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Hey there, it’s Ashutosh Sharma, and today we’re diving into the dreaded world of penalty recovery in the latest installment of our Backlink Management series.

Picture this: you’re cruising along with your website, enjoying the fruits of your SEO labor, and suddenly, bam! Your rankings plummet, and your site traffic takes a nosedive. That, my friends, is the nightmare of a Google Penalty.

There are two types of penalties – manual and algorithmic. In this article, we’re going to talk about both, and possible strategies for recovery.

1. Manual Action

In the realm of SEO, a penalty recovery, often termed as a ‘manual action,’ occurs when Google’s web spam team manually identifies your website as breaching Google’s guidelines. This results in your site facing consequences such as a drop in rankings or even a complete ban.

Detecting a manual action is straightforward, as Google notifies you through Webmaster Tools. Upon claiming your website on Webmaster Tools, go to the ‘Search Traffic’ section and select ‘Manual Actions.’ Here, Google provides explicit details about the nature of the penalty your site is facing.

2. Algorithmic Impact

An algorithmic penalty, despite the terminology, is not a direct penalty but rather a modification to Google’s algorithm that adversely impacts your website’s ranking. These algorithmic changes can lead to subtle declines in rankings or substantial organic traffic losses, pushing your site several pages down in the SERPs (search engine results pages). Identifying these penalties is challenging since Google typically does not provide a notification.

Algorithmic penalties often stem from adjustments to major Google algorithms, such as Panda or Penguin.

Manual Action Penalty Recovery

Since Google will tell you exactly what kind of manual penalty you have, fixing the problem should be pretty straightforward and involves 2 major steps:

1. Fix the issue on your website

Corrective actions for manual action penalties are generally apparent. Here are examples:

Manual Action: Unnatural links

How to Fix It: Conduct an audit and clean up incoming links. Request removal of links from spammy sites and submit a disavow file for links that couldn’t be removed.

Manual Action: Thin content

How to Fix It: Enhance your website with more relevant content and improve the overall user experience.

Manual Action: Hacked website

How to Fix It: Remove hacked pages or affected sections of your site.

Manual Action: Pure spam or user-generated spam

How to Fix It: Eliminate spammy content and replace it with content beneficial for users.

Manual Action: Cloaking or sneaky redirects

How to Fix It: Utilize the “Fetch as Google” tool in Webmaster Tools to ensure consistent content delivery to users and Google’s bot. Remove improper redirects.

Manual Action: Hidden text or keyword stuffing

How to Fix It: Inspect page source code and CSS to eliminate hidden keywords or content. Refrain from abusing meta keywords. Rewrite content with a user-centric approach, avoiding manipulation for ranking purposes.

Manual Action: Spammy Structured Markup

How to Fix It: Ensure your markups align with Google’s rich snippet guidelines. Remove any misleading or hidden markups. Use Google’s rich snippet testing tool to verify all markups comply with guidelines.

2. Submit a Reconsideration Request

After rectifying the issues that led to a manual penalty, the next crucial step is to submit a reconsideration request to Google’s web spam team. This communication informs Google that your website now adheres to their guidelines, and you believe the penalty should be lifted.

While there’s no strict format for a reconsideration request, enhancing your chances involves certain practices:

  1. Be Honest: Admit any mistakes that led to the penalty, whether they were your errors or the result of a previous SEO company or employee.
  2. Document Your Work: Thoroughly record the steps taken to resolve the issues. Create a Google document detailing the cleanup process and link to it in your reconsideration request for Google’s review.
  3. Demonstrate Your Knowledge and Understanding: Clearly convey to Google that you comprehend the reasons for the manual action and assure them that you’ll proactively prevent future violations of web spam rules.
  4. Be Transparent: Sign your name and provide contact information in the reconsideration request. A request with identifiable information is more trustworthy than an anonymous submission.

Once your reconsideration request is prepared, navigate to the Manual Actions section in Webmaster Tools and select “Request a review” to submit it. Expect a notification email within a few weeks, indicating whether the manual action has been lifted or if further improvements are required.

Algorithmic Penalty Recovery

Dealing with an algorithmic penalty poses a unique challenge, as Google does not provide direct notifications, making identification and resolution more intricate. Detecting and rectifying issues with your website may necessitate extensive investigative efforts, making it advisable to enlist the expertise of an SEO professional.

Algorithmic penalties often trace back to two key algorithms: Google Penguin, targeting spammy or manipulative link profiles, and Google Panda, penalizing websites with thin, duplicate, or spammy content.

To pinpoint the root cause of your issues, consulting a comprehensive list of major algorithm changes is crucial. This enables you to explore potential correlations between the decline in traffic and specific algorithm updates. Moz stands out as a valuable resource, offering a thorough compilation of algorithm changes complete with dates and detailed explanations for each update.

Penguin Algorithmic Penalty Recovery

Upon identifying that your ranking challenges stem from the Google Penguin algorithm, the necessary steps involve initiating the cleanup of your link profile. Given that the Penguin algorithm penalizes websites with spammy link profiles, the focus is on eliminating undesirable links directed towards your site. For a comprehensive approach, gather link data from multiple sources, such as Ahrefs, Webmaster Tools, and Link Research Tools, and consolidate them into a single spreadsheet.

On Page / Google Panda Audit

If you suspect that your ranking challenges are linked to Google Panda or on-page optimization rather than the Penguin algorithm, conducting a thorough audit of your website becomes essential. This audit aims to identify and rectify potential issues. A manual review of your site is necessary to scrutinize pages for any content that might be deemed spammy or thin. Key aspects to focus on during a manual website audit include:

  • Plagiarized content
  • Thin content
  • Duplicate content appearing on multiple pages
  • Poorly constructed header tags (multiple h1s on a page)
  • Duplicate page titles and meta descriptions
  • Excessive or unnecessary HTML or CSS in your code
  • Spammy or overly optimized URL slugs
  • A poorly built website or theme hindering Google bot crawling
  • A robots.txt file blocking crucial website resources
  • Indexed but non-navigable extra pages
  • Excessive ads, especially above the fold


Hopefully you’ll never have to deal with penalty recovery – build worthy, relevant links and you’ll be safe. But in case you have to fix someone else’s shady link building, now you know what to do!.

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