Hosting Tutorial & Guide

Is My Website Penalized by Google? How to Diagnose and What to Do?

updated on Oct 13, 2016
Is My Website Penalized by Google? How to Diagnose and What to Do? Have you noticed a severe traffic drop and ranking decline in Google suddenly? That's probably because your website is under a Google penalty. Still, you should take time to identify the real cause so that you can take prompt and proper actions to bring your rankings back.

If you have done something bad like hosting spam willingly or unconsciously, an algorithm update might catch your faults and impose a penalty on certain pages or even the entire site. Besides, when you site triggers a manual review from Google, the review team can also give a manual penalty to your site.

Then, there might be some questions haunting in your mind. Is my website really penalized by Google? Why? What should I do? Answers to this question can be found below.

How to See Whether Your Website Is Penalized by Google?

If your website is given a manual penalty, you will get notified by the review team. Not sure about this? That's OK, because you can sign into Google Webmaster Tools and navigate to Search Traffic > Manual Actions to see whether there is any manual webspam action found. A "NO" result hints that you site is not suffering from a manual penalty. If results appear, there are also proper instructions for you to remove the penalty.

However, in the case that your website might be affected by algorithm updates, you must endeavor to figure out whether there is a real penalty. You can find the answer by trying the following two actions.
  • Analyze the traffic in Google Analytics. If the date when the severe drop of organic traffic starts matches the day of a Panda or Penguin update, then yes, your site is affected by the newly updated algorithm.
  • Test your domain or pages in Google. Firstly, you can enter your domain like or your brand name in Google to see whether your website is ranked on the first page. Secondly, run a site search in the format "site: keyword/phrase". If no exact results are listed, the page, or even your entire site, should have been penalized.
Algorithmic penalties usually affect the whole website, bringing a decline to the overall ranking. While manual penalties may only involve a part of the site – only the affected URLs or sections. The organic visibility of the remaining parts can continue.

Diagnose a Google Penalty

Why Your Website Is Penalized & What to Do

You may have generated "spam" on purpose or violated the Google Webmaster Guidelines unknowingly. No matter which situation you are in, your website can be penalized by Google. We cannot say the definite cause of your penalty, but the reasons analyzed below are the most common ones which you can use as a checklist to figure out the fix for your own website. The solutions also come along.

The utilization of any Black Hat SEO technique

Black Hat SEO is an unnatural optimization method that improves a website's rankings rapidly by fooling search engines like Google. Practicing any Black Hat SEO technique, you might get a rapid growing of search engine rankings and traffic, but once this deed is recognized by Google, the rankings and traffic will receive an immense damage.

Below are the most common Black Hat SEO techniques which you might be using for your site.
  • Paid links. Selling, buying and exchanging links are banned by Google. This kind of links will be identified to be unnatural and deceptive, and they can usually generate a penalty.
  • Blog networks. Any kind of networks are not allowed due to their potential of SERP manipulation.
  • Invisible text. Websites with hidden text that is invisible to visitors but readable for search engines are intended to manipulate the search engine rankings illegitimately.
  • Cloaking and underhand redirects. If you put some useless but search engine-targeted content on a page and redirect the visitors to this page to another location, you are tricking Google, and this will be found out. Your pages must contain the same content for both the search engine bots and visitors.
  • Keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing is dangerous nowadays as Google likes natural and valuable content only. The abuse of keywords can get Google hating your site.
  • Any other unnatural tactic that tricks Google. There are some services and software that are designed for practicing Black Hat SEO. You should not use them for any massive social bookmarking or distribution which can be easily caught by Google.
Solution: Never try to cheat Google with Black Hat SEO techniques. You have to build up your SEO strategy in a reasonable manner. Do not ever use any method that is claimed to get your website showing up in the first page of search results overnight.

