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How to Recover From Any Google Penalty

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SEO is a complex game full of surprises. Even with best intentions, it’s possible to invest in your SEO only to have your site penalized by a Google algorithm update or manual action.

If you notice your website traffic suddenly drop or your position in the SERP ranking falling, your site may have been a victim of a Google penalty.

Fixing these penalties should be a top priority, as a drop in your search engine ranking can result in lost customers and lost sales.

Luckily, appealing and rectifying these penalties is possible, but you need to understand the cause before you can fix the problem.

In this article, we’ll show you how to figure out if your site has been penalized and explain exactly what to do to fix your score.

What Is a Google Penalty?

A Google penalty is a punishment that Google delivers to sites that fail to follow their Webmaster Guidelines.

Penalties can be given automatically by Google’s algorithms or manually, by any of Google’s human auditors.

Some penalties are the result of Google algorithm updates, such as in the case of the Panda and Penguin updates.

Think of Google penalties like a red card in soccer. The referee (Google) says you did something wrong and you are forced to sit out the rest of the game.

When you receive a penalty, your website, much like the soccer player, is forced to sit out until a solution is found. This usually means you may no longer be listed in search results or your ranking for targeted keywords drops.

While Google penalties are designed to stop black-hat SEO tactics and other online rule-breakers, they can also happen to sites that made an honest mistake or did nothing wrong at all. Sometimes, it’s simply an error on Google’s end that will need to be fixed.

What Are Common Causes of Google Penalties?

The following triggers often cause Google penalties:

  • keyword stuffing
  • hidden links
  • duplicate content
  • irrelevant keywords
  • bad redirects
  • cloaking
  • spyware, adware, and viruses
  • data issues
  • bad links

There are many ways to get a Google penalty, but they are often triggered by black-hat techniques or tactics intended to fool search engine bots.

There are two main types of Google penalties:

  1. Algorithmic Penalties: Often caused by algorithm updates or changes.
  2. Manual Penalties: Created by human auditors working for Google to ensure quality standards. These are usually given if you violate Google’s Terms of Service.

You can check if you have received a manual penalty in the Google Search Console.

For manual actions, go to Security & Manual Actions, then Manual Actions. If you see a green checkmark that says “No issue detected” you’re in the clear.

google penalty - manual action screen

To determine if your site was hit with an algorithmic penalty, you’ll need to check your ranking, which we’ll cover in the next section.

Remember that not every decline in search traffic is the result of a Google penalty. For example, seasonal businesses often see a sharp decline in their off-seasons. As well, the increased online competition can force your business further down the SERP page.

Google has always maintained that high-quality, relevant content is prioritized above irrelevant content meant to boost SEO.

Essentially, Google wants businesses to create content that is best for the user, not just for search engines. When you try to trick the algorithm, you may get slapped with a penalty.

That said, it is possible to get a Google penalty even if you aren’t trying to trick the algorithm.

Errors in manual entry and algorithm changes may result in a penalty even for innocent marketers.

Because of this, it’s important to be aware of what can cause a Google penalty, and what to do if it happens.

Below, we’ll outline the steps needed to recover from a Google penalty.

How Soon Will My Site Recover From a Google Penalty?

Your site will recover from a Google penalty once all of the errors are corrected.

This can be anywhere from 10-30 days for manual penalties, depending on how quickly you fix the problem, submit a reconsideration request, and have your request accepted.

The recovery time can be significantly longer for algorithm penalties, with some companies reporting damage up to two years later. Most sites can expect a six-month recovery period.

How to Recover From Google Penalties

Google penalties can result in lost traffic and revenue for businesses, so it’s important to find and fix issues as soon as possible.

While most penalties result from bad SEO techniques, some penalties are the result of Google errors and may require communication with the Google team.

If your site is penalized because of content errors or mistakes, you can often clear the issue up by modifying your site content.

Here are a few simple steps you can follow to recover from a Google penalty.

