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How to Remove a Google Penalty
Have you been putting a lot of effort into SEO? You understand how difficult it can be. The last thing you want is for your site to be penalized by a Google algorithm update or manual action. When you receive a Google penalty, it can feel like the end of the world. Your traffic drops, your rankings plummet, and you find yourself at the bottom of the search results.
But it’s not the end of the world. It is possible to recover from a Google penalty. It only takes some helpful tips and tricks to get you back on track. Fixing these penalties should be your top priority because a drop in your search engine ranking can lead to lost customers and sales. Let’s start with a definition of the feared Google penalty. Then we’ll walk you through the steps needed to remove them.
What Is a Google Penalty?
Google penalties are actions taken against websites that engage in unethical behavior to manipulate their search engine rankings. Google penalties are typically the result of the discovery of black hat SEO tactics or a change in Google’s algorithms.
If your website violates Google’s rules, it may cause a Google penalty, which places your site at high risk in search results. Sometimes you may see it disappear from Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). There are two kinds of Google penalties: manual and algorithmic.
Human reviewers at Google apply manual penalties to your site based on Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines. They can manually issue a penalty if they believe your site violates Google’s guidelines.
If you’ve received a manual penalty, Google Search Console will notify you. A manual penalty can be partial or site-wide. A partial manual action is one in which the penalty only affects some of your site’s pages. A site-wide manual penalty affects your entire website.
Algorithmic penalties are more difficult to detect because Google does not notify you if they have penalized your site. Algorithmic updates are periodic changes to Google’s search algorithms.
There are two updates that can cause an algorithmic penalty: Penguin and Panda. Penguin penalizes sites with thin or low-quality content, whereas Panda penalizes sites with black-hat SEO practices such as link spamming and keyword stuffing. While Google does not always announce these updates in advance, they often give guidance on what they were intended to achieve after they were released.
It’s also worth noting that a drop in rankings following an algorithmic update isn’t always the result of a penalty. Google’s algorithms are constantly changing, and it’s possible that your competitors have benefited from the most recent update while your site has slipped.
Common Causes of Google Penalties
Google penalties can happen because of technical requirements, spam policies, or not following best practices. Among the most common causes are:
- Keyword stuffing – when a website is trying to influence its search engine ranking by repeatedly using the same keyword. This was a common practice a few years ago, which resulted in low-quality content dominating search engines.
- Hidden links – using links to a website that is invisible to the user.
- Irrelevant keywords – trying to manipulate search engine rankings by using irrelevant keywords.
- Bad redirects – when a user gets sent to another website than the one they wanted to go to.
- Cloaking – showing different content to users and search engines. For example, a web page may display one version of the content to users and another to search engines.
- Spyware, adware, and viruses – websites that share malicious software.
- Data issues – technical problems with robots.txt files issues or sitemap.
- Bad links – low-quality or spammy links.
- Thin content – the content offering little to no value to readers.
How to Remove a Penalty From Google?
When you discover you have received a Google penalty, you must act quickly to avoid a further drop in rankings and to fix the situation. While most penalties result from poor SEO practices, some result from Google errors and might require communication with the Google team. If your site receives a penalty due to content errors or mistakes, you can often resolve the issue by modifying your site’s content.
Analyze Your Backlink Profile
A manual penalty is usually the result of either unnatural links to your site or unnatural links from your site. Bad backlinks can cause both manual and algorithmic penalties, and Google has previously released updates aimed specifically at these spammy, low-quality links.
Bad backlinks are one of the most common forms of black hat SEO, which is why they are such a common source of penalties from the Penguin update, both manual and algorithmic. It is possible to clean up your link profile, though it is a difficult and time-consuming task. You need to look at your links one by one to determine whether they are natural or unnatural.
Once you have a list of all the unnatural links, contact the site owners and request that they remove the links. You can use the disavow link tool if you can’t contact them or if they refuse, which is often the case with links from spammy sites. When you’ve gone as far as you can manually, use Google’s disavow tool. Make a list of all the links you want to remove. You can do this with a number of tools, including Google Search Console and Ahrefs.
Create a text file with one URL per line once you have your list. Then, in Google Search Console, navigate to the disavow links page and select your website. Then click ‘Disavow Links’ and upload your text file. Google will disavow the links in your file if you formatted everything correctly.
It can take days to weeks for the manual action to be lifted, but if you’ve done everything possible to clean up your link profile, it should happen eventually. If your Reconsideration Request is not approved the first time, you can follow the steps outlined above.
Examine the Quality of Your Content
As Google tries to provide high-quality, relevant content to users, the Panda update will penalize websites with low-quality content. Scraped content, auto-generated content, low-quality affiliate pages, and doorway pages are all examples of thin content. A content audit analyzes your current content performance and can help to identify the source of a Google penalty if it is related to content issues.
After you’ve identified the thin content pages on your site, you should either delete them or optimize them by adding more high-quality content. Google advises improving rather than deleting thin content pages.
As a result, you need to make all of your site’s content as high-quality and unique as possible. The more value you provide, the less likely you are to receive another thin content penalty. Besides making sure the text on your pages is of a high standard, adding images, videos, tables, and charts can help improve the content and make it more interesting.
Once you’ve updated your thin content pages to an acceptable level, you can submit a reconsideration request and wait for Google to decide whether the changes suffice to lift the manual action.
Run an SEO Audit
While SEO audits should be a regular part of your marketing strategy, they can also help you identify traffic drops. If you are concerned that your site has received a Google penalty, a technical SEO audit can help you identify any SEO errors affecting your site.
When conducting a technical SEO audit, concentrate on the following areas: back-end hosting and indexing, front-end factors such as content, metadata, keywords, and outside referrals, and link quality.
Some of the most common SEO errors include keyword stuffing and hidden text. This was once a common practice, but it’s now a surefire way to get caught and punished. Hidden text is text that is the same color as the background and is otherwise hidden from view, or text that has been manipulated with code so that it is not visible to the user. This can be done by using HTML and CSS code to fool Google into believing the text isn’t present, or by using tiny font sizes.
The practice of stuffing as many keywords as possible into your content is known as keyword stuffing. This was a major target for Google’s Panda update, and it’s now a definite no. Remove the hidden text or keyword-stuffed content and submit a reconsideration request to avoid this penalty.
Be Aware of Cloaking & Deceptive Redirects
Deceptive redirects violate Google’s guidelines by taking the user to a completely different page than what was displayed in the search results. This happens often in an attempt to generate revenue via affiliate links or advertisements.
Cloaking is a similar practice in which the content presented to the user differs from what Google’s crawlers see. Cloaking makes use of IP addresses or user-agent information to determine whether to show the user the true content of the page. This clearly violates Google’s guidelines and may result in a manual action against your site. You can remove the offending content and request a reconsideration.
A Google penalty can be a major problem for websites that rely on web traffic for revenue, but it is fixable. You can take steps to determine how, when, and why your site is being penalized, and then implement a Google penalty recovery plan. This includes addressing issues such as low-quality links, conducting SEO and content audits, and cleaning up backlinks. Remember that there are many ways to boost your Google ranking without being penalized. To avoid penalty issues, make sure to always follow Google’s best practices.