We’ll discuss a very simple Google penalty checker in this tutorial. You’ll know various types of Google penalties, and learn how to check if your website has been hit by one or more Google penalties.
Finally you’ll learn how to avoid Google penalties and how to recover from them.
Before we continue, I want to quickly mention that if you want to learn SEO right from scratch, you can go to the SEO tutorial guide and move forward from there.
Alternatively, you can use the navigation menu to move to any section of the SEO tutorial you’re interested in.
What is Google Penalty?
The word ‘penalty’ is banded around the SEO community like air fresheners in a sewage dump, and quite honestly it can sometimes be misleading.
What most people are actually referring to by the word is essentially one of two things:
• An ‘Algorithmic’ Penalty – A significant update to Google’s algorithm which causes an overnight impact on a website’s rankings.
• A ‘Manual’ Penalty – A failure to pass a manual review of your website by a member of Google’s Search Team.
Crime Never Pays
Criminals are constantly developing techniques and tools to keep them one step ahead of – and away from – the long arm of the law.
Equally, the police and authorities strive to educate themselves in the latest underhand tactics, putting procedures in place to detect crime and serve justice to the perpetrators.
This very much reminds of me of the relationship between certain ‘shadier’ SEO practitioners, and Google.
The temptation to break the Google’s terms and conditions to manipulate its algorithm and gain superior results is great.
Many SEO practitioners indeed develop and use tactics on their websites that clearly violate the Big G’s terms of service to gain an advantage.
To combat this, Google has a huge – and I mean huge – department dedicated to learning about these mis-practices. Their findings go on to influence algorithm updates.
What Shouldn’t I Be Doing to Avoid Google Penalties?
This ‘cat-and-mouse’ game has been played for the last 17 years, and continues to this very day.
Even if you vow never to partake in any obviously underhand tactics with your SEO, you can still fall prey to the collateral damage of a Google update by innocently trying to be ‘clever’.
There’s no list of things I can say you shouldn’t be doing, simply because there are so many different permutations of bad practice.
Instead, it’s safer to have a firm grasp on the types of Google penalties a site can pick up, so you can be your own judge and jury as to whether what you’re about to do is a good idea or not.
Remember my Golden Question in one of our previous SEO tutorials: You should always ask yourself…
‘If I was a Google Engineer, would I reward, punish, or be indifferent to the SEO about to be performed?’
Live by this, and you can’t go wrong. I mean sure. Maybe it doesn’t’ necessarily apply to love, health, and the meaning of life.
But certainly for your SEO, it’s the question you should ask yourself each and every time before you lay down any commitment or money to an optimization technique.
How to Know if You’re Affected by a Google Penalty
Good question. Well, let’s get the easy one out of the way. With a manual penalty, all you need to do is check your website’s Google Search Console.
If you haven’t already set up your website on Google’s Search Console, you should right now.
It’s got some great information about how Google is currently crawling your site, and whether any technical issues have been detected – including whether you’ve been manually penalized or not.
Algorithmic penalties on the other hand are much harder to diagnose. This is because Google releases very little public information about changes to its algorithm at the time they roll them out.
One way of checking if you’ve been hit by one is to plug your domain into SEMRush, make sure ‘Domain Overview’ is selected, then press ‘Search’.
Scroll down to the paid and organic traffic graph and you’ll notice small Google ‘G’s along the time axis.
Clicking on these ‘G’s will reveal the algorithmic update pushed out. Thus, transposing your website’s traffic against the timeline of historical algorithm updates can sometime explain traffic drops.
However, if you’re trying to diagnose the impact of a non-historical algorithm change – that is, a brand new update – the only way to tell is by a huge and sudden drop in rankings.
You’ll of course need to check your Google Search Console for a manual penalty, but if there isn’t one, batten down the hatches; we’re going to need to spend a lot of time diagnosing the problem.
There are so many moving parts in SEO, with such a delayed feedback loop (the time from when you implement an SEO technique to seeing a resultant shift in rankings), that diagnosis of why you’ve been penalized can be very difficult.
If you’ve misdiagnosed the penalty, any changes you make to recover could compound the problem and cause further ranking drops, as well as make the real issue even more difficult to see.
How to Diagnose a Google Penalty
Convinced you’ve got a penalty now? Try to relax. Trying to diagnose a drop in rankings can be as dangerous as consulting WebMD.
Got a headache? Cancer. Got a tingling elbow? Cancer. Got stiff muscles? Cancer!
That being said, becoming as knowledgeable as possible about the historical algorithmic updates will help no end.
You’ll become a better SEO practitioner, as well as gain the ability to troubleshoot your site if you do ever take a big hit in rankings.