Getting hit by a Google penalty seems to be the worst nightmare of any website owner. All your dreams of building a business seems to crash and burn the moment the penalty hits you. And reports from other webmasters who have hit by penalty previously will tell you, that it could takes months to get back up.
How do you know that you have been hit by a penalty?
These are telltale signs of a penalty
- Your website disappears from rankings
- The number of impressions as seen on Webmasters falls to almost ZERO
- Go to Manual Actions section in Webmasters and see if you have a message from Google
When do you get a penalty from Google?
Google usually gives a penalty primarily for these 2 reasons:
- Thin Content Penalty (Or Panda) - When your website has thin, shallow or duplicate content, Google algorithm might hit you with a penalty
- Bad Backlinks Penalty (Or Penguin) - If your website has low quality backlinks from spammy websites, or you have been involved in link exchanges
So does that mean it is the end of the road for you or your website?
Google in its updated Webmasters Tool Help has given steps you can follow to get back from a penalty.
What Google says about getting back from Penalty?
A lot of webmasters make the mistake of using the Disavow tool in the hope that Google will ignore the bad backlinks without understanding how the disavow tool works. And then webmasters raise a reconsideration request in the hope that they will get out of the penalty.
But a disavow tool and reconsideration request will not get you out of penalty automatically.
The Webmasters Tool Help article documents the steps a webmaster should follow for bad backlinks and shallow/cloaked content removal.
One of the highlights of this article is the Common reconsideration request pitfalls section. Google has stated that using the disavow tool is not a substitute for the effort required to remove the bad/toxic backlinks. Another important feature is the Fetch as Google tool in Webmasters. If your website has cloaked content (content that is visible to crawlers only and not to users), then Fetch as Google tool can help you identify that content. You should remove the cloaked content before you submit a reconsideration request.
So what does all this mean to a webmaster trying to recover from a Google penalty?
There is no short cut or quick method to get out of a penalty. You should manually remove/no follow all the toxic backlinks, link exchanges and links from spammy sites to your website. Remove thin/shallow content pages from your site. Instead add useful authoritative content on your webpages. Remove any cloaked content from your website.
Once you have performed all these steps, you can raise a Reconsideration Request. Google wants you to put in the hard work and document your efforts before it grants you a successful outcome. In case your request is disapproved, it is time to go back to the drawing board and repeat the cleansing steps again.