  1. Check If You Have A Ranking Problem

    The first step in recovering from a Google penalty is to make sure a penalty is the cause of your issues.

    You can use the Website Penalty Indicator to see exactly where and how your site may be being affected.

    google penalty indicator
    You can also use tools such as Ubersuggest to get a full report on SEO errors that need attention. Issues such as unhealthy backlinks, duplicate content, indexing errors, or algorithm updates can all be found with these tools.

  2. Investigate Recent Algorithm Updates

    To find out if you are a victim of an algorithm penalty, log in to your Google Analytics dashboard, and compare drops in traffic to any known Google algorithm changes.

    If you see your traffic drop at the same time as a known algorithm update, it’s likely the culprit of your Google penalty.

    To investigate further, select your website on the Google Analytics dashboard, then click Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium.

    google penalty - using google analytics

    From there, choose Google/Organic. This will show you a report of the number of visits your site receives from Google search.

    Next, select the reporting period at the top right and go back a year or more. Compare any major traffic drop dates to Google algorithm update dates.

    Use this Google Algorithm cheat sheet to guide your process. Or, check the Moz guide that shows all of the Google algorithm updates in the last 16 years.

    Once you’ve identified which update is resulting in your penalty, research the update to understand how to fix the issue.

    For example, if the Penguin update is penalizing your site, you need to focus on improving your backlinks and anchor text distribution.

    If the Panda update is penalizing you, it may be a question of content quality.
    A page experience penalty may require UX/UI updates to improve user experiences on your site.

  3. Run an SEO Audit

    SEO audits should be part of your regular marketing strategy. It can also be useful to diagnose any drops in traffic.

    If you are worried your site is suffering from a Google penalty, a technical SEO audit can help uncover any SEO errors impacting your site.

    When performing a technical SEO audit, you should focus on these three things:

    -back-end hosting and indexing
    -front-end factors like content, metadata, and keywords
    -outside references and link quality

    SEO audits should use a link tool such as our Backlink Checker, to scan for any spam links.

    This SEO Audit Checklist can also help you perform a detailed SEO audit to recover from a Google penalty.

    Some common SEO errors include:
    -bad or spammy backlinks
    -keyword stuffing
    -sitemap errors
    -loading speed
    -pop-ups

    If you fix your SEO errors and still find your website is under-performing, your penalty may be the result of a content error or other issue.

  4. Run a Content Audit

    A content audit reviews all your current content performance and can help uncover the cause of your Google penalty if it’s related to content issues.

    Remember, your online content needs to be regularly updated and optimized to stay high-performing. Google looks for updated, detailed content; so content that was great two years ago won’t perform the same today without updates.

    Use Ubersuggest to see your overall site performance and find content update opportunities. Simply click Search > Site Audit.

    google penalty - content audit

    Content inventory tools such as Blaze or DynoMappe can also help you uncover content issues.

    Check for duplicate content as well. Duplicate content can be a big issue in your search performance. Businesses that allow user-generated content, such as comments on blogs, should be especially aware of this.

    During your content audit, look for:
    -outdated content
    -content gaps
    -evergreen content that needs to be refreshed
    -metadata
    -image data
    -word counts

    Depending on the tool you use, you may receive content recommendations that will help you improve your site.

    On Ubersuggest, issues are rated from Low to High.

    Tackle high-impact issues first to minimize Google penalty issues, then make a plan to update content regularly to keep you in Google’s good graces.

  5. Clean Up Your Backlink Profile

    Healthy link-building campaigns are crucial to SEO, but bad backlinks can have the opposite effect.

    Bad backlinks can result in both manual and algorithmic Google penalties.

    Google’s Penguin algorithm is designed to uncover bad backlinks and penalize sites that were thought to be manipulating SERPs.

    While managing your links can be a daunting task, many tools available to simplify this process.

