What is a Google penalty and how concerned do you need to be?
Google penalties are served when a website (or parts of it) violate webmaster guidelines – a set of marketing rules designed by the search giant to ensure a delightful user experience (UX) in Search. If you’re engaged in search engine optimization (SEO), getting penalized by Google can derail your long-term efforts. You can lose site traffic, have trouble ranking your pages or cause your domain to be de-indexed. But don’t worry because bouncing back is possible.
Knowing when you’re hit with a penalty is one key step. If you find a sharp decline in traffic after a Google algorithm update, you’re probably affected by an algorithmic penalty. A manual penalty, on the other hand, occurs when a Google human reviewer finds your site or pages to have used non-compliant, black-hat search ranking techniques.
Another critical step is submitting a recovery request. Unfortunately, some webmasters skip this part. Out of the 400,000 manual penalties dished out each month, only a measly five percent apply for a recovery request (Source: Google).
Whether it’s an algorithmic or manual penalty Google has slapped on you, the search engine wants you to discover and recover from it – really! In this article, we walk you through the Google penalties list and provide a fix to each item.
10 Google Manual Penalties
1. AMP Content Mismatch
The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) version and the canonical version – the version that serves as the master copy of a web page – are different. If they do not match, Google won’t serve the faster and smoother AMP content to users, affecting their consumption experience.
Tips on how to recover from Google penalty:
Make sure both versions are essentially the same. The text need not be identical, but users should find the same topic and perform the same actions (e.g., watch a video under a specific section) on either page.
2. Cloaked Images
Cloaking refers to showing search engines different content than what the users see. Examples include images blocked by another image or text and mismatched thumbnails.
Recommended actions for Google penalty removal:
Unless you want the images to be minimized or excluded from Search, you should make sure the same images are displayed to Google and users.
3. Cloaking and/or Sneaky Redirects
This penalty is issued when search engines see one type of content and users another. The latter can also be redirected to content that is different from what they expected.
Steps for Google manual penalty removal:
Perform a thorough technical SEO audit of your web pages to see if they appear differently to search engine crawlers and users. Check that you’re not redirecting users to pages with content they did not ask for or to spam domains. If this sounds daunting, hiring a company offering Google penalty recovery services would save you time, money and effort.
4. Hidden Text and/or Keyword Stuffing
Hidden text is text or links visible to computers and search engines but not to visitors. White text on a white background and off-screen text positioned through CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) are two examples. Keyword stuffing, as we know, is the use of excessive keywords. Both can be used to manipulate search rankings and so incur SEO Google penalties.
Important hack for Google penalty removal:
Audit your site for invisible text. Check for and remove instances of repeated keywords. Matt Cutts, Google’s former head of search quality, also advised documenting the errors and resolutions to ensure they won’t happen again.
5. Pure Spam
Aggressive spamming techniques include automated content generation, cloaking and scraping. This manual penalty Google takes action on is pretty serious because it penalizes the entire site.
How to achieve Google manual penalty removal:
You could have bought a domain with a pure spam label. In this case, the first order of business is a thorough cleanup. Cutts said it’s difficult for a black-hat site to bounce back, but it can be done. Try your hardest to earn Google’s trust again when submitting your reconsideration request, detailing how you’ll avoid getting Google SEO penalties again.
6. Sneaky Mobile Redirects
Mobile-only sneaky redirects involve redirecting users to different content than what was made available to search engine crawlers. Another case would be diverting visitors to a spammy domain instead of the URL promised in the search results.
How to remove Google penalty:
Ensure your site is not hacked and audit third-party scripts or elements on it before requesting a review. Read the full recommendations here.
7. Spammy Free Host
Your free hosting service may be supporting a significant number of spammy websites that violate the Google webmaster guidelines. In this case, the search giant takes action on all sites hosted by your service provider.
How to recover from Google penalty:
Google does its best to deal with individual sites, so you can help monitor the abuse of service by reporting spammy websites you come across. If your site has a manual action, report it to your provider’s technical support. If you have the means, hire a WordPress expert to build you a site with fast, safe and secure hosting.
8. Structured Data Issue
This refers to inappropriate structured data intended to manipulate user behavior such as marking up hidden, irrelevant or misleading content. Check out Google’s table of structured data issues to avoid or fix.
Recommended actions for Google penalty removal:
Ensure strict compliance with Google’s general structured data guidelines. Remove or update markups accordingly.
9. Thin Content With Little or No Added Value
From the label alone, you might have an idea of the stuff that falls under this manual penalty. But to give you an example, think about affiliate pages with a cookie-cutter copy, doorway pages or volumes of pages with thin, syndicated content you didn’t write. As Cutts put it, there’s nothing to excite users when they land on pages with this type of content.
Steps for Google manual penalty removal:
The easiest way is removing the low-quality or shallow content. But you can also add value by making it original, pitching in a review, insights or new information from your research. Also, check out Matt Cutts discussing thin content in detail.
A note on copied content: While there are no Google penalties for duplicate content, you can still be hit by a manual action for it if you use it in excess to manipulate search results.
10. NEW: Google News and Discover Policy Violations
In February, Search Engine Land reported that Google published a new set of manual actions focused on Google News and Google Discover. This expands the SEO Google penalties list, which was previously aimed at Search alone.