Utilization of Black Hat SEO Techniques

Link issues on your website

Besides paid links and blog networks, you may have other issues about the links on your site. Have a check on the following points.
  • Broken internal/external links. Google values user experience much. Therefore, if you have many broken internal links or external links, Google may think that you do not care about your users, and then devalue your site.
  • External links to malicious sites/contents. If your website contains links to malicious content, it might be considered as an intermediary and blocked by Google.
  • Quick link building. Link building should be a long-term and natural process of increasing your popularity and credibility. If you rush at the results and gain too many unnatural inbound links which are not really closely related to your niche, a penalty might come because you are too intentional.
  • Other unnatural links. Your website may include site-wide links, author bio links and footer links which are paid or exchanged with others. Be careful that they all can be detected by Google as manipulative outbound links.
Solution: Firstly, remove all the unnatural links in your website footer, sidebar and anywhere else. Secondly, check your website links on a regular basis to make sure that there are no broken ones. Thirdly, acquire the right link building strategies to boost SEO.

Link Issues

Your website contains content issues

Since the release of Google Panda, the quality of website content has become increasingly important for search engine rankings. Any of the following problems can get your site penalized.
  • Scraped content. Some webmasters, especially those who want to add many pages as soon as a new website is built, choose to copy content from other sites. However, this is duplication which will harm your SEO in later times.
  • Duplicate content. If you have multiple pages or posts on the same topic, they can also cause the duplication issue which decreases the value of your content.
  • Content with no value. Those contents with low relevancy with your niche or containing errors are considered to be of low value. And the scraped contents and duplicate contents are not valuable at all. Google does not like any of them.
  • Stolen content. There is a case that someone would steal your content, which leads to a penalty on your website due to duplication. If you are suffering from this, try DMCA takedown notices or asking Google to help remove those contents on the site.
  • Spam keywords. Google has collected a list of keywords which are frequently used on spam sites. When you focus on these keywords, your site can be the target of a Google penalty.
Solution: Remember to publish original, helpful and readable content only on your website. If you have already had scraped or duplicate content, you can find them out by using tools like CopyScape and then remove them. At last, submit a re-consideration request to Google.

Content Issues

Other on-page issues

Besides the most frequent reasons discussed above, your site may also contain one or several of the following issues which can eventually lead to a penalty.
  • Comment spam. Most webmasters get rid of comment spam by using an automated spam detection system. This can filter most spam, but some might also go through the detection. If the spam comments include links to malicious sites, your website can be penalized for them.
  • Too many ads or affiliate links. Ads and affiliate links are accepted by Google, but they must be limited to a reasonable number. Excessive use of ads and affiliate links can be a red flag.
  • Too many website errors. Do not leave your website with many 404, 500 or any other errors. Remember that Google values user experience.
Solution: Reduce the errors and spam to the largest possible extent. Besides, place ads and affiliate links reasonably. Although they can generate direct revenue, obsessive use does no good in the long run.

Other On-Page Issues

An SEO attack is launched toward your website

It is possible that a sudden penalty is caused by an SEO attack launched by your competitor. There are some services on the web dedicated to negative SEO attacks which bring your rankings down in a short time. This kind of attack can generate manipulative backlinks which get your site penalized.

Solution: Stay calm and analyze your website statistics and SEO practices to see whether you are really under a negative SEO attack. As soon as you have confirmed the attack, report it to Google and offer all evidence you have.

Your website is hacked or attacked

If your website is hacked, it can be easily blocked by Google because of malware, bad links to malicious sites or messed-up website content. In this case, your site is probably blacklisted by Google.

Solution: Recover your site from the attack by following our tutorial about the fixes to a hacked website, and then request a review from Google. If your website passes the review, it will appear in the search results later. There is a suggestion that you should always keep your website secure.

Website Hacked

Unreliable or inaccessible server

The quality of the server that your website resides on has a great impact on the search engine rankings, too. An insecure server hosting spam will definitely pull your website off from the first pages of search results. Besides, a low-quality server may deliver:
  • Frequent downtime. If your website is frequently down when crawlers cannot read the content, search engines can abandon your site finally.
  • Slow speed. Speed is an important search engine ranking factor. A constantly slow website can never be ranked well in Google.
Solution: Select your web hosting package carefully especially when you want a shared server. Make sure that you have read enough reliable reviews and the hosting provider you choose offers a refund guarantee. If you are on the way of looking for reliable shared hosting, the web hosts below are good options worth consideration. They also provide quality VPS and dedicated servers.