    Majestic SEO is an intelligence tool that helps perform link audits to help you understand how and where your links are working.
    Google’s Disavow Tool can help you remove spammy backlinks from your site. Note that you should only do this if direct communication has been unsuccessful at removing the bad backlinks.
    WebMeUp backlink checker will break your backlink domains and IPs along with the percentage of dofollow links and showcase your data in easy-to-read pie charts.
    Ahrefs backlink checker provides a link analysis tool with a regularly updated link database to guide your efforts.
    Link Detox is a subscription-based tool that can automatically clean up your link profile. Be careful using automatic tools as they can sometimes disavow your best backlinks. Always manually check results to ensure no good links are lost.

    Once you find negative or under-performing backlinks, you can try to remove them.

    This can be done by emailing the webmaster of the underperforming sites to request removal.

    Look for the webmaster’s contact details on a Contact Us or About Us page. If this is unsuccessful, try entering their domain into Whois.com.

    Your request email should look something like this.How to Recover From Google Penalty - Clean Up Your Backlink Profile
    If the webmaster does not respond or refuses your request, you can then use Google Disavow to remove the links yourself.

    Keep in mind that a handful of bad backlinks isn’t going to tank your rankings. Google will ignore many of those weird links if you had nothing to do with them. However, if you used a shady SEO agency or engaged in black-hat link building, take the time to clean up those links.

FAQs About Google Penalties

How do I know if I have a Google penalty?

Use tools such as Website Penalty Indicator and Ubersuggest to uncover any manual or algorithm penalties affecting your website traffic.

How can I fix SEO errors?

Perform an SEO audit to find and fix any SEO errors that may result in a Google penalty.

What tools can I use to clean up my backlinks?

Online tools such as Majestic SEO and WebMeUp can uncover bad backlinks. From there, you need to contact the webmaster directly to delete them or disavow them yourself.

When will my site recover?

Your site should recover in around 30 thirty days for manual penalties and six months for algorithm penalties

Conclusion

A Google penalty can be a big issue for sites that rely on web traffic for revenue.

Luckily, you can take steps to find out how, when, and why your site is being penalized.

Remember, there are many ways to improve your Google ranking without getting penalized. Be sure to adhere to Google’s best practices at all times to minimize penalty issues.

Although we hope you feel confident enough to identify and fix Google penalties yourself after reading this guide, our agency is here if you can’t or don’t want to. Our experienced team can guide you through the SEO audit/fixing/growing process with whatever level of involvement you want.

How have you fixed your Google penalties in the past? What steps did you take?

See How My Agency Can Drive Massive Amounts of Traffic to Your Website

  • SEO – unlock massive amounts of SEO traffic. See real results.
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Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say

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Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say

Google has agreed to pay a $391.5 million settlement to 40 states to resolve accusations that it tracked people’s locations in violation of state laws, including snooping on consumers’ whereabouts even after they told the tech behemoth to bug off.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said it is time for Big Tech to recognize state laws that limit data collection efforts.

“I have been ringing the alarm bell on big tech for years, and this is why,” Mr. Landry, a Republican, said in a statement Monday. “Citizens must be able to make informed decisions about what information they release to big tech.”

The attorneys general said the investigation resulted in the largest-ever multistate privacy settlement. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, a Democrat, said Google’s penalty is a “historic win for consumers.”

“Location data is among the most sensitive and valuable personal information Google collects, and there are so many reasons why a consumer may opt out of tracking,” Mr. Tong said. “Our investigation found that Google continued to collect this personal information even after consumers told them not to. That is an unacceptable invasion of consumer privacy, and a violation of state law.”

Location tracking can help tech companies sell digital ads to marketers looking to connect with consumers within their vicinity. It’s another tool in a data-gathering toolkit that generates more than $200 billion in annual ad revenue for Google, accounting for most of the profits pouring into the coffers of its corporate parent, Alphabet, which has a market value of $1.2 trillion.

