Google Penalties & Bad Search Engine Ranking
What are Manual & Algorithmic Google Penalties?
A manual penalty is where someone from within Google has manually reviewed your site and determined that is has breached one or more of their guidelines.
These types of penalties typically fall into two major reasons:
- Black Hat SEO - This is using manipulative methods to try and artificially increase your rank in Google Search Results
- Providing a poor experience to people who visit your site.
This can include a variety of issues including: unsafe website, site hacking, distribution of spam, phishing, and more.
An algorithmic penalty is where your site has tripped a filter or safeguard built into Google’s algorithm. These penalties fall into two different categories:
- Panda Algorithmic Penalty
Panda penalties are related to the usability of your site and the quality of your site’s content. This type of penalty has usually been focused to sites that have excessive amounts of advertising, duplicate content from other websites. There are regular monthly unannounced updates to this penalty.
You can read more about Panda here: Google Webmaster Blog
- Penguin Algorithmic Penalty
Penguin penalties are related to over-optimization of your website or specific pages of your site. An example would be repeating your target keyword phrase over and over again. Penguin updates only happen at certain times during the year and generally accompanied by an announcement from Google.
Reasons for a Penalty
Your whole site can be penalized or just specific pages of it. If too many of your pages breach Google’s guidelines, it’s possible for every page on your site to be penalized as a consequence – even the pages that don’t breach any of the guideline.
Just one of the issues listed below can be enough for Google to penalize your website, however, often it will be a combination of them.
- Over Optimized Anchor Link Text
- Too Many Links from Low Quality Sources
- Too Many Links From Irrelevant Sources
- Paid Links / Link Schemes
- Deceptive or Manipulative On-Page Tactics
- On-Site Keyword Over-Optimization
- Low Value / Thin / Over-Lapping / Duplicate / Non-Unique Content
- Ad Heavy Page Layout
- Low Engagement / High Bounce Rate
- Outbound Spam Links
- Hacked / Malware
What Happens When You’re Penalized?
In some instances, your site may be completely removed from Google’s index, however, the most common scenario is that it will drop 10-100 positions in the search results for multiple keywords. If your site drops just a few positions in the search results, it’s very doubtful that it’s received a penalty. It’s more likely that either:
- Some of the sites that were below yours have improved their trust and authority through additional backlinks.
- Some of the backlinks that were causing your previous rankings have been devalued by Google.
- Google has updated their algorithm to give slightly different weightings to various on-site and off-site factors.
A penalty can be applied to work done on your site months, or even years, ago. It’s quite possible that something that you did last year, resulted in your site ranking highly from then until now, is now the very thing that has triggered a penalty.
What to do When Your Site is Penalized?
If your site has received a manual penalty, you’ll be notified of it via your Google Webmaster Tools account. If your site has received an algorithmic penalty, you won’t receive any notification of it from Google, however, an instant, significant and long lasting drop in rankings and traffic is a clear indicator that your site has been hit with an algorithmic penalty.
To have a manual penalty overturned, you must fix the issue(s) with your site and submit a reconsideration request to Google via your Webmaster Tools account to persuade them that your site no longer breaches their guidelines. The penalty is only removed when a Google employee is satisfied that your site falls back within their guidelines.
To have an algorithmic penalty overturned, you must fix the issues with your site and wait for the algorithm to update again. There’s no manual intervention by anyone at Google and there’s no way to request that one of their employees reviews your site to remove the penalty.
For a Panda based penalty, you’ll only need to wait a month or so. For a Penguin based penalty, you’ll have to wait for a specific Penguin update, which only occur every 2-4 months. For both, only when your site no longer trips the filters will the penalty be removed. If, when the algorithm updates, your site still trips the filter causing the penalty, you’ll need to re-review your site and wait for the next algorithm update.