Algorithm updates and growing manual checks make it easier than ever to be put in the Google penalty box. We don’t want to use scare tactics, but we do want to give you the information you need to tell if your site has a Google penalty and what you can do to avoid getting one. 

But first…

What Is a Google Penalty?

When a website is suspected of violating Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, Google will verify that it’s in violation and penalize the site with a (sometimes significant) drop in ranking…which leads to a big drop in traffic.

There are two types of Google penalties:

  1. Algorithmic: Updates to Google’s algorithms, like their 2021 Page Experience and Core Web Vitals update, strive to rank the best search results for its users. 
  2. Manual: Google employees issue these penalties to pages that lack content quality or proper security, or use black hat SEO tactics (see below).

What Are the Consequences of Getting a Google Penalty?

A penalty from Google brings the following consequences:

  • A keyword will drop in ranking.
  • The URL or domain-wide site will see a decrease in search rankings.
  • The site will have lower organic traffic.
  • The domain may be removed from the Google index.
  • Your brand may suffer from a negative reputation.

Note, these consequences remain until the reason for them is fixed. If the penalty is ignored, you may lose your chance to fix it. Even after a penalty is rectified, it may take some time to recover your site’s rankings and traffic.

Once you fix a manual penalty, it generally takes 10-30 days for your site to recover. However, for an algorithmic penalty, the time to recovery can be significantly longer—from six months up to two years.

How Can You Tell If Your Site Has a Google Penalty?

Here are four ways to check if your site has been issued a Google penalty:

  1. Manually search for your domain name on google (for example, “example.com”). You may have a penalty if your site isn’t in the top 10 results.
  2. Compare your average monthly traffic rates over the past year. If you see a sudden drop in traffic, you’re likely suffering the consequences of a Google penalty. 
  3. Log into your webmaster account, click “Search Traffic,” and click “Manual Actions.” If you have any penalties, they’ll be listed here, along with information on why you have been penalized and what you can do to resolve the problem.
  4. Check your email. You may receive an email from Google’s webspam team notifying you of a problem.

How Can You Avoid a Google Penalty?

You can do several things (and not do) to avoid being penalized by Google. These actions all fall under either black hat SEO tactics or white hat SEO best practices.

Shun Black Hat SEO Tactics

The term “black hat SEO” (also called “spamdexing”) refers to risky techniques that try to get around the Webmaster Guidelines. The intent of this is to trick Google’s algorithms into ranking a page higher on their search results page than it deserves.

Here’s a quick list of common black hat SEO tactics:

  • Keyword stuffing
  • Content mismatch
  • No-added-value content
  • Automatically generated content
  • Scraped or duplicate content
  • Bought or unnatural links
  • Hidden text and links
  • User-generated spam
  • Sneaky redirects
  • Irrelevant structured data
  • Cloaked images
  • Google policy content violations
    • Misleading
    • Contradictory to scientific and medical evidence
    • Manipulated media
    • Hateful or harassing
    • Dangerous
    • Sexually explicit
    • Vulgar or profane

If you need to know how to remove a Google penalty, start by taking this list and checking it twice to see whether you’re naughty or nice. Fix any offenders you find. If you’re still getting penalized after all of this has been taken care of, that’s when adopting white hat SEO best practices is your best bet.

Adopt White Hat SEO Best Practices

Contrasting with black hat SEO, companies who use white hat SEO follow these effective and approved methods to increase organic search results and traffic:

Let Big Leap Step In

Granted, this is a lot of stuff to cover all on your own. That’s when your best friends at Big Leap can step in and help. We’re white hat SEO experts. With our help, you can not only avoid (or resolve) a Google penalty but thrive at the top of the search results page where you belong. 

Check out our services and contact us right away!