Has your website been penalized? It is important to note that just because your website isn’t ranking that it isn’t necessarily because your site is penalized. Gone are the days when you can simply put up any ole’ website and expect it to show up in the top search results with minimal online promotion. Unless you aggressively promoted your website online using low-quality methods, chances are good that your website isn’t penalized.
Reasons for Google Penalties
There are many ways a website’s rankings can be penalized. Typically the issue is with low-quality link building techniques carried out in the past. Here are the common problems that might cause a penalty:
- Duplicate content
- Excessive link building
- Low quality backlinks
- Having backlinks from too many penalized websites
- Acquiring too many sitewide links
- Obtaining too many links from unrelated websites
- Spamming wikis, forums and blogs with comments to build links
- Overuse of keyword-rich anchor texts
- Having hidden text
- Having a non-mobile-friendly web design
How to Know Whether Your Website Is Penalized
There is no perfect way to determine whether a site has been penalized by Google. Here are some quick ways to determine whether you have a manual/algorithmic penalty on your website.
- If you experienced a recent ranking drop in Google during an algorithm update window
- If you received a message when you logged into Google’s Webmaster Tools that your site acquired unnatural links
- If you perform a search with the Google operator “site:” (eg. site:yourwebsite.com) and none of the pages of your website show up as indexed
Words of Caution
This is a very lengthy and time-consuming process. Recovering from a Google penalty is usually recommended only to clients who absolutely believe that they must recover their business website because it conveys their brand or because it is a valuable domain name such as a single-word or keyword-rich domain name that’s very memorable. In other cases, we usually recommend starting with a brand new website as this process is faster.
Results from penalty recovery services are also not guaranteed since it is entirely up to Google to determine if you have rehabilitated the site adequately. You will need to wait at least 6-9 months for Google to review, re-crawl your site and re-index it after you’ve fixed all the problems. When the penalty is lifted, do note that rankings may not necessarily be the same as previously due to the removal of problematic backlinks.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about the penalty recovery process.
How to Recover from a Google Penalty
Once you’ve determined that your website is truly penalized, there are steps you must take. Be forewarned, however, that this process is both tedious and time-consuming.
The first part of this lengthy process is to evaluate the backlinks via Google Webmaster Tools. Identify those backlinks that may be causing issues either by requesting they be removed on the websites linking to you or by disavowing them. Not all backlinks need to be removed! You only remove the ones that Google deems to be low-quality. Visit each of the sites linking to your website to be sure. Note every low-quality link in a spreadsheet for records. You will need to make a serious effort to remove those low quality or spammy links rather than simply disavowing them since this creates a more favorable case for Google to reconsider your website for inclusion later.
Prepare an email to webmasters to request the removal of the identified low-quality links. Find the emails of the webmasters and note them down next to the list of pages you’ve identified.
Next, contact every one of the webmasters of these sites and let them know that you’d like your links to be removed. Understandably, some may not respond initially and some may not even respond at all. You will, however, need to make the effort nevertheless to email them again a week or two later to follow up if you’ve not heard from them. For those that you’ve heard back from, continue to keep track of them in your spreadsheet. If the problem has been corrected, make a note of it in the same spreadsheet as one that’s been fixed. You’ll need it later.
Now, for the easier part. If there are any on-site issues such as duplicate content, hidden text, spammy content, etc, they will also need to be fixed. You’ve come this far in the process and you don’t want to take any shortcuts now. This is both a monetary and time investment you’re undertaking so do put in the effort to do it right.
If your site isn’t optimized for mobile platforms in addition to full-screen laptops or desktops, do consider our mobile-friendly website design services.
Once you’ve allowed sufficient time for webmasters to respond to you, check your emails to see who has responded. For those who have, note these as corrected problems as before. You now have to disavow any leftover links from the spreadsheet that you’ve identified as problematic.
When you’ve completed all these steps, it is now time to contact Google and request for a reconsideration of your website.
As you can see from the process above, it is an extremely time-consuming and tedious process. If you value your time and prefer to have us perform the recovery work for you, contact us with details of your website and why you think you have been penalized by Google.