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SEO 22 min read

How To Avoid Or Fix Google Penalties

types of visual content that boost your traffic
Almost every business wants to get organic traffic from Google because it is the highest-quality one that comes without any cost. That's why the goal of any company is to rank higher on Google SERPs to get more organic traffic with the help of SEO.
But getting organic traffic from Google is not as easy as it looks. It takes lots of effort, time, and patience. Because of that, many users try to push the limits and use shady techniques to manipulate Google. As a result, instead of higher rankings, they get a penalty from Google as they violate Google Webmaster's Guidelines.

But if your website has been penalized or you want to ensure that your website will remain safe from Google Penalties, then this guide is for you! We'll discuss a few useful tips to avoid and fix any Google penalty. But let's first take a closer look at the concept.

What is a Google penalty?

Google penalty is the negative hit to a website that violates Google's Webmasters guidelines.

If a website doesn't follow webmasters' best practices then Google negatively hits that website and drops its rankings due to the unusual activities.

A website's rankings drop suddenly when Google hits a penalty to the website. Sometimes Google deindexes a website and stops to list in Google results too.

Types of Google penalties

Typically, you'll come across two types of Google penalties, namely: manual action penalty and algorithmic penalty.

Manual Action penalty

As the name suggests, a manual action penalty is issued by Google's reviewers. Google employees regularly monitor your website to find out whether you're using any black hat SEO tactics. If they detect a violation of Google's webmaster guidelines, your website receives a manual penalty. You will receive a notification in your Google Search Console dashboard along with guidelines to rectify it.

Here are a few manipulative practices that attract manual action penalties:

  • thin content providing little to no value
  • user-generated spam
  • cloaking/sneaky redirects
  • security issues
  • hacked websites.

Algorithmic penalty

An algorithmic penalty occurs when a Google algorithm update negatively impacts your website. For instance, Google released the Penguin update in 2012 to eliminate low-quality websites. Thus, any website that indulged in link schemes or attracted unnatural backlinks suffered a hit in search engine ranking.

Likewise, Google rolled out the Hummingbird update in 2013 to deliver an improved user experience by prioritizing search intent. Consequently, websites that didn't satisfy the search intent behind a keyword witnessed a drop in their rankings and traffic. In addition to major updates, Google regularly rolls out minor changes to improve its search algorithm. That's why you must watch out for algorithmic penalties.

Moreover, such penalties are often more challenging to diagnose and fix. This is because Google doesn't send any notifications or guidelines. It's up to you to find out whether an update was recently released and learn more about it. Additionally, you need to find out the underlying problem that has triggered the penalty.

Different levels of Google penalty

Google penalties are issued at the following levels:
Keyword. A keyword-level penalty only impacts your website's ranking for a specific keyword. While web pages targeting the keyword get affected, the rest of your website doesn't suffer any consequences.
URL or directory. Such a penalty affects a particular URL or directory. Web pages belonging to the directory experience a drop in traffic and ranking.
Sitewide. A sitewide penalty affects all the web pages belonging to your domain.
Deindexing. In the worst-case scenario, Google delists your website from its search results and removes your web pages from its index.
You can't fix a Google penalty, manual or algorithmic unless you know your website has been affected. Let's take a look at the techniques to identify and diagnose Google penalties.

How to know if you've been hit?

The most obvious indication of a Google penalty is that you will see a drop in your website rankings. It could be a sudden or gradual drop and can impact the whole website or some part of it.

Here are some sure-shot situations to know that your website has been penalized:

  • Your brand is unable to rank on your brand name
  • Your top ranking keywords dropped their positions and slipped to the lower pages of SERP or have been lost
  • The whole website has been deindexed from Google. You are getting no results while using the site: search operator.

Note: Make sure that you haven't made any changes to your website recently. Sometimes these kinds of activities impact website rankings instead of Google Penalty:

  • Website migration
  • Changing website theme
  • Updating website content
  • Changing web hosting

You should also check whether a competitor has recently outranked your website for specific keywords. Run a quick Google search for one of your target keywords and check the search result listings. If a competitor's website has suddenly risen to the top, it's likely stealing your traffic.

If you've ruled out the above factors, run a Google search for your brand name. Alternatively, you can run a Google search using the site operator site: (site:yourdomain.com). If your website doesn't show up in these results, it's time to get alarmed.

Next, head to the "Security and Manual Actions" section of your Google Search Console dashboard and click on the "Manual Actions" tab.

If your website has been hit by a manual penalty, you'll see a notification here. Otherwise, it displays a green tick with the message "No issues detected".
google search console panel
Then probably your website has lost its traffic because of Google Algorithmic hit. So to confirm that, first of all, you need to know if Google recently rolled out a new algorithmic update. Here are some platforms that can help you:

  • SERoundTable.com
  • SearchEngineLand.com
  • MozCast

Once you confirm that then you have to figure out the reason for the traffic drop so you can fix the issues and recover your website traffic.

