY websites go through a ranking turmoil and if you give it a few weeks, it should subside.
In short, if you’re experiencing a loss in rankings, that are around losing 1-10 spots on a particular page in the search results, that is not something I’d be concerned about as generally algorithm changes (and that dance I mentioned) are responsible for this, and it doesn’t go on for long, before your rankings go back to the way they were. You may need to give that a few days or even several weeks to know for sure.
Now if you are experiencing a 50% or more loss of traffic and/or several pages of lower rankings (or none at all), then it’s time to raise the red flag and see what’s going on…
Note: If you’re not familiar with how to check for this stuff, I wrote a tutorial on how to check your keyword rankings on Google.
How do you check for a Google penalty? The tools that work:
So there’s specific SEO tools for this, including ones from places like Moz and other sources. I have an article here that links to 6 supposedly good ones, but I have to be honest, I haven’t personally used any of them.
What I do know works well is Google’s own service that is designed for this specific problem. It is called the Manual Actions Report (link included to the page).
You will find that this particular page has a button you can press, and then submit your site through which will produce a report on how your site is doing, if indeed there was/is a penalty taking place, and with that diagnostic tool, you’ll be able to at least pinpoint where the exact issue/s are coming from:
From there, you’ll be able to take the right actions, and then re-submit your site to be reviewed and hopefully recover from the penalty.
Now it is important to note that in order to use this service, you will need to have a Webmaster Tools account. With that, at least you’ll have a more direct connection with the service and it’ll help you speed up the recovery process of your page.
A more manual/advanced method of spotting penalties:
Once you have a Webmaster Tools account set up (remember, you need this to make all of this work), you will need to go into it, visit the page you verified within there, and then look at the following things:
Now the red areas I circled are what you would want to look at as soon as you suspect your page is suffering from a Google penalty. In those sections, you will be told (if there is an issue) what’s going on.
Now I also include the yellow areas because you may very well see these same things one of my sites is, and panic that a penalty is headed your way. In this case, it’s not, because in the following situation, the “errors” or “coverage issues” message I’m getting are not a big deal and do not fall into the 10 main issues I listed above.
Sometimes I’ll want to prevent any search engine indexing and ranking to happen on a page I have for personal reasons and the fact that it won’t be able to access it, it will still let me know there’s an issue, but it’s not one that will cause SEO dangers.
So don’t worry about things like:
Crawl errors: If you don’t let Google index a certain page or post, this is a message you can disregard. Only worry about that if there’s a 404 error page (in my case, it’s not an issue).
DNS, server connectivity. Sometimes your page’s hosting goes down, and it may be during a time that Google’s spiders are checking out your page. And when it does this, it’ll turn up an error, and let you know that, “hey, we checked your page and it’s not up, you should fix this ASAP”.
This happens to everyone, and when your hosting resumes and everything comes back, Google will see that and it’ll be fine. Once again, you can disregard this, unless you have bad hosting (in which case, upgrade it because bad hosting can lead to too many fetching errors).
Messages which say “new coverage issues detected”. Webmaster will notify you of any coverage problems, but like I said, they aren’t a big deal, worry about the red flag ones.
Also Webmaster Tools sends you notifications and emails with warnings about all these things beforehand, so by having this account, you can preemptively stop a penalty from happening (but I suspect you’re past that point if you’re reading this).
Taking the action to recover from the penalty:
Once you’ve identified the exact issue or issues that have caused the SEO penalty to occur, it’s time to take the necessary actions. This is where, the first step would be to again go back to the manual actions report page I linked above:
What you want to do is see which particular issue is causing your page to be punished, and to see the fix for the said problem. Followed by that, you have to take these following actions:
1) Manually correct the error/s and/or hire someone for this.
2) Resubmit your sitemap to Webmaster Tools. That link will show you how to set a sitemap up.
3) Manually let Google know that you’ve made the changes. This will happen when a penalty occurs and if you are registered with Webmaster Tools, they’ll send you an email warning you about that.
From there, they’ll provide a link to send them a message letting them know the fixes you’ve made (you can also elect to just let Google re-crawl your page/s again (you don’t need to do anything if that’s the case) and let them make changes at their own pace, but sending them a message speeds it up, more info).
That is the general way of recovering your site from a Google SEO penalty.
It’s certainly a lot of info but being that there are so many rules and restrictions to improperly doing SEO, when people violate it, there is a way back. The question I pose however, in spite of showing you the recovery method is…
Is it worth going through the trouble of the fix? As I said earlier, I had 3 pages that suffered from an SEO penalty long ago, 2 of them went down due to horrendous backlinks and the other was down due to a maleware infection.
With the first 2 sites, I decided to scrap them and took them down entirely. With the 3rd, I went through the manual review route I talked about by simply cleansing the page of the malware issue and letting Google know, and it was back up in a matter of days.
Looking back, I probably should have done the same thing with my other 2 sites, but I ask if this is all worth it because many people build horrible pages that are beyond recovery and my whole thing about this is that sometimes it’s better to start a brand new page than to go through the effort of cleansing your site of all the bad content, the backlinks, the duplicate content and whatever else I said that causes these penalties and knowing what not to do, to take that into the next new domain and new page you create on it.
Now this is your choice, and you have to decide if your particular page is at that point of where it can still recover or if it’s at the point of, no way, it has to go down.
What I will say is that for the MAIN issues that penalties occur, here are the summarized fixes and while I am giving you a short “fix” for these problems, you will see a lot of them may require tedious attention, which is why I say consider starting a new page:
Just remember though, the manual actions report link I gave you is where I would go to identify the EXACT issue and then pick out how to correct it. And once again, once the fix is made, either let Google know manually or let them see the change automatically because in SEO, Google will come back to your page again and again to check for what’s changed and if they see, you made the changes to fix the issues they cited, they’ll restore your SEO credibility.
Note: I recently updated a particular issue your site can get penalized for, which is “stealing images” and/or ACCUSED of stealing images (which is what happened to me very recently), which triggers what is known as a DMCA take down notice.
If you happen to incorrectly have this issue happen, it can lead to a penalty, but it can also be corrected if you take the right steps. I’ve listed them here, so be sure to follow that, because the steps for THIS particular problem are not the same as the steps I listed above for other situations your site may get penalized for.
Note: One more penalty that could occur (and what to do).
There is a penalty scenario which involves people trying to sabotage your site with bad links and in that circumstance, you may need to use something called the Google disavow tool to correct it.
Personally, I am of the opinion that unless you publish toxic links on your site, you will be fine, but in case, I am wrong, that link will help you correct that problem if someone or a service is trying to attack your site via negative SEO methods.