Google Penalties – Let’s Find Ways to Recover and Bring back traffic…
If you are a webmaster looking for real advice on recovery from Google Penalty, this article will help you get started. Also, the tips in this article are based on my 3 years of experience dealing with Google penalties.
Additionally, I have included advice from Google official staff, and their own Youtube Channel and Twitter account on penalty recovery. Google staff is not always transparent with the causes and recovery process, and that is a big pain for webmasters.
Moreover, I met with Gary Illyes (part of Google Search team), and had a long discussion on Google penalty recovery. I have included in this article, the advice he gave me to build better websites.
Actually, nobody apart from Google staffers know what caused a particular penalty.
But the best defense and remedy against such penalties is to work based on the guidelines given by Google and SEO experts for a road to recovery.
You Must Read the below two article to understand Google Quality guidelines on how to build quality websites:
- Guidance on Building High-Quality Websites – 23 Questions by Amit Singhal.
- Search Quality Raters Guidelines – How to use them for higher Ranking.
Google Penalties are evolving and keep changing with time. There have been several penalties that have rocked the SEO world in the past like Penguin, Panda, Fred and several other minor updates.
I have interacted continuously with several website owners and bloggers who saw a sharp decline in the traffic suddenly, and then they discover that they have got penalized.
It is critical to understand the different stages of a website/blog before we begin our work to recover from a Penalty.
Here are the stages of a Blog/ Website
Initial Stage – Inception
When you set up a blog, you have no traffic and no backlinks.
Google discover your blog from different links or when you submit the sitemap or fetch it like Google and start indexing it.
After a few months, as you start creating content regularly, people start visiting your blog you gain traffic.
Also, you start ranking for several keywords in the Google SERPS, and you get traffic from the Search Engine.
The blog grows, and you reach new heights every month. Also, working more on the blog can help you gain visitors and backlinks from other websites.
Google Penalty – Panda or Penguin?
Manual or Algorithmic Penalties
Also, Google Penalties can be Manual (you get a notice in the Webmaster Tools about the Penalty), or can be algorithmic (Panda or Penguin)you don’t get any information and you need to figure out about the penalty.
Panda – Mostly relates to Quality of Your Content and Website Experience.
Penguin – Due to shady backlinks or un-natural paid backlinks.
Why Does a Penalty Happen?
To keep things simple – There is something that Google doesn’t like on your website, or if Google thinks your backlink profile is shady, then you get a Google Penalty.
But Why Google didn’t penalize you earlier?
The algorithm runs from time to time and Google continues to push out filters around the year. Once your website gets detected by any such filter than the penalty happens.
Huge Number of Google penalties are due to what is on your website – is it repetitive content, that is present on other 50,000 websites. Same articles, but rephrased, or even written in your own words.
Doesn’t matter, most of it is considered junk by Google.
Google rewards website that has excellent, unique, high-quality articles. Nevertheless, I will get to the high-quality part later.
I have had several conversations about the Penguin penalty and based on several Google moderators/staffers you do not need to worry about it. Only in case, you hired someone to create such backlinks, you may have got a penguin penalty, else you don’t have Penguin issues.
Google has repeatedly denied an effect of negative SEO, in bringing down a website. Google says they filter out the shady or bad backlinks automatically, and you really don’t have a need to disavow any backlinks.
I have myself done a very long experiment with disavowing – you can read here.
Panda or Quality Related Algorithmic Penalties
The most difficult Penalties are the Algorithmic Penalties or the Quality related Panda Penalty.
The primary issue with Algorithmic penalties is that we don’t know the true cause for it, and recovery depends on the analysis of the website and the best guess approach.
Google updates are almost daily and broad updates happen many times a year. All updates may not impact your website, as some of them are targeted to particular niche or sectors.
We do some type of focused update nearly daily. A broad core algorithm update happens several times per year.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) March 12, 2018
There was a recent major Google algorithm update that you can read on the Mary Haynes blog.
Now we have understood the Google penalties – it is time to take action and get back our traffic.
Getting hit by a Google Penalty is painful and one of the worst nightmares of anyone.
Many successful blogs can be in this situation and not because they were doing any black hat SEO tricks but due to the Algorithm Changes.
Authority Sites usually are spared and rarely get hit, but mid-size websites typically get hit and lose a major chunk of traffic.
How Much Traffic You can lose from Google Panda Penalty?
In my experience, I have seen slight dips of 30%, more significant declines of 50% and at times it can be 90% too.
A Google Penalty can destroy a small business, and it is more unfortunate when there is no fault of the owner.
