How to Recover Your Site from a Google Penalty

7 min read
31 Oct 2023


Google Penalties cause your site to drop search rankings. If you’re experiencing traffic downfalls, you should check your site for a Google penalty.

In this article – you’ll learn how to check your site for a Google penalty, validate, and manage the process for regaining your site’s SEO stats.

What is a Google Penalty?

Google’s penalty results from ignoring Google’s guidelines for effective SEO.

For example, if Google has penalised your site for spammy backlinks, you still need to follow Google’s guidelines for acquiring natural backlinks. Similarly – keyword stuffing, hidden links, duplicate content, bad redirects, data issues, and spyware on a site can cause a Google penalty.

Recover from a Google Penalty

Google’s penalty is caused by Black-Hat SEO techniques, such as doing culprit SEO ways to fool search engine Bots.

Here are the two main types of a Google Penalty.

  1. When Google rolls out an update or algorithmic change, your site may become a victim of a Google penalty – called an Algorithmic penalty.
  2. Google’s manual audit may also cause your site to gain a penalty. Humans perform such routines, manual assessment from Google – called Manual penalty.

Before you proceed to fix a Google penalty, finding the cause of Google’s reaction is the first step.

Manual penalty

In Google Search Console – Google lists manual penalties under Security and Manual Actions -> Manual actions.

In case of having a manual penalty, you can find and proceed with instructions on how to fix the problem.

If, for example, your site has no manual penalty – you can see a message stating No issues detected.

Algorithmic penalty

Algorithmic penalties differ from Manual – content-related issues and toxic backlinks can trigger an algorithmic penalty.

To get started, SEO audits, ranking drops, content issues, indexing problems, and traffic fade-offs provide leads to know if Google’s algorithmic has caused a penalty.

Note: Finding the type of Google penalty helps you decide – which roadmap could fix issues on your website.

How to Recover from a Google Penalty?

Our comprehensive guide provides actionable insights and strategies to help you identify the issues, rectify them, and regain your website’s rankings. Whether you’ve been hit by a manual action or an algorithm update, our recovery methods are tailored to ensure you bounce back stronger.

STEP 1 – Ranking Issues

In Google Analytics, applying Filters helps you see stats in a specific duration. See if your site’s traffic has dropped since Google’s update rollout.

Manual actions in Google Search Console can also trigger ranking drops. As described above, the Security and Manual Actions -> Manual actions page helps you find – if your site is experiencing a manual penalty.

Similarly – the Indexing page in Google Search Console helps you identify indexing issues. Look for errors affecting pages, reasons, and relevant instructions on what’s happening.

Lastly – recent site changes could result in disasters. Ask developers, content managers, or SEO auditors – if a significant change has been made recently.

Note: The factors we addressed above help you find reasons for ranking drops – helping you further investigate the type, causes, and manual actions to fix a Google penalty.

STEP 2 – Google Recent Algorithm Updates

Find – if your site is affected by recent algorithmic updates in Google.

Here – it would help if you found a correlation between a Google update and a ranking drop in your site. Once you’ve found a relationship, you can proceed to the next step.

To get started, learn about Google’s recent updates and find if a site’s infrastructure has triggered Google’s recent update. Once identified, you can make necessary changes to your website’s content, infrastructure, or backlink profile.

To find if a ranking drop on your site is related to a recent Google update, you can use automated tools That help you check your site for recent changes in Google updates – referring to Google Penalty Checking Tools, such as Rank Ranger.

Note: To find out if a Google update affects your site, Moz’s list of Google Updates helps you read about Google updates – from 2000 to date.

Note 2: Finding a ranking drop confirms – you should check for Google’s recent updates and match – if a specific update is causing ranking drops on your website. Once you’ve confirmed the measures in place, you can proceed to the next steps.

STEP 3 – SEO Audit

Ranking drops and Google updates together – lead your way around SEO audits.

An SEO audit involves probing your site’s aspects – SEO and Content.

An SEO audit helps you find, fix, and manage SEO aspects, including Meta information, Indexing issues, Speed optimisation, Site structure, Mobile usability, Performance metrics, and User experience.

On the other hand, a Content audit ensures – that your site’s content is high quality and relevant to users’ search intent.

Note: An SEO audit helps you fix internal site issues. The process of an audit ensures – no tracks are left behind, affecting your site anymore.

What’s next?

If you are looking for a one-stop audit, then look at our Foundation Sprint, which is a complete assessment of your site.

Links from other sites help you improve site rankings; bad ones affect more – too.

A backlink profile lists incoming links to a site, anchor texts, and quantity. To find and ensure – your site’s backlink profile is not causing a Google penalty, you need to find and fix culprits, spammy, low-quality backlinks pointing to your site.

In this case – Google Search Console’s Links page lists incoming links from other sites. Link measures, such as spam score, domain authority, tag, and anchor text – help you identify if a link harms your site’s SEO.

In this case, more links from spam sites can cause a Google penalty. So – how should you proceed regarding spammy links?

You need to find, disavow, and manage the entire list of incoming backlinks. Once you’ve worked the process, removed low-quality incoming links, and validated your site’s links in GSC, you can expect – Google will lift restrictions from your site.

Let’s learn how to find and remove spammy backlinks.

First – find culprit links in Google Search Console’s data. If you prefer using an SEO tool like Ahrefs or Semrush, you can. Proceed and enter your site’s URL in Semrush and click on the Backlinks report. In this case, Moz helps you more when finding toxic backlinks.

Second – once you have a list of culprits, contact site owners and ask for link removals. You can also let Google disavow spammy backlinks. Here is a detailed walkthrough regarding finding, disavowing, and managing a site’s spammy backlinks.

Recovery from a Google Penalty: How long does it Take?

Manual penalties take around 10-30 days – depending on how quickly Google review professionals take notice.

On the other hand, algorithmic penalties take around six months – longer than expected in some cases – depending on the amount of damage on your website.

Wrapping up

The process of recovering your site from a Google penalty starts with fingerprinting – which involves obtaining ranking information, including keywords’ data, ranking drops, and traffic downfalls. As described above – ranking drops show possible penalties by Google.

Next – check if a recent algorithm change has caused ranking drops. Take action accordingly – once you’ve enough data to proceed.

Also, you need to fix your site’s structure, content quality, and SEO factors, as defined in the process of an SEO audit. Finally, you can proceed to fix off-page SEO factors, such as spammy backlinks to your site.

Recovering from a Google penalty requires expertise in how things work. If you are not sure what you are doing, hire a professional.

Written By
Adam is the founder of Contactora and chief strategist. Having worked in Digital marketing for over 10 years and in SEO for 7+ years he has gain a wealth of knowledge and insights.
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