Below, you will find each manual penalty related to both Google News and Discover:
• Dangerous Content
• Harassing Content
• Hateful Content
• Manipulated Media
• Medical Content
• Sexually Explicit Content
• Terrorist Content
• Violence and Gore Content
• Vulgar Language and Profanity
Discover Policy Violation
• Adult-Themed Content
• Misleading Content
News Policy Violation
Note: Fixing each manual penalty Google assigns to you can be time-consuming, especially with the recent addition of News and Discovery actions. What is a Google penalty recovery service provider for, if not to make life easier for you? For starters, search for a reputable digital marketing agency with integrated Google penalty recovery services.
Now that we’ve covered every manual penalty from Google, it’s time to delve into the algorithmic penalties.
Two Algorithmic Google Penalties
1. How To Check Google Penalty Presence: Panda
Since 2016, Panda has formed part of the search results ranking algorithm. This update involves the evaluation of content quality across entire sites. Your site is assigned a quality score, so content issues here and there will have a hand in sinking that figure.
What is Google penalty resolution’s requirement in the time of Penguin? It’s paying attention to a sharp but gradual decrease in site traffic, difficulty in ranking for some pages and not being ranked at all.
How to remove Google penalty in this context:
Check for the following issues:
• Shallow content
• Duplicate content (get clarification on Google penalties for duplicate content)
• Poorly written content
Remember that user experience is king. So rewrite or replace content that does not add value to visitors. It’s one of the most organic ways to avoid asking how to remove Google penalty hits on your site.
Also: Content writing is tricky, so don’t mistakenly cause your own downfall. Sure, there are no Google penalties for duplicate content, but having multiple pages saying the same thing could annoy your readers. Google will also be confused by the duplicate and serve the original copy, which may not be the one you want to rank for that particular topic or keyword.
2. How To Check Google Penalty Presence: Penguin
The Panda algorithm updates come for unnatural links, but the penalty applies only on affected pages. If your site has pages with the following backlinks, you may be making the following costly mistakes:
• You have low link diversity, e.g., most backlinks appear in the comments section.
• You have a high volume of low-quality links. But Google also gets suspicious if you have plenty of high-quality links. Balance is the key.
• You have lots of backlinks earned in a short time.
What is Google penalty resolution’s requirement in the time of Penguin? Watch out for a decline in organic traffic and rankings.
Remove the unnatural links occurring in keywords and on pages. Better yet, craft a white-hat link-building strategy, or ask an expert to help you.
How To Recover From Google Penalty Problems
The road to recovery may take anywhere between three hours and three months, depending on the Google SEO penalties incurred. That doesn’t include the time spent before and during the discovery of issues.
With the right SEO agency, you won’t have to worry about delayed discovery and prolonged recovery. Here’s an overview of the process for each penalty type, so you know what to expect from your Google penalty recovery service provider:
Google Manual Penalty Removal
Once you identified and fixed all issues, send a reconsideration request by choosing Request Review in the Manual Actions report in Search Console. Your request should include the following:
• An explanation of the issue
• A description of how you fixed the issue
• Documentation of the results of your fix (Convince Google you did your best to get rid of the violation and ensure it won’t happen again.)
Wait for a response saying you’ve succeeded. If your reconsideration request fails, resubmit your reconsideration request until the issue is resolved.
Note: Google manual penalty recovery can be overwhelming, so create a handy Google penalties list.
Waiting time: Three hours to three weeks
Google Panda Penalty Removal
Since a Panda penalty affects the entire site, focus on finding and addressing all existing issues to improve your quality score. Some examples would be thin content, duplicate content and missing pages containing essential information such as the Contact page.
You may need to update a few or a hundred pages. In some cases, Google requires changes in the header, footer or navigation. The challenge is to know what should be revised and removed and what should remain.
Waiting time: Give Google some time to update your quality score once you’ve made all necessary changes. Once the quality score is up again, you’ll notice a traffic increase within 48 hours.
Google Penguin Penalty Removal
This algorithmic penalty involves specific pages and keywords with bad or unnatural links. Work on removing these links. But if that’s not possible, you can disavow the URLs instead. Google has the primer on the disavowal process.
If the issue is also a part of a manual actions report, you’ll have to submit a reconsideration request.
Waiting time: Once you’ve dealt with the issue, wait for Google to recrawl the affected pages, ranging from three hours to three months.
Don’t Let Google Penalties Bring You Down
What is Google penalty removal’s impact on your revenue, sales and other financial metrics? When you get penalized by Google, your site visibility suffers. And it spells disaster for your lead generation efforts. If you also take long to discover the issues, you further push back your Google manual penalty recovery.
That’s why, even if we’ve given you the answer to “What is a Google penalty?” and the tactics on how to check for a Google penalty presence on your site, you should probably be accounting for your learning curve. On the other hand, tapping a Google penalty recovery service agency should shorten your discovery and recovery period. It all boils down to finding someone who knows the ins and outs of Google Analytics and conducts an in-depth site audit and analysis to check if you’re in danger of a penalty.
If you need a partner to prevent a penalty from damaging your business or resolve one without losing time and money, give Target4Biz a go. Google penalty recovery services are integrated into our holistic online marketing, SEO and search engine marketing solutions.
Want to entrust your search ranking and presence to the experts? Call us or drop us a message today.