When you are blogging or have a business that depends on Google, you need to be very careful about SEO and guidelines by Google to ensure that your website continues to do well in the search results.
Google is not your friend. You may have thought otherwise in the past. But not anymore.
Whatever I am suggesting in the Panda or Quality fix can be done preemptively to avoid a quality related penalty.
Also, recently Google tweeted and informed that at times some pages would show lower visibility in the search and there is no cure for this.
As with any update, some sites may note drops or gains. There’s nothing wrong with pages that may now perform less well. Instead, it’s that changes to our systems are benefiting pages that were previously under-rewarded….
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) March 12, 2018
After reading about Google Penalties and interacting with Google Employees, Moderators and SEO experts here are some of the fixes recommended by them.
10 Fixes for Google Penalty that Actually Work?
Removing, No-indexing or Improving your content is one of the first things recommended by a lot of SEO experts.
Check Your Backlink profile and can selectively disavow irrelevant links in case you wish to guard against spammy backlinks. However, I will not advise you to do this unless you have deliberately build those links.
As per Google moderators, Google neglects the spammy links automatically, and you need not worry about the negative SEO or links from shady sites.
Creating More Content that is useful to the readers. It is one of the most important things that you need to do, despite the loss of readers from search.
Basically, You need to improve everything on your site to make it more credible in the search engine eyes.
1. Design and Experience
Update your theme and layout to make it easy to read and navigate your site. Keep the important elements linked to the homepage and make it easy for users to read and navigate your website.
Try to answer the user queries and always keep in mind the user intent when writing posts or creating pages.
2. Website Load Time
Google wants your site to load in less than 3 seconds, use a CDN, better hosting, Caching Plugin, Optimize images to make sure your site is fast.
3. Reduce Ads and Remove Affiliate Links
Showing too many Ads is going to get you hammered by the Google algorithm. Google may not have clearly said this, but there have been updates in the past that penalized websites which were overdoing Ads.
In my experience, Google doesn’t trust affiliate websites. Google says you need to build high-quality pages and affiliate links are okay. But if they find too many of these, they are going to see it as an affiliate farm.
Remove most of the affiliate links, if you have them.
4. Mobile First
Google recently rolled out the mobile first index, which means Google will index your mobile site and focus on the mobile version of the website more. Make it fast, accessible and improve the user experience and reduce the bounce rate.
You can even try the AMP which makes your mobile website even faster. Google is pushing the AMP initiative as crazy and it is in your best interest to
What is the Advice from Google Employees on Penalty Recovery
Google SMX 2018, the annual conference of the SEO community and the advice that was shared by Google on the recovery path is as follows:
5. Can You Really Recover from an Algorithmic Google Penalty?
Be Brave and consistent; if you believe in your work, then you need to continue doing it with more labor and hope for the best.
I won’t show you a rosy picture; it is difficult, challenging and a huge number of sites fail to get out of a penalty.
I asked Gary Illyes, and he said it is possible to get out of the penalty by putting a lot of efforts.
The positive thing is we can get out of it, and all hope is not lost, but it is a daunting task.
6. No-index, Merge or Delete Content?
This is a large topic in itself, and I will write a separate article on this to bring in more clarity.
In case of a Panda penalty, you will need all three, delete some useless posts, No-index low-quality pages and merge where you can to create posts that make more sense.
7. How to Find and Remove Duplicate Content?
You can use a tool like Siteliner to find the duplicate content and start making it unique Quickly.
8. Working on E-A-T to get out of Panda?
The last and most important thing, which is a less known secret to rank better is E-A-T.
E-A-T stands for expertise, Authority, and Trust and this is part of the Google Search Quality Guidelines which I have linked above.
9. Fresh Content
Write and create articles that show that your site is trustworthy, do original work and write reviews.
Improve trust by gaining good backlinks by creating content that people may want to link to.
There’s no “fix” for pages that may perform less well other than to remain focused on building great content. Over time, it may be that your content may rise relative to other pages.
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) March 12, 2018
Also, you can improve the site layout, design, create a good logo, about us page or author description that creates more trust.
10. It Takes Time
How long can it take to Get out of a Google Algorithmic Penalty?
There is no fixed timeline for getting out of Google penalty; it depends on how quickly you can make the changes to your site and next to Google update happens that re-rank your site.
It can take months and at times up to a year or more to get out of a Google penalty.
Also, the Panda penalties are site-wide, and your best content will also suffer in the search when the penalty hits your site.
I hope and wish Google makes it more granular and allow your good content to rank well, but at present everything goes down when a site is hit by a penalty.
Here is an old Video by Matt Cutts – Which is even relevant today. (Have a look)