What Are Google Penalties and How to Recover From Them?

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Do you ever wonder what happens to a site that violates Google guidelines? It gets heavily punished. These punishments are called Google penalties. 

Webmasters that follow black hat SEO techniques to grow end up being penalized by Google. 

But what are Google penalties? Why do they exist? And how do you protect your site from them?

That’s what we’ll answer in this guide.

Let’s dive in.

What is a Google Penalty?

A Google penalty is a punishment on websites that fail to follow Google’s search guidelines

It comes in different degrees of severity based on the reason behind it. But despite the differences, all penalties lead to a significant drop in traffic and conversions.

Why Does Google Penalize Websites?

Search has been Google’s main functionality for decades. And it’s continuously being improved to serve users with the best experience possible.


Some webmasters look for sneaky ways to trick search engines into giving them higher rankings. 

For example, they may use:

  • Keywords stuffing
  • Hidden texts
  • Spammy content
  • Private blog networks (PBN)
  • Low-quality backlinks 

The common characteristic in all that is: 

Users get a terrible user-experience.

The content served from such websites is either too thin, uninformative, or unreliable. So — it wastes the consumer’s time.

Google search penalties

But Google doesn’t want that!

It wants to serve more informative, accurate results from trustworthy websites.


The only way to do that is to punish sites that fail to comply with the guidelines. And that gives the chances for better content to climb to the top of the SERPs.

How Many Different Google Penalties Exist?

Google penalties come in two forms:

The result for both is the same: lost rankings and lower traffic.

However, the way these penalties are executed is different.

1- Algorithmic Penalties

Algorithm updates are more common and affect a larger number of websites at once.

For example, the Google Penguin update put an end to manipulative backlinks and low-quality link building.

Some updates may cause a drop in your rankings and traffic. But, that doesn’t mean you’re getting a Google penalty. 

2- Manual Penalties

A manual penalty does not have a definite release date. It’s specific to your website, and it’s most commonly caused by spammy backlinks and PBNs.

If you happen to get one, you’ll be notified by Google about it and why you got it.

How do You Check if Google Penalties are Impacting Your Website?

It’s crucial to stay up-to-date with how Google sees your website. You want to know if you’re making a mistake so you can fix it quickly.

Algorithm Updates

Most big algorithm updates roll out on a specific date that the SEO community is aware of.


You have to identify the first time your website started to lose traffic. You must have Google Search Console (GSC) and Google Analytics installed on your website to check that.


Search on Google for any news surrounding the new update to know if it exists. And you’ll also want to know how it affected other webmasters in your industry so you can compare results.

Manual Penalties

You’ll be notified about any Google penalties you get on your website in your GSC account.

Go to your Security & Manual Actions > Manual Actions. And here you’ll find any notifications related to manual penalties.

no penalties detected

You’ll also receive an email from Google as soon as you’re hit with a penalty.

Let’s not forget

Not all the traffic you lose is due to an algorithm update. There are many possibilities to what could cause a drop in your site visitors.

For example:

It could be that the majority of your traffic is only coming from a few keywords on your website. Once a competitor outranks you on those keywords, you’ll see a significant traffic drop in a short time. 

That’s not an algorithm update nor a penalty. 


Make sure to only focus on organic traffic when dealing with Google penalties.

Many other sources could be leading traffic to your website — for example, PPC campaigns, social media accounts, backlinks from popular sites, etc.

How Long Do Google Penalties Last?

Google penalties could last days, weeks, months, or even years. 

There isn’t a universal duration that all websites need to wait before recovering from a penalty. And the answer here mainly depends on the size of your site and the reason you were penalized.

Here’s the deal:

Large websites are quicker to fix their problems and get their rankings back. However, a small site in a competitive niche may take months to see any improvements. 

Sites that rely heavily on blackhat methods may never recover from the penalty.

How to Recover From a Google Penalty?

The solution to recovering from a Google penalty is simple:

Fix the problem!

Clean your website from any blackhat tricks, and keep it in line with Google’s guidelines.

For manual penalties, you have to:

Identify unnatural links and remove them from your linking profile. You can do that by sending a request to the webmaster linking to your site.

If that doesn’t work and you don’t get a response, you could always disavow links using Google’s Disavow Links Tool

disavow links

Finally, send a reconsideration request from Manual Actions in your GSC dashboard.

Algorithmic penalties are a bit different in how you can recover. 

You must learn everything you can about the new algorithm and how it affects sites. Then, update your website and fix all the problems that made it lose rankings in the first place.

Then you have to wait…

Google will decide on its’ own which sites deserve the best rankings. There isn’t much you can do about that besides offering great content and building high-quality links.


Getting a Google penalty can cause a huge loss to your business. That’s why it’s essential to learn how to protect your site from Google penalties. 

But don’t worry. 

Even if you’re penalized, you can recover and claim your higher spots back in a short time.

Need help developing a winning SEO strategy for your business? 
We’re here for you! Get started now by getting your free SEO report card and contact us to learn more about how we can help.

Jeramy Gordon is the founder and Chief Content Officer at the Lorem Ipsum Company. He has been creating successful content strategies for almost two decades and believes in the power of high-quality content. He lives in Orange County, California, with his wife and two children.

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