I found myself scrolling through some notes that i had taken the other day with client and it reminded me of how little a lot of us really know about Google’s penalty system.  I have had many discussions with various clients and people that i meet at conferences about how Google essentially keeps a scorecard of your site to determine your page rank, but a fair amount of people do not realize that you can receive penalties which can affect your rank.  Hence, i wanted to briefly go over the penalty system that Google uses in case you find yourself with a red mark and what to do to fix the issue.

So first let’s discuss the two types of penalties that Google can assess to your site:

  1. Manual Actions– With a manual action, some human being at Google has reviewed a site and decided to issue a penalty against it (usually manual actions are indeed penalties). The review might be triggered by a spam report from an outsider or just Google’s regular policing.Removing manual penalties often involve the targeted site filing a reconsideration request along with showing a good faith effort to correct a problem. For example, last year, JC Penney was hit with a 90 day penalty for paid links. It made an effort to clean up those links, submitted a reconsideration request and the penalty was eventually removed, deemed “tough and the appropriate length,” as Cutts said last year.How do you know if you have a manual action? This should be reported to you through Google Webmaster Central, if you’ve verified your site there.
  2. Algorithmic Penalties- these are exposed via Google’s spiders and here is a list of the most common ones below. The best way to protect yourself from these is to use a service like Moz or Screaming Frog which essentially run tests on your site or rather crawl through each page on your site and assess their health. These 2 companies offer best of breed services for this.


Google Penguin Penalty

The Google Penguin penalty is an algorithmic one, which means that the penalty causes decreased search engine traffic thanks to lowered visibility. The penalty directly affects those whose websites show signs of using link schemes.

Google Panda Penalty

A Google Panda Penalty occurs as a result of the Panda algorithm changes in 2011. The update looked for thin SEO, duplicate content, evidence of content “scraping”, a high ad ratio, and low value pages.

Thin SEO Content

Thin SEO content is site content which fails to provide real value and instead contributes more noise than anything else. Some signs of thin SEO content are numerous posts comprised of 250 words or fewer, content which is ad heavy, the overuse of keywords (“keyword stuffing”), and content which contains too many internal links.

Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is text that can be found internally or externally which is exactly or nearly exactly like what is found on your site. Article syndication is an example of duplicate content. Someone stealing your content and posting it on their site is another example of duplicate content.

Google penalty for non mobile sites

Google knows that mobile search is the future of search and thus penalizes those whose site isn’t mobile-friendly.


Common SEO Definitions:

If you want to avoid a manual penalty, then you’ll want to check your site for the following penalties as soon as possible.

What are backlinks?

Backlinks are low quality links. They are the biggest contributor to your website being penalized by Google. Examples of poor backlinks include:

  • Traffic from sites already banned or de-indexed by Google
  • Links from sites unrelated to your industry
  • Links using hidden text
  • Site-wide backlinks, such as in website footers

Most Recent Google Updates:

Google continually updates its algorithms to increase the quality of results served to users. Here are some of the latest updates.

Penguin update

The Google “Penguin” update was released in April 2012. The changes were implemented to catch sites that were perceived by Google to be spamming search results by buying links or using link networks to increase a website’s ranking in search results, also known as link schemes. Google buried affected sites further down in search results.

Payday update

The Google “Payday Loan” update was first released in 2013 and was so named because of the type site it affected most. The update targeted highly spammed search engine results. It also targeted bad queries such as those created by pornographic, payday loan, or casino websites.

Mobile friendly update

The Google Mobile friendly algorithm update was implemented in 2016 and targeted websites that aren’t mobile-friendly. If you’re a webmaster affected, you’ll see loss in Page Rank. Google released new mobile guidelines that help you create websites that are smartphone and tablet friendly.

Hummingbird update

The Google Hummingbird update was implemented in 2010. The hummingbird algorithm changed how Google indexes websites altogether. The update added to the factors that Google looks for when it determines relevancy.

Panda update

The Google Panda update was implemented in February 2011 with a global rollout in April 2011. The new algorithms targeted websites whose content was perceived as “thin” and thus spammed search results. Scrapers and content spinners were specifically targeted. The goal of the update was to push lower-quality websites further down the search results and push high quality websites up.

Pigeon update

The Google Pigeon update was implemented in July 2014. The Pigeon algorithm changes affected local search results. The changes affected the search results shown in Google Maps as well. The algorithms used the user’s location to determine which local directory to use. Users searching for local businesses require highly relevant results and the Pigeon update aimed to deliver it.

Google EMD (Exact match domain) update

The Google EMD update was a search filter implemented in 2012. It kept sites from ranking highly only because their domain was an exact search result match. This increased the quality of search results and reduced the ability to rank highly solely due to keyword stuffing.

Google Pirate update

Google released it’s “Pirate Update” in August 2012. The new algorithm is a filter which was designed to keep sites with DMCA and other copyright infringement reports from ranking in Google’s search results. Affected sites see a marked drop in search engine visibility.


Penalty and Backlink Checker Tools:

Google penguin and manual penalty checker tool

There are many google penguin and manual penalty checker tools out there. One such tool is by FE International. Just enter your site and the database to get nearly instant results. Another popular tool in the seo world is the Panguin Tool.

Thin content checker tool

Thin content is a big deal to Google. To check for thin content, here’s a tool by Rob Hammond. You’ll need a list of links or a sitemap in order to make it work.

Unnatural and bad link checker tool

Want to check for “unnatural links” the way Google does? Try SEO Spyglass. It’s a free tool inside of SEO Power Suite that performs a deep link quality analysis so you always stay in line with Google’s algorithm changes.

Google disavow tool

To fix a Google manual penalty, you’ll almost always need to use the disavow tool. The Google disavow tool is found in the webmaster portal. The link to the disavow tools is here. You must sign into your Google account in order to access it.

Monitor backlinks tool

Backlinks can happen without your input, so it’s important to monitor them on a regular basis. One tool to keep tabs on your incoming links is SEO Power Suite. The suite contains four separate tools: Rank Tracker, SEO SpyGlass, WebSite Auditor, and LinkAssistant. LinkAssistant gives you backlink reports, a listing of sites in your industry to rank on. You’ll also get an easy-to-use dashboard to monitor links for SEO value and the anchor text, so you won’t get hit by Google penalties. You can also email webmasters right from the dashboard. We use Moz here at Auctus as we have found it to be a solid tool and great bang for the buck. There are many great SEO tools & services out there, so be sure to do your research and if we can help, just shoot us a line.


Hope this helps you stay clean. Remember, better to be safe than sorry. We are white hat seo digital marketers here and don’t practice any black hat methods because honesty is ALWAYS the best policy.



Auctus Marketing