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?
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
- 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:
- Algorithmic Penalties: Often caused by algorithm updates or changes.
- 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
- 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
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.
- 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.
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:
-evergreen content that needs to be refreshed
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.
- 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.
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
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?
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How to Write For Google
Are you writing your SEO content based on the latest best practice tips?
I originally wrote this SEO copywriting checklist in 2012—my, how things have changed. Today, Google stresses quality content even more than before, conversational copy is critical, and there are revised SEO writing “rules.”
I’ve updated the list to reflect these changes and to provide additional information.
As a side note, I would argue that there’s no such thing as “writing for Google.” Yes, there are certain things you should do to make the Google gods happy. However, your most important goal should be writing clear, compelling, standout copy that tells a story.
I’m keeping the old headline in the hopes that I can convert some of the “write for Google” people to do things the right way.
Items to review before you start your SEO writing project
– Do you have enough information about your target reader?
Your copy will pack a powerful one-two punch if your content is laser-focused on your target reader. Ask your client or supervisor for a customer/reader persona document outlining your target readers’ specific characteristics. If the client doesn’t have a customer persona document, be prepared to spend an hour or more asking detailed questions.
Here’s more information on customer personas.
– Writing a sales page? Did you interview the client?
It’s essential to interview new clients and to learn more about their company, USP, and competition. Don’t forget to ask about industry buzzwords that should appear in the content.
Not sure what questions to ask to get the copywriting ball rolling? Here’s a list of 56 questions you can start with today.
– Writing a blog post? Get topic ideas from smart sources
When you’re blogging, it’s tempting to write about whatever strikes your fancy. The challenge is, what interests you may not interest your readers. If you want to make sure you’re writing must-read content, sites like Quora, LinkedIn, Google Trends, and BuzzSumo can help spark some ideas.
– Did you use Google for competitive intelligence ideas?
Check out the sites positioning in the top-10 and look for common characteristics. How long are competing articles? Do the articles link out to authoritative sources? Are there videos or infographics? Do the articles include quotes from industry experts? Your job is to write an essay that’s better than what’s already appearing in the top-10 — so let the competition be your guide.
– Did you conduct keyphrase research?
Yes, keyphrase research (and content optimization) is still a crucial SEO step. If you don’t give Google some keyphrase “cues,” your page probably won’t position the way you want.
Use a keyphrase research tool and find possible keyphrases for your page or post. As a hint: if you are tightly focusing on a topic, long-tail keyphrases are your best bet. Here’s more information about why long-tail keyphrases are so important.
If you are researching B2B keyphrases, know that the “traditional” keyphrase research steps may not apply. Here’s more information about what to do if B2B keyphrase research doesn’t work.
– What is your per-page keyphrase focus?
Writers are no longer forced to include the exact-match keyphrase over and over again. (Hurray!) Today, we can focus on a keyphrase theme that matches the search intent and weave in multiple related keyphrases.
– Did you expand your keyphrase research to include synonyms and close variants?
Don’t be afraid to include keyphrase synonyms and close variants on your page. Doing so opens up your positioning opportunities, makes your copy better, and is much easier to write!
Are you wondering if you should include your keyphrases as you write the copy — or edit them in later? It’s up to you! Here are the pros and cons of both processes.
— Do your keyphrases match the search intent?
Remember that Google is “the decider” when it comes to search intent. If you’re writing a sales page — and your desired keyphrase pulls up informational blog posts in Google – your sales page probably won’t position.
— Writing a blog post? Does your Title/headline work for SEO, social, and your readers?
Yes, you want your headline to be compelling, but you also want it to be keyphrase rich. Always include your main page keyphrase (or a close variant) in your Title and work in other keyphrases if they “fit.”
– Did you include keyphrase-rich subheadlines?
Subheadlines are an excellent way to visually break up your text, making it easy for readers to quick-scan your benefits and information. Additionally, just like with the H1 headline, adding a keyphrase to your subheadlines can (slightly) help reinforce keyphrase relevancy.
As a hint, sometimes, you can write a question-oriented subheadline and slip the keyphrase in more easily. Here’s more information about why answering questions is a powerful SEO content play.
– Is your Title “clickable” and compelling?
Remember, the search engine results page is your first opportunity for conversion. Focusing too much on what you think Google “wants” may take away your Title’s conversion power.