The settlement is part of a series of legal challenges to Big Tech in the U.S. and around the world, which include consumer protection and antitrust lawsuits.

Though Google, based in Mountain View, California, said it fixed the problems several years ago, the company’s critics remained skeptical. State attorneys general who also have tussled with Google have questioned whether the tech company will follow through on its commitments.

The states aren’t dialing back their scrutiny of Google’s empire.

Last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he was filing a lawsuit over reports that Google unlawfully collected millions of Texans’ biometric data such as “voiceprints and records of face geometry.”

The states began investigating Google’s location tracking after The Associated Press reported in 2018 that Android devices and iPhones were storing location data despite the activation of privacy settings intended to prevent the company from following along.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich went after the company in May 2020. The state’s lawsuit charged that the company had defrauded its users by misleading them into believing they could keep their whereabouts private by turning off location tracking in the settings of their software.

Arizona settled its case with Google for $85 million last month. By then, attorneys general in several other states and the District of Columbia had pounced with their own lawsuits seeking to hold Google accountable.

Along with the hefty penalty, the state attorneys general said, Google must not hide key information about location tracking, must give users detailed information about the types of location tracking information Google collects, and must show additional information to people when users turn location-related account settings to “off.”

States will receive differing sums from the settlement. Mr. Landry’s office said Louisiana would receive more than $12.7 million, and Mr. Tong’s office said Connecticut would collect more than $6.5 million.

The financial penalty will not cripple Google’s business. The company raked in $69 billion in revenue for the third quarter of 2022, according to reports, yielding about $13.9 billion in profit.

Google downplayed its location-tracking tools Monday and said it changed the products at issue long ago.

“Consistent with improvements we’ve made in recent years, we have settled this investigation which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago,” Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said in a statement.

Google product managers Marlo McGriff and David Monsees defended their company’s Search and Maps products’ usage of location information.

“Location information lets us offer you a more helpful experience when you use our products,” the two men wrote on Google’s blog. “From Google Maps’ driving directions that show you how to avoid traffic to Google Search surfacing local restaurants and letting you know how busy they are, location information helps connect experiences across Google to what’s most relevant and useful.”

The blog post touted transparency tools and auto-delete controls that Google has developed in recent years and said the private browsing Incognito mode prevents Google Maps from saving an account’s search history.

Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees said Google would make changes to its products as part of the settlement. The changes include simplifying the process for deleting location data, updating the method to set up an account and revamping information hubs.

“We’ll provide a new control that allows users to easily turn off their Location History and Web & App Activity settings and delete their past data in one simple flow,” Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees wrote. “We’ll also continue deleting Location History data for users who have not recently contributed new Location History data to their account.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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5 Tips to Boost Your Holiday Search Strategy

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Student writing on computer

With the global economic downturn, inflation, ongoing supply chain challenges, and uncertainty due to the Ukraine war, this year’s holiday shopping season promises to be very challenging. Will people be in the mood to spend despite the gloom? Or will they rein in their enthusiasm and save for the year ahead?

With these issues in mind, here are five considerations to support your search engine optimization strategy this holiday shopping season:

1. Start early.

Rising prices are likely to mean shoppers will start researching their holiday spending earlier than ever to nab the best bargains. Therefore, retailers must roll out their holiday product and category pages — and launch any promotions — sooner to ensure their pages get crawled and indexed by search engines in good time.

Some e-commerce stores manage to get their pages ranking early by updating and reusing the same section of the website for holiday content and promotions, rotating between content for Christmas, Mother’s Day, Valentine gifts, Fourth of July sales, etc. This approach can help you retain the momentum, links and authority you build up with Google and get your holiday pages visible and ranking quickly.

2. Make research an even bigger priority.

With all the uncertainty this year, it’s vital to use SEO research to identify the trending seasonal keywords and search phrases in your retail vertical — and then optimize content accordingly.

