I get asked this question at least three times per week. How do I know if my business website has been hit with a manual or algorithmic penalty? While those that have logged in to Google Webmaster Tools and the Google Search Console are well aware of the messages and alerts feature it is important to remember that many business owners don’t even know that Google Webmaster Tools exists. They may have paid for a website through a web design company but never installed any type of tracking or analytical software.
Almost all business owners I have worked with check their search rankings on a weekly or monthly basis. They will check on their phone or computer once every so often. When they are no longer on the front page or the first two pages of search they automatically assume they have been hit with a Google algorithm penalty or there is something wrong with their website. You can figure out quickly what is wrong by going into the Google Search Console.
Within the Google Search Console there is a tab for Search Traffic > Manual Actions. Here is where it is:
Hopefully, when you click the manual actions tab it looks like this:
A manual action means you could have been penalized at any time, not right after a Google algorithm update. Oftentimes, I will get emails from individuals wondering why their search traffic suddenly dropped even when there wasn’t a Google algorithm update. If this has happened to you, make certain your Google Search Console is installed and look to see if their has been a manual action.
If you have received a manual penalty there is an opportunity to clean up the mistake and resubmit for inclusion. This process takes time but if you get business from your website it is something you will want to do.
A Google algorithmic penalty comes with no warning. You will need to stay abreast of the last Google algorithm updates and see if your drop in traffic corresponded with the algorithm update. Unfortunately, when you have been hit with an algorithm penalty there isn’t much you can do other than drastically improve your website. Remember that Google wants the best user experience after a searcher clicks on a link. If your website is littered with ads or irrelevant information there is a good chance you could get hit with a Panda, Penguin or core algorithm penalty.
The best thing you can do is continue to provide a great user experience with fantastic content. As long as you avoid over optimizing for specific keyword phrases you should have nothing to worry about. If you have any questions about your website being penalized by Google contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.