How to Recover Once Your Site Has Been Penalized By Google

Peter Roesler, President - Web Marketing Pros

By Peter Roesler

President, Web Marketing Pros

penalized-by-googleIt has happened to websites big and small, and there is a distinct chance it could happen to you. One bad turn and you could find yourself on the bad end of Google’s next algorithm update. It could come as a result of your own misjudgments, or maybe the misjudgments of another who was controlling your web marketing program, but wherever the blame falls the results will affect you all the same. A penalty by Google is harsh, and incredibly difficult to recover from.

There is a large handful of websites who have disappeared altogether after Google dropped its iron hammer, but this doesn’t need to be you. While it takes time and intensive strategy to dig your website back up the search engine results after a penalty has been dished out, it isn’t impossible to do. There are several steps you can take to get your website on the right track after experiencing a penalty. By knowing what to expect and following the advice of a seasoned expert, there is hope for a full recovery by your website—even if it won’t happen overnight.

When Google Dishes Out Penalties

Google doesn’t send out penalties arbitrarily, as much as you may think so after receiving one. Google has one very firm goal. They are putting forward the most relevant, quality websites their user base are looking for in any given situation. Those who dodge quality and relevancy in an effort to push their product to the top of the rankings are sought out and put where Google deems they belong. The problem is that sometimes Google’s penalties are taken out on websites who genuinely are offering a quality and relevant product, but might have gone around a few dark corners to show up on the first page of results. Whatever your case, the first step in recovering from a penalty is understanding why you were penalized.

Step 1: Diagnosing Your Problem

To figure out a solution you need to understand the problem. Your first step is to conduct a deep analysis of your tracking statistics and other SEO tools. Make sure your traffic isn’t simply down, or that one of your competitors has launched a new campaign that is hurting your placement. Check out your Google Webmaster Tools for messages or alerts about potential penalties. If Google alerted you to a problem, then you will have a very easy time figuring out what steps to take next.

Diagnosing a penalty can be tricky. Do your best not to make any assumptions during this stage as this could lead to incorrect actions. If you are having difficulty during this stage your best bet will be to talk with an SEO expert who knows a bit more about the potential penalties you may be facing.

Step 2: Make Corrections

Once you figure out what the problem is, your next step is to play ball. If Google is unhappy with your linking strategy, then you need to closely evaluate your links and sort the good from the bad. Google can penalize your website for having harmful backlinks. These are often from small directories that sell an over-abundance of link space, paid links and other weak links that come from questionable sources.

Removing links can be difficult, but you need to try. If you purchased links from a questionable resource, then you must contact that domain and ask for your links to be removed. This can take time to accomplish. Links create a vast web that grows complicated to follow, but Google sees them all perfectly. If you absolutely cannot have certain links removed, tell Google this as you appeal for reconsideration.

The links you want to hold onto are those coming from relevant and valuable websites from around the web. During this process, you will want to build positive recognition by having links to your website placed on quality domains.

It is not common for site owners to successfully have all poor quality links removed. In fact, the percentage of links successfully removed is often very low—often as low as five to 10 percent. However, if you want Google to reconsider your penalty you need to take every step possible to have these links removed, and supply proof that you have done so.

Another common reason Google will dish out a penalty is poor quality and duplicate content. A positive content marketing campaign can help you recover from this concern. To be reconsidered you will need to replace all of your content and prove that your website is providing high quality and unique information.  You will also need to implement a positive keyword strategy, which means one that does not overstuff or misuse keywords.

Step 3: The Waiting Game

The bottom line is that recovering from a penalty takes time. Even if Google approves your website for reconsideration, this process can take months. Use this time to review your website and do your best to continue improving the quality of your web presence. There are several reasons you will want to stay active and present while waiting for your website to be reviewed. The more you do to improve your website, the more likely it is that Google will reconsider you. Secondly, a harsh penalty can leave you at the bottom of the search results. This is not a time to sit back and think “oh well.” This is a time to get your SEO strategy together and start improving your placement all over again.

Monitor your websites traffic and keyword placement over the course of several months and develop ongoing SEO strategy to complement whatever moves your website makes. If you efficiently correct the problem you were penalized for, then you should start to see your website recover over the course of some time.

Being penalized by Google is difficult, but it is not a death sentence. Don’t let a bit of discouragement get in your way of developing a good SEO program. If your website experiences a penalty, take it as a roughly learned lesson, correct the problem and get to work right away on taking steps to improve your rankings all over again.


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