How to recover from any Google penalty

The process of fixing Google penalties depends on whether you're facing a manual or algorithmic penalty. Irrespective of the type of penalty, you need to diagnose the underlying problem and rectify it.

Steps to fix Manual Actions penalty:

The best thing about Google manual actions is that Google explains the reason for the penalty. That makes it easier to understand, figure out, and fix the penalty.
Diagnosing a Manual Penalty
If you receive a manual penalty, Google sends a notification on your Google Search Console dashboard. It mentions the reasons for the penalty and provides you with helpful guidelines to fix the problem.

Open your Google Search Console account and click on the "Manual Actions" tab under the "Security and Manual Actions" section in the left sidebar.
Google Search Console manual actions
But If the section displays a green tick with the message "no issues detected", it means your website doesn't have any manual penalties right now.
Understand and fixing a Manual penalty
When you receive a manual penalty, Google explains the reason behind the penalty. This makes it easy to fix the problem. So, first of all, you have to understand the meaning of the manual action type that Google has told you. Once you understand the penalty that your website got, then you should solve those issues.

For instance, if it's due to thin content, you can remove the respective pages or improve the content. Likewise, if it's due to suspicious backlinks, you can disavow those links. Google also provides you with links to guidelines that can help you fix more complicated issues.

Next, head to your Google Search Console account and submit a "Reconsideration Request" to Google. Make sure you include extensive details of all the steps you've taken to resolve the issue. Google authorities might ask for more information and documentation before approving your request. Even if denied the first time, you can resubmit your request again after solving all the issues. Google can take a few weeks to months to review your request, so keep patience.

Note: Submit Reconsideration Request only when you are sure that you have solved all the issues.

Steps to fix Algorithmic penalties

Diagnosing an Algorithmic penalty
Identifying an algorithmic penalty is trickier because Google doesn't notify you before updating its algorithm. That's why you should keep a close eye on your website traffic and rankings. You should use Google Analytics and Google Search Console so you can track your website performance and rankings. You need to check your Google Webmaster performance report to see the rankings drop. If you find a sharp ranking drop then chances are that an algorithm update has negatively impacted your website.

To confirm that you should search those dropped keywords on Google and find your site. If you don't find your website on its real position then you should check all pages of SERP until you don't find your site or till reach the last list of SERP pages.

Next, check useful SEO resources on the internet to find out whether Google rolled out an algorithm update during that period. If there's been an algorithm change, you should read more about it to identify the issue. Understand how the update works and how it may have affected your website's ranking.

Google algorithms are just a set of rules that work to provide the desired outcome. So they don't hit any site specifically. That's why algorithm penalties are not penalties actually. But an algorithmic penalty can impact your website in many ways directly or indirectly. For example, an algorithm update can reward your competitors, maybe that's why you have lost your rankings. So in this case, your website has no issues but competitors are the best option to rank there.
Understanding and fixing an Algorithmic penalty
The best way to understand a Google penalty is to be familiar with how Google works and how an Algorithm update impacts websites.

Because for most webmasters it is almost impossible to analyze an algorithmic update properly, especially Google Broad Core Updates. Even most of the SEO gurus don't know how to do that. Just finding similarities between top rewarded sites is not enough. There is a lot more!

But it doesn't mean that you can't fix it!

Mostly, algorithm updates will impact your website if there are issues on your site. It can be related to the content, links, UI-UX, technical, or any other. To figure out things properly you should perform a professional SEO Audit. It is the easiest and fastest method to recover from an Algorithm penalty.

An SEO audit will help you figure out all the issues that your website has. And once you figure out all the issues, you need to solve them one by one. And keep a record of everything.

Then wait to see what happens next. Whenever Google reevaluates data then you will get a boost again if you have solved all the issues.

But precautions are better than cure!

So, you should always try to keep your website safe from Google Penalties.
Technical SEO audit is a process of checking a site for internal technical issues and compliance with the requirements of search engines.

If you received Google penalty, carrying out an audit is the right idea. An SEO auditing allows you to find and fix errors, and get back to normal.

You can use Serpstat Site Audit to see technical issues of the site; just create a project, start the audit and when it is over, click on any indicator in the overview report or go to the reports from the left sidebar. Serpstat Audit finds specific issues on the site and shares recommendations on fixing them.
serpstat site audit

How to avoid Google Penalties

Google penalties can be scary and devastating. However, if you follow SEO best practices and manage your website properly then you can keep your website safe from Google penalties.

Prioritize high-quality content

Search engines strive to deliver the best search experience to their users. That's why they have a penchant for websites that publish original, informative, relevant, and insightful content. Creating top-notch content reinforces your website's authority, credibility, and reputation. It also positions your website as a trusted source of valuable information.

