Google penalties are some of the most frightening—yet most poorly understood—elements of search engine optimization (SEO).
With the power to dramatically reduce your site’s rankings and visibility in search engines, Google penalties are a real threat, but at times, the legends surrounding them venture into “boogeyman” territory.
But, if you’ve ever received a notice like the following, it could send your cortisol levels climbing:
As the saying goes:
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
But, if you’ve already been hit with a Google penalty, there’s a solution for that too.
Here we discuss the types of Google penalties and how to best recover when you are hit with a Google penalty.
There really only TWO types of Google penalties:
These are some of the top reasons for “true” Google penalties (aka, manual actions):
Google has the power to take a manual action against a site that shows signs of violating Google’s terms of service. In this situation, a human being reviews the site in question and issues a manual penalty against the site. After the penalty is issued, some or all of your web pages will either suffer a massive ranking penalty or be omitted from search results entirely, depending on a number of factors (including the type and severity of the offense). There’s no clear visual indication that the pages are lower in rank, but their visibility will plummet. In all cases of a Google manual penalty, you will be specifically notified of its issuance.
This is the only type of formal penalty that exists. However, your web pages may decline in rank for other reasons; these ranking declines are often referred to as “penalties” even though there is no human, manual action involved.
Usually, if you notice a sudden decline in your search rankings, it’s because Google has issued a change in its algorithm. Google does this periodically as a way to improve the quality and accuracy of its search results; as a byproduct, it reevaluates the pages in its index, and some pages may fall in rank while others increase. Typically, these algorithm changes focus on refining Google’s quality standards; though the specific details aren’t published, it often means tightening restrictions on how Google “sees” your content and external links.
Either way, there are strategies you can use to recover from your ranking decline. In the event of a manual Google penalty, you’ll need to make specific changes to your site and request a manual review from Google directly. In the case of search engine ranking page (SERP) volatility due to an algorithm change, tweaking your current efforts may be enough to bring your rank up over time.
You may notice your pages sharply decline in rankings, or disappear from search rankings altogether, at some point in the future. If this happens, your first step is determining what type of “penalty” you’re facing.
Your ranking decline is likely attributable to one of these three root causes. The only exception is if a sudden influx of high-authority competition has challenged your previous domination over the keyword cluster.
The short answer? Of course. Bing is a search engine that uses an algorithm to rank websites based on relevancy and quality. So it of course has measures in place to penalize those sites that try to game the system in their favor.
One way to look at this question is if you should bother optimizing your site for Bing. So much of the focus in SEO land is on optimizing for Google that Bing tends to get lost in the shuffle. That being said, it’s becoming increasingly important to optimize for Bing. Many mobile devices come with Bing integrated — that means users are going to opt for this search engine over Google. And that means more searches for your industry related terms through Bing. You can guess where this train of thought goes next, right?
So yes, you must use all of your SEO know-how for Bing, too.
It can be difficult to discern if you have a Bing penalty unless it’s severe. I’m talking the having all of your pages removed from the Bing index sort of severe. A significant breach of the Bing Webmaster Guidelines will net you this result. What constitutes a penalty is actually pretty easy for anyone familiar with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines to guess:
All of these are serous issues that could lead to your site being delisted from the search engine results. While duplicate content is not explicitly stated as a reason for a site to be delisted, it has been reason enough in the past, so it’s best to avoid.
If your site’s pages fell in rank due to an algorithm change, you can take the following steps:
If Google has sent you a message notifying you of a manual action, there are some steps you can take to resolve the issue. After you’ve been able to fully resolve the issue, your rankings should be restored to their former glory as soon as the index updates.
Hopefully, Google will review your request in a timely manner and approve of the changes you made. If it rejects your appeal, you’ll receive a detailed explanation as to why, and what steps you can take to resolve the problem.
There’s no concrete way to know how long it will take for you to recover after a manual penalty is lifted. Enterprise level sites can able to recover faster than smaller websites, simply because of the sheer volume of positive signals that come from larger websites. The amount of time it will take to recover will ultimately depend on the number of positive signals your site is sending to Google.