Google Penalty Removal Guide: How To Restore Your Ranking And Traffic

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If you’ve found yourself in that position, follow this Google Penalty Removal guide to undo the damage and get Google’s grace back.

Think of Google as a Club. And just like in any club, there are rules to follow if you want to be included. Violate those rules and you will receive a penalty. If one or more actions on or towards your website violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines for Indexable Content, it can trigger a Google penalty that puts your site at great risk in search results. Sometimes you may even see your site completely disappear from the SERPs.

Types of Google penalties

Google assigns two types of penalties: algorithmic penalties and manual actions.

Fortunately, there are only two but don’t breathe a sigh of relief anymore, these two give you a lot to deal with!

Algorithmic penalties

When you hear that websites have been attacked by strange beasts called Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, or Payday, what you’re hearing is updates to Google’s core algorithm.

These updates always bring good and bad news for webmasters.

For example:

  • Sites affected by Panda (the “content penalty”) have filled the web with low-quality content, including lean and duplicate content, as well as content farming.
  • Sites affected by Penguin (the “link penalty”) have committed the crime of creating link schemes (think non-social link exchanges and paid links), with keyword stuffing to add some flavor.

And these are just a few examples.

Moz has a comprehensive list of core Google updates from the beginning of time which is quite intimidating if you look at it for too long.

Every time Google releases a new algorithm update, it means that they have spotted something in the SEO and webmaster realm that they are unhappy with. The update gives webmasters and SEOs a wake-up call, telling everyone that things are going to change from now on.

The algorithm updates are designed to encourage webmasters, both in the profession and as hobbyists, to review our websites and marketing practices to ensure that we are doing a good job.

So that’s the thing about algorithmic penalties:

They tell you that there are completely new standards at Google and that your website needs to meet those standards next time.

Manual actions

A human Google reviewer issues manual actions against your site. If you have received a manual action, it is because the reviewer found that your site does not comply with the Webmaster Guidelines.

On one of its support pages, Google lists the types of manual actions or penalties that can be applied to your site. You can get a manual penalty for:

  • User generated spam
  • Structured data problems
  • Artificial links to / from your site
  • Slim content with little to no added value
  • Cloaking and sneaky redirects

And the list goes on.

As you can probably deduce, manual penalties target spam and deceptive behavior. These are usually more severe (and more difficult to remove) than an algorithmic penalty, but it is possible.

I’ll get into these penalty removal methods a bit later in the post. But first, how do you know if your site has been penalized?

How to know if you have a Google penalty

If you have received a manual action, you will have a Google message report in Search Console to inform you.

But in the case of algorithmic penalties, it’s usually not until you’ve seen the damage that you know you’ve been penalized in the first place.

The first sign of a Google penalty is usually one or more of the following:

  • Lower rankings
  • Drop in traffic
  • Deindexing

Let’s look at these in more detail.

Drop in rankings

You might get a hint of a ranking loss when you Google your top keywords and notice that they have receded in the SERPs, further and further from the first page (or where you were before).

This is a warning sign that something is wrong and that there may be a penalty applied to your website.

I suggest that you constantly check and monitor your keywords on Google to act promptly in the event of a penalty.

Monitoring backlinks can simplify keyword tracking by doing it all for you, so you never have to do a manual Google search for your keywords again!

If you don’t have an account, you can sign up for a free trial of Monitor Backlinks here (no credit card required).

Just head over to the Rank Tracker tab in your Monitor Backlinks accounts to add all the keywords you want to track. Then scroll down to the bottom half of the page to find your list of added keywords and your ranking position for each.

Look at the “History” column to see the ranking trend of your keywords in the SERPs.

Can you notice any patterns in the trends? Do you see big drops in your keywords?

removal of google penalties

Fortunately, the situation looks pretty good here.

You can also take a good look at your ranking status in the summary at the top of the page:

Monitor backlinks tool for keywords

If there is a problem with your ranking, you will see that the “Keywords Down” statistic will increase and the “Keywords Up” statistic will decrease.

That’s a potential sign of a Google penalty, and it’s time to do something!