Moreover, when you publish useful content, other websites and bloggers will likely use it as a reference in their content. This, in turn, helps you earn genuine and high-quality backlinks. It won't be wrong to say that great content is the lifeblood of your website and SEO strategy. This is also a great way to minimize the devastating consequence of algorithm updates.

Moreover, your content must be well-structured and free of any plagiarism as well as grammatical and spelling errors. Additionally, your content should fulfill the reader's search intent, address their pain points, and resolve their queries. It's also recommended that you create evergreen content that remains relevant years after it was first published.

But if you still are not sure what high-quality content is then here are some important questions to ask yourself. If your answer for all is yes, then without any doubt, you are publishing high-quality content.
Google Search Console manual actions
It's equally crucial to update your content; replace old statistics, data, and examples with the latest ones. Use images, graphics, and videos to make your content more engaging. Apart from blog posts, you should focus on other content formats like e-books, whitepapers, checklists, etc. as well. Lastly, you should optimize your content using relevant and popular keywords.

Avoid keyword stuffing

There was a time when you could rank high on Google by stuffing your content with a target keyword. However, indulging in this practice today can get your website penalized. Google has significantly improved its algorithm to prioritize keyword relevance and prominence over keyword density. Now Google can rank pages for those terms that the webpage doesn't have in its content. So don't focus on repeating keywords in the content.

You can add keywords in the title tag, meta description, image alt tags, and subheadings. Additionally, you should include the target keyword and its variations a few times in the main content where they need and fit naturally. Make sure you don't add keywords in your content forcefully. The key is to create meaningful and valuable content for real-life human users.

Monitor your backlinks

A strong inbound link profile is one of the most important supporting pillars of your SEO strategy. In the early days of SEO, many webmasters got away with purchasing backlinks and adding spammy links. However, the scenario has completely changed.

If your website has lots of unnatural backlinks from low-authority websites, it'll likely face a manual penalty. Therefore, you should ensure that all your backlinks are from credible, reputed, and high-authority websites. Additionally, these websites should be relevant to your niche.

You can check and monitor your Backlink profile by using Google Search Console and tools like Serpstat. Take a look at each linking website and check out its domain authority (DA) score. Moreover, you should analyze its content and determine whether it's related and/or relevant to your niche.

If there are any backlinks from irrelevant, suspicious, or low-quality websites, you should disavow them. You can use Google's Disavow Links tool for this purpose. It informs Google's crawlers to ignore specific backlinks while evaluating your website. You can also contact the owners/admins of the respective websites and ask them to remove the backlinks.
Google Search Console manual actions
Needless to say, you should avoid buying backlinks from anyone. Instead, you should focus on publishing impressive content that others would want to link to. This, in turn, will strengthen your reputation as a trusted powerhouse of information and keep you on Google's best friends list.

But if you want to get powerful links for your site then you should hire a professional SEO linkbuilding company that can help you get links. But buying links from platforms like Fiverr, Facebook Groups, etc. can harm your site.
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Don't over-optimize your anchor text

Anchor text, the clickable text of a hyperlink, plays a crucial role in SEO. Judiciously using target keywords as anchor text can boost a web page's search engine ranking. However, if you use the same keyword for multiple anchor texts on the same page, it can reward you with a penalty rather than a ranking boost. That's why you should use natural and branded anchor texts.

Well-maintained website

Your website should be clean and of high quality. Always use high-quality SEO-friendly themes for your website from reputable sources. A premium theme helps you to manage your website properly and assure you that your website is clean-coded and light-weighted.

Also, ensure that your users are getting a rich experience on your website. And for that:

  • provide easier navigation structure
  • use high-quality images
  • be mobile-friendly
  • regularly post fresh and updated content
  • have a user-friendly website design.

Be careful about guest posting

Guest posting continues to be a powerful way of attracting natural and high-quality backlinks. However, this strategy only works when you publish guest posts on authoritative blogs and websites that are relevant to your niche. Otherwise, you could face a Google penalty.

Recently Google said that guest posting for the purpose of link building is not a good option. It can harm your website.

But guest posting is not a bad option if you know the real purpose of it. If you know this then guest posting is like a blessing for you. Don't write for any random publication. Only write for top publications so that they can boost your credibility and help you to grow your business.

Premium web hosting

Choosing good web hosting is also crucial for every business. Using low-quality hosting can impact your website performance, SEO rankings, and also can be a reason to hack your website. Sometimes server-side issues could be the reason for a Google penalty.

That's why you should choose the best web hosting for your website.

Good web hosting keeps your website safe from hackers and spammers. Also, it helps your website load fast and rank higher on Google.


Getting a Google penalty is not the end of the world. You can recover your website from any Google penalty. Yes, it may take some time to fully recover so that's why you should work on creating a user-friendly and valuable website for your audience to avoid the risk of getting penalized by Google. Follow the above-mentioned steps to keep your website safe or to recover from any Google penalty.

Have you ever recovered from a Google penalty? Share your experience in the comments section below.

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