Have you seen a sudden drastic drop in the keyword positions of your website or any client’s website of late? More often than not it’s due to a Google penalty. Basically, we have two kinds of Google Penalties – Algorithmic Penalty and Manual Penalty.
Let’s study each of them, their causes and recovery options.
Algorithmic penalty hits websites automatically when Google updates its ranking algorithms. No matter if it’s a small refresh or a set of broad changes within the codes, if you violate the guidelines, you will be penalized, which would result in a huge drop in search listings.
The well-known Google Penguin and Panda updates are believed to have algorithmically penalized hundreds of millions of websites so far. The algorithmic penalty happens naturally.
It’s hard to detect any algorithmic penalties since there would be no formal notification within the Google Webmaster tools, but if there is a sudden drop in the positions and organic search traffic, it’s most likely due to Google’s algorithmic penalty.
First identify if it’s Google Penguin or Panda that flagged the penalty. The basic difference between Penguin and Panda is that Penguin is strict against unnatural inbound links (the links that were built without editorial approval), while Panda looks for bad content and overall usability of the site.
So, once you’ve found out which algorithm update caused the penalty, take necessary action. If it’s a penalty due to Penguin, remove those bad links asap. Frequent link audits, removals and disavows would come in handy if it’s a case of Penguin penalty. And if it’s due to Panda, modify your content profile. Check if you site has thin content or duplicate content, poor site speed, bad navigation structure and too many ads because these are the things Panda wants you to repair. Check and update your page content and website blog regularly.
It’s easy to identify Manual penalties since Google would send you a message notifying you of the manual penalty flagged to the site, and this notification can be seen within your Google Webmaster tools account as shown in the screenshot below.
Here’s the procedure to check your manual penalty:
Open Google’s webmaster tools account >> enter your user name and password to log into your account >> Click on ‘Search Traffic’ under Site Dashboard on the left >> Click ‘Manual Actions’ under Search Traffic.
On the right of Site Dashboard, you will see the Manual Actions notification if the site has been manually penalized.
If you have the administrative access, you will see the “Request a Review” button as shown in the above picture.
Unlike algorithmic penalties that are caused by algorithm updates manual penalties are imposed by Google engineers, who constantly review the sites and flag those that are involved in spammy or black-hat SEO techniques that often include manipulative link building. The flags can be imposed against individual pages or all pages within the website. In certain severe cases, Google may ban the entire domain from indexing.
If your site has been hit by a manual penalty, then the best thing you can do is audit your entire link profile and remove as many links as you can by contacting all the webmasters of the websites that link to your site. After you are done with the link removal process, wait a while and file a reconsideration request.
Matt Cutts, the most famous Googler says manual penalty is a short-term penalty that often gets lifted after a month or two automatically. Don’t request for reconsideration immediately after your site has been penalized because if you do so, the Google engineers would more likely penalize the site for a longer time. Rather, focus on taking necessary recovery actions and boost the usability and link profile of your site before you can file the request.
The entire process of link audit, removal and disavow is expensive and tedious. That’s why it’s better if you can avoid a penalty rather than trying hard to recover from it. Therefore, it’s recommended to build a strong and foolproof online marketing strategy combined with effective social media campaigns that would bring you sensible results in the long run. Include great content on your site and have a quality inbound link profile.