Getting your website hit with a Google penalty can be like waking up in a ghost town when you went to sleep in bustling New York City the night before. For your website, the penalty can mean little to no search hits and a huge drop in traffic. In any case, recognizing the penalties you’ve been hit with is important, and knowing what to do to revive your website is critical.
Recognizing the Penalty
In general, there are two types of penalties: algorithmic and manual. An algorithmic penalty results from a change in Google’s search engine algorithms. There are some big clues you’ve been hit with an algorithmic penalty. Some of these include your website not ranking well for its own brand name, your PageRank dropping from two or three to one or zero, and the entire website being removed from Google’s cached search results overnight are a few of these. A good test to check for an algorithmic penalty is to do a site search (i.e. site: yourdomain.com keyword).
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A manual penalty on the other hand can be much easier to identify. Typically you will receive the internet equivalent of a “Dear John” letter in your Google Webmaster Tools inbox notifying you of your penalty. There are two types of manual penalties, the site wide manual action and the partial manual action. The site wide manual action is by far the worse of the two, as in this type of penalty your entire site has been penalized in the search rankings. The partial manual action is given when only part of your site, such as a specific set of pages, has been affected by the penalty being passed down. In either case the notice will also give the specific reason your site has been given the penalty.
Once you’ve determined that your site has received a penalty and noted the type of penalty and reason why, it’s time to take fast action to get the website back on its feet. If your penalty is algorithmic in type, one of the first steps to take is to determine the algorithm responsible. Take a look in Google analytics and note the time that the organic search traffic drastically declined, if this corresponds with the time of a Google algorithm change you can be sure which algorithm caused the penalty.
From this you can determine what may have caused the algorithm to penalize you, such as usability issues or suspicious inbound links. For any type of penalty it is wise to take a hard look at all the links on your site which may have contributed to the penalty, using a tool like Link Detective. Be extra careful to skim out any dead links.
Once you’ve determined the detrimental links, email the webmaster of the “low quality” sites and ask for link removal from their website. Keep track of how and when the webmaster responds. Take this data to Google through a message and explain your penalties and what you’ve done to fix the problems, and request that Google have their search quality team examine your website and make the final determination to remove any penalties, so that your website can return to its rightful place in the search results.