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Google penalty


A Google penalty is a significant cutback in organic visibility and clicks, which a website experiences in response to the owner’s violation of the search engine’s guidelines. The penalty may be specifically issued by someone on the Google team or applied automatically when the website triggers some algorithmic spam indicators.  

What happens when you get a Google penalty? 

You won't be notified if your website has been penalized automatically. However, you will notice a considerable drop in your search engine clicks and impressions, as well as a decrease in Google rankings. 

If the penalty is a manual one, you will get a penalty notification in your Google Search Console account. The website at the same time will get downranked or even banned from the search results altogether. 

What causes a Google penalty?

For a website to get penalized by Google, it has to be considered spammy and somehow violate the search engine’s Web Search Essentials (former Webmaster Guidelines).[1]

For example, a couple of the most frequent causes of penalties are spammy backlinks and thin and low-quality content. 

What kind of Google penalties can you get?

There are a number of things one needs to keep in mind to avoid being penalized by Google. The most common types of penalties you might encounter are as follows.

User-generated spam

Many a time, the creator of spammy content and links on the website is not the webmaster, but the visitors. So, if the website allows user-generated content, like blog commenting, forums, and so on, special attention should be paid to moderation. 

Spammy hosting 

Another external factor for a Google penalty is spammy web hosting. If the hosting provider gets penalized for hosting too many spammy websites, each and every website they host will also get a Google SEO penalty, regardless of their quality. Thus, the best practice to avoid penalties is to stick with a trusted and authoritative hosting provider. 

Structured data issue

This penalty might be issued if a website owner tries to manipulate the search engine by disguising its content for something different than it is. In other words, if the actual type of content on a page is different from the type of schema markup you are using, a penalty might follow. The most healthy practice here is to follow Google’s structured data guidelines[2] and use structured data only the way it is appropriate. 

Unnatural backlinks

This penalty is very likely to follow when the webmaster is involved in shady link building - i.e. paying for links, using PBNs, comment spam, and other black-hat SEO tactics. After receiving such a penalty, the only way to go would be to remove the unnaturally built backlinks or disavow them via the Google Disavow file to make sure the search engine excludes them from its authority calculations. 

Unnatural outbound links

Your website mustn’t be involved in link-building schemes not only as the recipient of the backlink but also as its donor. So, excessively linking out to irrelevant resources or clearly doing this for a cash reward is likely to get your website under a Google SEO penalty. 

Thin content penalty

Last but not least comes the penalty for insufficient content. Considered a sign of a content farm, thin content should be avoided throughout the whole website. This might be especially important for e-commerce websites with thousands of almost identical product pages.

How do I deal with a Google penalty?

First, one has to diagnose whether the website is indeed suffering from a Google penalty or whether there have been other reasons for its rankings to drop. 

After that, the cause of the penalty should be identified and the violation - be fixed. 

Finally, when the website can no longer be considered a violator, a reconsideration request to Google is sent.

Google’s Disavow Tool: How to Save Your Site from Bad Backlinks

9 Reasons Google Rankings Suddenly Dropped & Find-and-Fix SEO Guide

The 8-Step Process for Full Website Content Audit