SEO Help: How to check if you’ve been penalised by Google

Quite a few people came to us and said: “We think we’ve been penalised by Google, certainly our organic search traffic went down, but we’re not sure”.

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Google has had numerous algorithm updates in the last few years. The most consistent driving force behind these has been to discourage website managers from using spammy SEO techniques - like unnatural paid link-building, guest blogging abuse, and keyword stuffing to climb up the search result rankings.

We were approached by a number of companies whose traffic dropped so badly in May 2013 (after the ‘Penguin’ algorithm update) that they hardly needed to look for the cause.  We’re happy that, with our help, the penalties they received from Google have now been revoked (phew!).

However, it takes a lot of time and hard work to recover once you've been penalised.

We recommend that you regularly check whether you’ve been penalised by Google. Tweet this

Here’s our Google penalty checklist:

  1. 1. Check your historical SERP data and look out for any sudden or significant drop. 
 
  1. 2. Check organic traffic in Google Analytics (or your favourite Analytics tool) for any drops around the time Google released their algorithm updates.

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  1. 3. For the Penguin algorithm update you should:
    • Look for toxic links pointing to your site. Do a link audit with advanced SEO tools like Ahrefs or Majestic SEO and then be proactive and try to remove them with disavow tool.
    • Check messages in Webmaster Tools for any notifications for manual penalties – this should be the most obvious way you’ll know you’ve been penalised.
 
  1. 4. For the Panda update you should: do a technical SEO audit. For example:
    • See if you have any issues with your URL, redirections ,
    • Filter or parameters that potentially can cause duplication issues),
    • See if you have duplicate titles and duplicate meta description issues,
    • Review your content looking for keyword stuffing and make sure that your content is relevant for your audience.
 
We now see checking for Google penalties as a routine part of our SEO service. Tweet this  

There is a curious paradox in the way Google behaves.  Google themselves more or less refuse to recognise the arts of the SEO analyst, restricting their advice on SEO to ‘make websites for humans rather than us’.  This remains good advice. 

However, contrary to some expectations, this doesn’t mean web owners can ignore the technical aspects of SEO or that SEO will go away.

In fact it has just changed their role somewhat. In Google’s (generally commendable) endeavours to catch out the bad guys of SEO, it has also made it possible to be an ‘accidental bad guy’.

Well-intentioned and even useful reciprocal links, and innocent acts of blogging for instance can now be misinterpreted by Google, and you may end up getting penalties you don’t’ deserve, but that will damage your search rankings anyway. 

So don’t assume everything’s OK.  Check it following the steps above – or give us a call!

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