How Do I Know if My Website has been Penalized by Google?

If your company’s website has ever dropped or disappeared in the search rankings for your top search keywords, chances are your company has been penalized by Google. This article will explain how to tell if your website has been penalized by Google, what the different types of penalties are, and what to do if your website has been penalized. Remember that for a website to be penalized, the creator or company would have to be extremely aggressive; for instance, if the company was using black hat SEO. If you are looking for help on how to recover from a Google penalty, contact us at jesse@wojdylosocialmedia.com.

How to Tell

The initial cue that your website has been penalized is by a significant drop in Google search rankings for your company’s keywords. Once this happens, there are a few things you can do to check and see if and how you have actually been penalized. The first thing you want to do, if you have not already, is install Google’s Webmaster Tools. Click on the tab on the left side labeled “Search Traffic” and then “Search Analytics” below that. From there you can change the time frame to see the search traffic history to your website.

Screen Shot 2016-01-08 at 6.32.11 PM

If you see that your traffic has plummeted, you have been penalized. You are also going to want to click on the “Manual Actions” tab; there you can see if Google has taken any manual actions against your site.

google-manual-action-warning-1376051542

If not, your site has most likely suffered from an algorithmic penalty rather than a manual penalty. If you would like help correctly installing Google’s Webmaster tools, Wojdylo Social Media would be happy to help!

Types of Penalties

There are two main types of Google penalties: manual and algorithmic. The descriptions of these penalties are fairly self-explanatory. A manual penalty is when a Google employee has looked through a website and determined that it has an unnaturally high Google ranking based on low-quality site content or unnatural links. An algorithmic penalty comes during an algorithm update (Panda, Pigeon, Penguin) when the computer runs a full assessment of a website and decides that it should be ranked lower in search results compared to other sites that rank for the same keywords.

Manual Penalties can happen at any time and there are two types: Unnatural Links Manual Penalties and Low-Quality Manual Penalties. An unnatural links manual penalty occurs when a website’s link portfolio does not look normal. You can find your link portfolio on Google’s Webmaster Tools under “Search Traffic” and “Links to Your Site.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-08 at 7.34.58 PM

Here you can see every link to your website and which page on your site the link leads to. Depending on the type of business you own or website you have, average links to your site will be different. For lawyers, around 100-150 domains pointing to you is normal. A Google analyst will not only look at the number of links, but also what pages are being linked the most. If there is an unnaturally high percentage of domains pointing to a home page, instead of specific blog posts or content-filled pages, it will register as suspicious.

5234b4fcebdb24.58752838

The second type of manual penalty is a low-quality manual penalty.

google-manual-action-thin-content-1431346952

This type of penalty will be placed on a website where users get little value from the information presented and is usually indicated by a high bounce rate. A bounce rate is the rate at which a user clicks on a link to a website and immediately goes back. Typically blogs have the highest bounce rate, since they have nothing to sell to users.

While there are immediate actions you can take to fight manual penalties (see below), unfortunately there is not much you can do about an algorithmic penalty except continue good SEO practices. Algorithmic updates, such as Panda, Penguin, and Pigeon, typically happen during a given month every year, so rank changes can be expected. This can also help determine which algorithmic update affected your website rankings.

What to Do

Here are a couple of suggestions of what to do when your website acquires a penalty:

1. Reconsideration Request/Google Disavow Tool
If your website is hit by a manual penalty, Google allows you the opportunity to clean up your website and submit a reconsideration request. What they will typically expect in the case of an unnatural links manual penalty is that you use the Google disavow tool to get rid of links that look suspicious. When you flag links to Google and ask them to disavow, it says that you do not want those domain links to be valued when they analyze your website profile. Google will generally reply to a reconsideration request in about two weeks saying that they will either lift the penalty or not. However, lifting the penalty does not mean your website to fully recover immediately.

2. Good SEO
Regardless of how long you have had your website or what type of website you have, we always recommend hiring an expert in SEO to help you market your business on the web. If you are suffering from a penalty, it is more important that ever that you practice good SEO if you intend to recover.

3. Google Adwords
Google Adwords are the ads that appear on the top of Google search results or in the column to the right.

google-adwords-search-results-screenshot

While paid for, these ads can be valuable, because they show up for keyword searches that a business pays for. Depending on the type of business, Adwords can be a great way to continue to appear at the top of search results for the keywords you want to rank for while you are trying to recover. Adwords work on an auction process, where the more you offer to pay per click the higher you rank and your position cannot be penalized. The downside to Adwords is the cost. While winners of the auction only pay one cent more than the second highest bidder, Adwords cost could be as high as $150 a click (although that is rare). Businesses that are highly competitive with more costly services will cost more per click.

4. Google Adsense
Google Adsense ads appear within articles on other websites. Because users cannot find these by their own searches, they are much more valuable for companies and brands that are already well known.

ad-place

5. Make a New Website
Unfortunately, in serious cases of black-hat SEO, especially with repeat offenders, website recovery is nearly impossible. Sometimes making a new website is less stressful, timely, and costly than trying to recover your old website. When making a new website, be sure to use a domain name that incorporates the name of your business.

Unfortunately there is no way to tell exactly how long it will take for a website to recover, and in many cases sites never fully recover from Google penalties. This is why we always suggest practicing clean SEO without taking shortcuts to increase keyword rankings.

How We Can Help

We are experts in SEO and can help you if you think your website has been penalized. If you contact us at jesse@wojdylosocialmedia.com about a penalty, we will run an audit before making a professional opinion about what website recovery will look like and how we can help you get there.

The first step in our audit process is to fully evaluate the website to make sure everything is clean. We will read over content to make sure it is SEO friendly and look over your link profile. We will also evaluate the site’s history using Google’s Webmaster tools. In some cases, it is possible that creating a new website from scratch will benefit a business more than website recovery.