How To Recover From A Google Penalty (Complete Guide)

Getting hit with a Google penalty can be devastating to your affiliate income. Imagine you’re enjoying Google’s great quality content and then one day – poof! Your traffic disappears and your income does as well.

Is there any hope to a site that’s been hit with a Google penalty? Yes there is and I’m going to show you how to recover your website rankings and traffic after a penalty.

How To Know If You’ve Been Hit With A Google Penalty

Were you getting steady traffic then all of a sudden one day your Google traffic has drastically dropped? If so,  you may have been hit with a Google penalty.

Use Google Analytics

You should be tracking your traffic by using Google Analytics. It’s free and you just need to add a code to your site to get a plethora of data about your site.

Log into Google Analytics and go to the Acquisition section to look at your organic search traffic. If you notice a sudden drop in traffic that has not recovered, your site has likely suffered a penalty.

You can use a site like Moz’s Google algorithm change history and match it to the date your traffic dropped in order to get a clue as to why your site was hit.

Use Google Webmaster Tools

The other way to check if you’ve been hit with a penalty is to use Google Webmaster Tools.

Navigate to Search Traffic and then Manual Actions. If you see “No manual webspam actions found”  then you’re in the clear.  If you see another message, you have suffered a manual action penalty.

Some examples include:

  • unnatural links from your site
  • unnatural links to your site
  • thin content with little or no added value
  • user-generated spam
  • hacked site

Figure Out Why You Were Hit With A Google Penalty

After determining whether you were hit with a manual action or an algorithmic penalty, you need to look at why it happened.

Most penalties from Google are related to the Penguin algorithm or the Panda algorithm.

Penguin update

The Penguin algorithm update buried lots of sites. This update targeted sites that have what are called unnatural backlink profiles. An unnatural link profile can be:

  • Low Quality Links. If your link profile consists of links from blog comments, blogrolls and link farms, you are bound to be hit with a penalty.
  • Over-optimized Anchor Text. When you get backlinks with the same anchor text, it appears manipulated and does not appear natural.
  • Buying/Selling Links. When Google suspects you of buying links to manipulate the search results, your entire site will be penalized.

Panda update

The Panda algorithm update targeted sites that hinder user experience. This means you likely have a site with:

  • Thin Content.  This would be sites where the articles are under 400 words. This is especially true if you have lots of pages with a low word count.
  • Duplicate Content. If you plagiarize the content on your blog, Google will find out and hit you with a duplicate content penalty. Quoting an article is fine, but you need to add enough of your own insight to make the bulk of the article unique.

If you have made a recent change, such as changing your internal link structure, changing your URL’s or a guest posting campaign, then you can also use that to pinpoint the cause of the penalty.

How To Recover From A Google Penalty

When you are trying to recover your rankings, the idea is to undo a recent change or to make your site compliant with Google’s ever-changing algorithm. That’s much easier said than done when Google doesn’t specifically tell you what to change.

Nevertheless, most Google penalties can be fixed! Here are the steps you need to take to recover from a Google penalty.

Look At Your Backlink Profile

Many penalties are backlink related. If you believe your penalty is backlink related, you may be tempted to disavow all your links.

If you get rid of all your links and start fresh with a clean backlink profile, you are actually setting yourself back quite a bit.

Not all links are created equal. Some of those backlinks may be valuable and a good reason why you even had Google traffic to begin with.

You will need to look for all of your backlinks on Open Site Explorer. Look through the backlinks and see if there are any from spammy unrelated sites. These links are the most likely culprit.

Disavow Links

You will need to disavow the spammy links you found earlier. This can be done from within your Google Webmaster Tools account here.

It’s easy to disavow links, just upload a simple text file with the links you don’t want Google to count, one per line.

Be sure and save a copy of this file, as you will be updating it with more links in the future.

Diversify Your Anchor Text

If the keyword that your blog is targeting is “Scottsdale Injury Attorney”, then you most likely got a lot of backlinks using that same keyword phrase.

Google sees that as over-optimized anchor text.

Instead, a natural link profile would have anchor texts such as ‘’, ‘scottsdale attorney’, ‘injury lawyer’ or even ‘click here’. You can get keyword traffic data and keyword suggestions using a tool like Long Tail Pro.

When someone talks about you, they will link to you in many different ways naturally. When you’ve got the same anchor text from each link, it raises a red flag that you’re trying to manipulate Google.

Here is a handy guide to see what anchor text diversity is natural.

– Main Keywords: maximum 10-15% (combined) of your entire anchor base.
– Secondary / Longtail Keywords: 10-15% (combined)
– Brand Keywords / Raw URL: 40-50%
– Generic Keywords (click here, more information, etc.): 25-35%

Delete Thin Content

Don’t be worried about getting rid of hundreds of blog posts. If they are a few years old, trust me that information is outdated already. Not only that, but if your posts were under 400 words, the content likely wasn’t very valuable.

I would much rather have a blog with 10 amazing blog posts rather than a blog with 100 weak articles. I know Google would like that too.

Get Rid Of Duplicate Content

When some people start a blog, they sometimes populate their blog with posts from other sources. Even if you link back to the original source, it’s still considered duplicate content.

You should go back and find all of these instances and remove them. In the future, make sure everything you post is 100% unique.

Fix Malware / Hacked Content

If your site has been hacked you will most likely not appear in Google’s search results. Many hackers don’t delete your site, but rather they add a code to your site that infects visitors with malware. Other times hackers will insert links to their spammy sites.

To recover your Google rankings, use a plugin such as Anti-Malware Security and Brute-Force Firewall to search for and then delete any malware and to patch up any future vulnerabilities.

File A Reconsideration Request

Once you have cleaned up your website, you are now ready to file a reconsideration request. Do not do this step until you have double and triple checked that your site is now “clean”.

To file a reconsideration request, go to the reconsideration request page from Google here.

Make sure your reconsideration request has the following:

  • Explain what quality issue your site had.
  • Describe what steps you took in order to fix the issue.
  • Document the outcome of your work.

How To Minimize The Risk Of A Future Penalty

While we never know what direction Google will go in next, one thing is certain: Google loves pages that add value to their index.

In order to minimize the risk of being penalized in the future, focus on the following:

Get More Quality Backlinks

Learn about your citation flow and trust flow scores. Regularly check your backlinks. if you find bad links, disavow them so they won’t hurt you.

Write Quality Content

To get your site back on Google search, you need to prove yourself worthy. Rather than focusing on acquiring backlinks, you should focus on creating top quality content.

Publish Consistently

The mark of a good site is one that updates on a consistent basis. Google tracks the freshness factor of each site.

If a site publishes 25 articles in 2015 and has done nothing for years, that site is not deemed to be currently valuable by Google.

This doesn’t mean you should publish content every day. It’s not necessarily how frequently you add new content, but rather that you do it on a consistent basis.


If you suddenly get a big drop in Google traffic, don’t freak out. It is possible to dig yourself out of a Google penalty and recover your previous ranking in Google.

Just take your time to identify the cause of your penalty, then take the steps I’ve outlined in this post to fix the mistakes and undo the damage.

Related Resources: 

Long Tail Pro – Keyword research is essential for getting a good Google ranking. But how do you know which keywords to target? That’s where a tool like Long Tail Pro comes in to help. With this pro tool you get access to data that shows the traffic for any given keyword along with how difficult it would be to rank for the keyword.

About Edwin

I make six figures blogging and you can too! I'm here to show you how to create a blog and turn it into a money making machine.. all from home.

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