With tools such as Google Trends you can extract helpful insights based on the types of searches people are making. For example, with many fashion retailers now charging for product returns, will prioritizing keywords such as “free returns” get more search traction? And with money being tighter, will consumers stick with brands they trust rather than anything new — meaning brand searches might be higher?

3. Make greater use of Google Shopping.

To get the most out of their holiday spending, consumers are more likely to turn to online marketplaces such as Google Shopping as they make it easier to compare products, features and prices, as well as to identify the best deals both online and in nearby stores.

Therefore, take a combined approach which includes listing in Google Shopping and at the same time optimizing product detail pages on your e-commerce site to ensure they’re unique and provide more value than competitors’ pages. Be precise with product names on Google Shopping (e.g., do the names contain the words people are searching for?); ensure you provide all the must-have information Google requires; and set a price that’s not too far from the competition. 

4. Give other search sources the attention they deserve.

Earlier this year Google itself acknowledged that consumers — especially younger consumers — are starting to use TikTok, Instagram and other social media sites for search. In fact, research suggests 11 percent of product searches now start on TikTok and 15 percent on Instagram. Younger consumers in particular are more engaged by visual content, which may explain why they’re embracing visually focused social sites for search. So, as part of your search strategy, create and share content on popular social media sites that your target customers visit.

Similarly, with people starting their shopping searches on marketplaces such as Amazon.com, optimizing any listings you have on the site should be part of your strategy. And thankfully, the better optimized your product detail pages are for Amazon (with unique, useful content), the better they will rank on Google as well!

5. Hold paid budget for late opportunities.

The greater uncertainty and volatility this holiday season mean you must keep a close eye on shopper behavior and be ready to embrace opportunities that emerge later on. Getting high organic rankings for late promotions is always more challenging, so hold some paid search budget back to help drive traffic to those pages — via Google Ads, for example. Important keywords to include in late season search ad campaigns include “delivery before Christmas” and “same-day-delivery.” For locally targeted search ads, consider “pick up any time before Christmas.”

The prospect of a tough, unpredictable holiday shopping season means search teams must roll out seasonal SEO plans early, closely track shoppers’ behavior, and be ready to adapt as things change.

Marcus Pentzek is chief SEO consultant at Searchmetrics, the global provider of search data, software and consulting solutions.

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Google Home App Gets an Overhaul, Rolling Out Soon

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Google Home app

Google refreshes its Home app with a slew of new features after launching a new Nest gear. This makes it faster and easier to pair smart devices with Matter, adds customization and personalization options, an enhanced Nest camera experience, and better intercommunication between devices.

This revamped Home app utilizes Google’s Matter smart home standard – launching later this year – especially the Fast Pair functionality. On an Android phone, it will instantly recognize a Matter device and allow you to easily set it up, bypassing the current procedure that is often slow and difficult. Google is also updating its Nest speakers, displays, and routers – to control Matter devices better.

Google Home App New Features

  • Spaces: This feature allows you to control multiple devices in different rooms. Google has listed a few things by room: kitchen, bedroom, living room, etc., although it’s pretty limited right now. Spaces let you organize devices how you see fit. For instance, you can set up a baby monitor in one room and set a different room’s camera to focus on an area the baby often plays. With Spaces, you can categorize these two devices into one Space category called ‘Baby.’

Google Home app Spaces

  • Favorites: This one is pretty self-explanatory. It allows you to make certain gears as a favorite that you frequently use. Doing so will bring those devices into the limelight within the Google Home app for easier access. 

Google Home app

  • Media: Google adds a new media widget at the bottom of your Home feed. This will automatically determine what media is playing in your home and provide you with the appropriate controls as and when needed. There will be song controls if you listen to music on your speakers. There will be television remote controls if you’re watching TV. 

Google probably won’t roll out this Home app makeover anytime soon. But you can try it for yourself in the coming week by enrolling in the public preview, available in select areas.

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