What to do until the penalty is removed

It may take some time to lift the penalty, so in the meantime, you should do everything you can to mitigate the damage from missing keyword rankings.

Use other search channels to keep your website found.

These channels include social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, communities, specialized forums, and industry directories. Craigslist is also a good way to be found.

Also, this is a great time to participate in offline events like conferences and meetings to help you build visibility and be found by your target audience.

A Substantial Drop in Traffic

Another sign that Google has assigned you a penalty is if you notice a drop in traffic in your Google Analytics or other analytics packages.

As Illia Termeno, director of Extrabrains, explains:

“You will need to analyze your traffic to determine if your website is being affected. If you notice a significant drop in organic traffic and Google ranking, you will need to find a correlation between the latest Google algorithmic changes and your website losses.

If you find that you were harmed by a specific algorithm change, get as much information as you can about that update so that you can begin to resolve the issue. You will need to make changes to ensure that your website complies with the Google Webmaster Guidelines. “

If you sell products or services on your website, you may also notice a decrease in referrals, sales, and overall conversions.

What to do until the penalty is removed

The best way to limit the damage until then is to use other traffic generation channels, such as your list or newsletter, community management, subscription incentives and social networks.

You can also search other search engines, such as Bing.


One day you may Google your website for whatever reason and you can’t find it anymore.

Not even the search operator “site: yoursitename.ext” can help you find it.

This means that your website was completely removed from the Google index.

However, Google may have removed only part of your site. In that case, you will find that many of your pages are missing and that a small or large part of your site has been de-indexed.

Generally, massive spam and deception are the most common causes of de-indexing, but algorithmic penalties can also lead to partial or complete removal from search results.

What to do until the penalty is removed

Until your website is fully restored in the SERPs, you will have to completely rely on other channels for inbound traffic, conversions, and overall visibility.

Because your website is partially or completely absent from Google in this case, you can’t even trust partial Google traffic like in the other two cases.

My advice is to take advantage of your community, especially your list or newsletter, as well as any traffic that comes from niche directories and other search engines.

Seek interaction with other professionals in your niche, using word of mouth and threads in forums and online communities.

Google Penalty Removal Guide: How To Restore Your Ranking And Traffic

Now, let’s find out how to remove that penalty soon and get your ranking back!

4 Google Penalty Removal Actions You Can Take

In general, there are four things you can do to remove a Google penalty.

(We’ll dive into the details in the next section.)

1. Use the Disavow tool

Link penalties are very common and the only way to remove a link penalty is to remove the backlinks that caused the penalty.

This is done by creating a disavow file of all the toxic links you found in your backlink profile and then submitting the file to Google’s Disavow Links tool to let Google know that you do not want the site in question linking to you.

Just select your domain:

disavow tool
Just Choose Your Domain

Upload your disavow file in .txt format:

upload disavow file
Click “Submit” and you’re done.

2. Correct your website to adhere to Google guidelines

Making your website compliant with Google standards is the best way to avoid (and prevent) a penalty.

The best way to do this is to read the Google Webmaster Guidelines in their entirety and make an effort to apply them almost literally.

(No kidding, you never know how Google will interpret them! You better play it safe.)

Obviously, that might not be enough to avoid an algorithmic or manual penalty altogether down the road, but it will make the case much, much less likely.

Also, be sure to read reputable SEO blogs to keep up with news, best practices, case studies, and strategies, and to replicate any that you think may benefit your site in the long run. Good ones to follow include Search Engine Land, Search Engine Roundtable, and of course the Monitor Backlinks blog.

3. Improve the quality of content for users

What kind of content does Google like?

Content that is useful to users, of course!

Just think about the Medic update in August 2018. It was all about Experience, Authority, and Trust (EAT), so that means Google wants you to give users exactly that and for the time they spend on your site to be the best possible experience.

Apply high standards to your content and you will be safe from penalties.

4. Submit a request for reconsideration

This is the step you should take after you have cleaned up your website and backlink profile to meet Google’s guidelines.

You should document the actions you took to meet those guidelines and upload those documents along with a short summary of what you have done and why.