Consider how you can create an enticing Title that “gets the click” over the other search result listings. You have about 59 characters (with spaces) to work with, so writing tight is essential.
– Does the meta description fit the intent of the page?
Yes, writers should create a meta description for every page. Why? Because they tell the reader what the landing page is about and help increase SERP conversions. Try experimenting with different calls-to-actions at the end, such as “learn more” or “apply now.” You never know what will entice your readers to click!
– Is your content written in a conversational style?
With voice search gaining prominence, copy that’s written in a conversational style is even more critical.
Read your copy out loud and hear how it sounds. Does it flow? Or does it sound too formal? If you’re writing for a regulated industry, such as finance, legal, or healthcare, you may not be able to push the conversational envelope too much. Otherwise, write like you talk.
Here’s how to explain why conversational content is so important.
–Is your copy laser-focused on your audience?
A big mistake some writers make is creating copy that appeals to “everyone” rather than their specific target reader. Writing sales and blog pages that are laser-focused on your audience will boost your conversions and keep readers checking out your copy longer. Here’s how one company does it.
Plus, you don’t receive special “Google points” for writing long content. Even short copy can position if it fully answers the searcher’s query. Your readers don’t want to wade through 1,500 words to find something that can be explained in 300 words.
Items to review after you’ve written the page
– Did you use too many keyphrases?
Remember, there is no such thing as keyword density. If your content sounds keyphrase-heavy and stilted, reduce the keyphrase usage and focus more on your readers’ experience. Your page doesn’t receive bonus points for exact-matching your keyphrase multiple times. If your page sounds keyphrase stuffed when you read it out loud, dial back your keyphrase usage.
– Did you edit your content?
Resist the urge to upload your content as soon as you write it. Put it away and come back to it after a few hours (or even the next day.) Discover why editing your Web writing is so very important. Also, don’t think that adding typos will help your page position. They won’t.
– Is the content interesting to read?
Yes, it’s OK if your copy has a little personality. Here’s more information about working with your page’s tone and feel and how to avoid the “yawn response.” Plus, know that even FAQ pages can help with conversions — and yes, even position.
– Are your sentences and paragraphs easy to read?
Vary your sentence structure so you have a combination of longer and shorter sentences. If you find your sentences creeping over 30 or so words, edit them down and make them punchier. Your writing will have more impact if you do.
Plus, long paragraphs without much white space are hard to read off a computer monitor – and even harder to read on a smartphone. Split up your long paragraphs into shorter ones. Please.
– Are you forcing your reader onto a “dead end” page?
“Dead-end” pages (pages that don’t link out to related pages) can stop your readers dead in their tracks and hurt your conversion goals.
Want to avoid this? Read more about “dead-end” Web pages.
– Does the content provide the reader with valuable information?
Google warns against sites with “thin,” low-quality content that’s poorly written. In fact, according to Google, spelling errors are a bigger boo-boo than broken HTML. Make sure your final draft is typo-free, written well, and thoroughly answers the searcher’s query.
Want to know what Google considers quality content — directly from Google? Here are Google’s Quality Raters guidelines for more information.
– Did you use bullet points where appropriate?
If you find yourself writing a list-like sentence, use bullet points instead. Your readers will thank you, and the items will be much easier to read.
Plus, you can write your bullet points in a way that makes your benefit statements pop, front and center. Here’s how Nike does it.
– Is the primary CTA (call-to-action) clear–and is it easy to take action?
What action do you want your readers to take? Do you want them to contact you? Buy something? Sign up for your newsletter? Make sure you’re telling your reader what you want them to do, and make taking action easy. If you force people to answer multiple questions just to fill out a “contact us” form, you run the risk of people bailing out.
Here’s a list of seven CTA techniques that work.
– Do you have a secondary CTA (such as a newsletter signup or downloading a white paper?)
Do you want readers to sign up for your newsletter or learn about related products? Don’t bury your “sign up for our newsletter” button in the footer text. Instead, test different CTA locations (for instance, try including a newsletter signup link at the bottom of every blog post) and see where you get the most conversions.
– Does the page include too many choices?
It’s important to keep your reader focused on your primary and secondary CTAs. If your page lists too many choices (for example, a large, scrolling page of products), consider eliminating all “unnecessary” options that don’t support your primary call-to-action. Too many choices may force your readers into not taking any action at all.
