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While SEO is something that is always evolving there are also developments of search engine algorithms as well. This means that you need to be on your toes with new changes regarding search engines.

But regardless of the fact that you have been keeping abreast of all these fluctuations, sometimes your website will be hit by a penalty.

Google Penalty – Is It That Bad?

Being hit with a Google penalty is not the end of the world. There are several methods to bring your website back from the ashes like a phoenix – stronger, better and faster.

Google’s search engine updates have been rolling out faster than ever before. Since their search engine is the most popular method for drawing information from the World Wide Web, if you want to appeal to the masses you’ll have to accommodate these necessary evils called updates.

In my experience, there have been a lot of websites that have been hit with Google penalties and have come back without too many problems. There has been a slew of updates – Panda, Penguin, Pigeon, Pirate, Exact Match Domain, Top Heavy, and Hummingbird. These aim to make the website a much more accessible and usable for the average user.

Before And After The Cutts Era

All the named updates we saw earlier were during a different Google time frame. Because there are a lot of updates released sometimes on a weekly basis, when it comes to rolling out algorithm changes now, they are less evident except when you are looking at your website’s metrics.

Back when Matt Cutts was the person behind the announcement of updates, you would know exactly what they were trying to achieve with the process. Matt appeared in videos and wrote posts detailing how the search engine algorithm would move forward. So people could make effective changes to how they approached improving their website because there were clear guidelines on what to do and what not.

Since Matt’s departure, Google seems less keen on sharing data related to algorithm changes. Now it’s pretty safe to assume that things won’t get back to being as transparent as when Matt was at the helm.

But on the positive side of things, earlier you needed to wait months and sometimes years before they could appeal and recover against penalties. Google’s Penguin update brought in real-time monitoring which speeds up resolving false positives related to website issues.

How can you recover from a Google penalty?

First, you need to be sure that your website was actually hit by a penalty. Since there are characteristic seasonal changes to all kinds of website metrics, you need to check your website’s numbers over a period of time. This will give you a better idea of what your next steps should be.

Was your website penalized?

This is the first thing that you need to find out. You need to run a deep and thorough analysis of what your website’s numbers looked like over the course of the last few months or years. This might take a lot of time and effort, but it’s nothing compared to a number of resources you’d lose if it was just some sort of seasonal dip.

Don’t just treat any drop in your numbers like a penalty. Find out all you can about it before you embark on trying to repair your website.

In the picture above you see a domain that was penalized by Penguin update. The owner hasn’t tried (or tried but not succeeded) to recover. This is one of the domains acquired by my company and we will soon work on it to recover.

I recommend you SemRush and see if there is a match of a massive ranking loss with an announced Google update. Another good tool is — IsMyWebsitePenalized.com.

Listen to your betters

Information about any updates during this period is key and you should keep yourself within the circle of “first alert” networks. There are several websites and 3rd party websites that you can keep track of that provide you with all this data. I recommend Google Algorithm Changes History page from Moz and SearchEngineLand.com

Another good idea is to look at top influencers in the niche and check if they’ve said anything about recent Google updates. Here is a list of people who can give you valuable insights into Google updates.

SEO isn’t a perfect science

When you rely on something that is as complex and dynamic as Google’s search algorithm, chances are that cracking it becomes near impossible.This means that SEO is far removed from what it is usually projected as. An ideal metric to follow would be to measure how far you are from “perfect”. This will give you a much more realistic snapshot of where your SEO processes need improvement (

This means that SEO is far removed from what it is usually projected as. An ideal metric to follow would be to measure how far you are from “perfect”. This will give you a much more realistic snapshot of where your SEO processes need improvement (SEO prosesser trenger forbedring).

Of course, if you need to measure your distance from perfect, you’d first need to find what perfectly is. This requires looking at all recent updates that your knowledge base doesn’t cover and highlighting various changes that you need to look into.

For example, you could make a list of what functions core algorithms deal with so you can better focus on what you need to be looking at. Panda, Phantom and Penguin had functions that dealt with on-page and technical metadata. Penguin had functions that dealt with backlinks and citations.

Even after all these algorithms, the most feared are manual penalties. And yes, they exist. When there are several issues on the websites like suspicious links, poor website quality, manipulating searches or results, then it is sent for review to one of the engineers at Google.

Look at the right metrics

There are several metrics that you should be looking at for signals to penalties. You need to make sure that you’re looking at the right ones. Let’s go ahead and look at the most important ones:

Organic traffic needs to be your most important number, period. This is a measure of how many people land on your website through searches on Google.

Review this number over time because if this has dropped drastically over a short period, chances are that penalties have gotten you down. You can get detailed figures through your Google Analytics account.

Conversions are another important aspect that needs to be looked at. If your conversions are high, then it means that you’re doing a good job with keywords and the right people are coming on your website for the services you are offering.

If conversions are low, then you might need to take a look at your keywords. A tool called SERP Scan can help you with this step. It identifies keywords that have the most potential for directing more traffic to your website.

Get a detailed backlink analysis

Analyzing your website’s backlink profile is a critical part of identifying what went wrong with your SERP rankings. There might be instances when a high authority website who has linked back to you noindex or nofollow you. Sometimes your link might be deleted. A thorough backlink analysis can help highlight these problems, and you can get to solving them.

If you are looking for tools that can help, Ahrefs and Majestic SEO are two that can help. They are best used in conjunction as they can cover gaps in each other’s reports. Check also our article on several must use SEO tools.

Detailed keyword research

If your website is performing poorly, chances are that you might have rushed through your keyword research phase. Keyword ranking is a factor that needs to be checked periodically.

The key here is to make the distinction between informational keywords and commercial keyword. Obviously, informational keywords can bring in organic traffic but only commercial keywords can convert visitors into customers.

You can look to competitors in the same niche to find out what they are up to.

Google Keywords Planner can help you find more details about what your competitors are using. One trick is to type in your competitor’s URL in the “keyword ideas” tab. This will give you the keywords that your competitor is targeting.

For more tools, you can use on keyword research check this article.

Run a content audit

If you have had a drop recently, there is a good chance it was because of content on your website. Content is the fulcrum on which SEO of today balances itself on and it makes sense to optimize it for better numbers to your website.

You need to check your engagement metrics and make sure that bounce rate is kept low or Google will drop your SERP for manipulating traffic to your website.

When you get more people engaged on your website, your brand gains trust in the niche. This is an important factor for ranking well. Several attributes like plagiarism, engagement, and tone among others need to be checked so your content stands out from the others.

There are several tools available for checking plagiarism like Copyscape, Grammarly Plagiarism Checker, Plagiarisma, and Viper. Copyscape is the de facto standard when it comes to checking uniqueness, but it’s a paid tool.

In Conclusion

These are some of the steps that can highlight what is actually wrong with your website and how you can get your rank back up the SERPs.

Being ranked down in the SERP results isn’t the end of the world, although it can definitely put a dent in your revenue. You need to bounce back from this as quickly without sustaining too much damage.

This doesn’t happen only because of unscrupulous practices like most people believe; you could have done everything right from the get-go and still get penalized or ranking drop on SERPs.

Hopefully, this has given you some idea about what you should be doing if your website was hit with a ranking drop. Do let us know in the comments if this helped get your website up the rankings!


Dennis Pestro is working full time on Scrapebrokers.com - Main provider of SEO Resources and Traning for SEO Companies and Individuals looking to win the SEO game.