– Did you include benefit statements?
People make purchase decisions based on what’s in it for them (yes, even your B2B buyers.) Highly specific benefit statements will help your page convert like crazy. Don’t forget to include a benefit statement in your Title (whenever possible) like “free shipping” or “sale.” Seeing this on the search results page will catch your readers’ eyes, tempting them to click the link and check out your site.
– Do you have vertical-specific testimonials?
It’s incredible how many great sales pages are testimonial-free. Testimonials are a must for any site, as they offer third-party proof that your product or service is superior. Plus, your testimonials can help you write better, more benefit-driven sales pages and fantastic comparison-review pages.
Here’s a way to make your testimonials more powerful.
And finally — the most important question:
– Does your content stand out and genuinely deserve a top position?
SEO writing is more than shoving keyphrases into the content. If you want to be rewarded by Google (and your readers), your content must stand out — not be a carbon copy of the current top-10 results. Take a hard look at your content and compare it against what’s currently positioning. Have you fully answered the searcher’s query? Did you weave in other value-added resources, such as expert quotes, links to external and internal resources (such as FAQ pages), videos, and graphics?
If so, congratulations! You’ve done your job.
Google Ads Serving Issue For Ads On Desktop Gmail
Google has a new serving issue with Google Ads that is impacting ad serving on the desktop version of Gmail. So if you are serving Google Ads on Gmail, your ads may not show to a “significant subset of users,” according to Google.
Google posted the incident over here and wrote “we’re aware of a problem with Google Ads affecting a significant subset of users. We will provide an update by Dec 24, 2021, 2:00 AM UTC detailing when we expect to resolve the problem. Please note that this resolution time is an estimate and may change. This issue is specific to ads serving on Gmail on Desktop browsers only.”
The issue again only impacts ads serving on Gmail on Desktop browsers only.
It started yesterday, December 23, 2021 at around 2pm ET and is still currently an issue. Google is working on resolving the issue but has yet to resolve it.
You can track the issue over here.
Forum discussion at Twitter.
Google Loses Top Domain Spot To TikTok
Google is no longer the world’s most popular domain after being dethroned by TikTok, according to rankings from web security company Cloudflare. The list of most popular domains is part of Cloudflare’s Year in Review report and represents domains that gained the most traffic from one year to another.
Google.com — which includes also includes Maps, Translate, and News among others — ended the previous year as the leader in Cloudflare’s rankings. At that time, TikTok was ranking in the 7th position. TikTok.com is now ending 2021 with a leap toward top spot ahead of Google, Facebook, Amazon, and other world leading domains.
Here’s the full list of the top 10 most popular domains as of late 2021:
Cloudflare describes TikTok’s journey toward becoming the most popular domain throughout the year 2021:“It was on February 17, 2021, that TikTok got the top spot for a day.
Back in March, TikTok got a few more days and also in May, but it was after August 10, 2021, that TikTok took the lead on most days. There were some days when Google was #1, but October and November were mostly TikTok’s days, including on Thanksgiving (November 25) and Black Friday (November 26).”
Also included in Cloudflare’s report are lists of the most popular social media domains, most popular e-commerce platforms, and most popular video streaming sites. To no surprise, Amazon ended the year as the most popular e-commerce domain, followed by Taobao, Ebay, and Walmart.
The list of most popular video streaming sites was dominated by giants such as Netflix, YouTube, and HBOMax. Interestingly, Twitch didn’t manage to crack the top 10.
Putting These Rankings In PerspectiveDoes this mean TikTok is now the biggest social media site? No, it still has a long way to go before reaching those heights. What this means is TikTok.com received more traffic than any other domain, according to Cloudflare. That doesn’t mean TikTok has more users than Google or competing social media sites. Insider Intelligence (formerly eMarketer) reports TikTok surpassed Snapchat and Twitter in global user numbers, but is well behind Facebook and Instagram.
In other words, TikTok is the third largest social media platform worldwide. The number of global TikTok users number grew 59.8% in 2020, and went up by an additional 40.8% in 2021.Further, Insider Intelligence estimates TikTok will see a 15.1% growth in global users in 2022.
Should that estimate hold true, TikTok will hold a 20% share of overall social media users by the end of next year.
If TikTok isn’t part of your social media marketing strategy for 2022, these numbers are a good case for making it a priority.
Source: Matt Southern
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