Then Google will recheck your site and (hopefully) remove the penalty.

You can access the reconsideration request form through your manual action report in Google Search Console or by clicking here.

upload your disavow file

Fill out the form with a detailed explanation of what you have done to fix the problem, add an apology, and submit the request.

How to remove manual penalties

I walked you through the basic Google penalty removal steps above. But when it comes to removing a specific manual penalty, there is still a lot to do before you can ask Google to reconsider.

Here’s what to do to remove the following manual penalties from your site:

Artificial links to / from your site

Google has always been very important in increasing your backlink signals through natural links.

When you pay a link marketer to create links for you or fill your blog with paid links, you are participating in non-social link exchange (that is, a link exchange that is clearly not a genuine link exchange between partners or blog friends.

On the contrary, it is part of a link scheme to artificially manipulate search engine rankings), or to spread links on blogs, forum profiles and comments with the sole objective of increasing your position in the SERPs, then Google does not will be nice about it.

When Google discovers unnatural backlinks, manual reviewers will downgrade your website in the SERPs and send you an “Unnatural Links to/from Your Site” message in the Search Console reporting dashboard.

(You can get this penalty even when your domain name was recently registered. A previous owner could have been wrong! I ran into that situation years ago and it was quite disturbing.)

Yuck! Link penalties aren’t fun, trust me.

How to remove the penalty

Clean up that backlink profile!

Paul Martin, Director of Digital Strategy at Jaywing Australia, recommends researching:

  • “Anchor Text – Any” spam “item that includes exact match keywords.
  • Domains: Does the linking site have a good reputation?
  • Context: Is the link on a legitimate web page and is it surrounded by other legitimate content (ie, if you sell shoes, make sure your link is not next to an auto insurance link, for example). “

With your list of bad links in hand, the next step is to contact the webmasters to request the removal of the link.

This won’t always be successful, and when it isn’t, that’s when you can submit a disavow file to Google as we discussed earlier.

You can make the disavowal process much easier with the help of Monitor Backlinks. With this tool, you can see all the links pointing to your site, analyze whether it is a link you want to have or not, and create a ready-to-use disavow file that can be uploaded directly to Google.

Just log into your account and click on the Your Links tab on the left sidebar.

(Remember to get your free trial of Monitor Backlinks here!)

Browse the list of backlinks for toxic signals. Monitoring backlinks helps you by displaying an orange warning triangle (!) If the link has signs of potentially poor quality.

Click on the icon for more information on poor-quality signals.

Monitor Backlinks tool to create disavow file

It also indicates whether the anchor text for a backlink may be unnatural or spam with a warning when you hover over the anchor text in question.

Potential Unnatural Anchor text identified

To disavow toxic links, simply select them with the checkbox on the left and click the “Deauthorize” button at the top of the page.

When you click the button, you can choose to disavow by URL or by domain if the entire domain is spam.

Disavow URL tab
Here, I chose to disable by URL.

Unauthorized links will turn red. I suggest that you then click the “Export” button to export a copy of those backlinks, because you may need to refer to them later.

Export disavow file from tool

Now, go to the sidebar left again, and please click on the tab of the disavow tool. Here you will find a list of the backlinks that you disavowed.

Then you have to follow two steps from the top buttons: “Export disavow file” and “Send to Google”.

The export will download a disavow file that includes all backlinks, in .txt format. Submitting to Google will redirect you to Google Search Console, where you can upload the disavow file and finish the process.

Export and upload disavow file to Google

Then submit your reconsideration request and voila!

Pure spam

Google defines pure spam as a website created solely to send spam. Think of aggressive advertising without providing valid content and value to users.

When one of my blogs got this manual action years ago, it completely disappeared from Google’s SERPs.

Yes, I am talking about a complete deindexing. Poof, he’s gone. That’s what Google does to a website that it considers “pure spam.”

Although my website was not created for spam, it must have been deemed malicious by a human reviewer at Google because it was a character blog (i.e. a fictional blog where I played a character) where I received sponsored posts and advertisements.

Unlike what Google says about manual “pure spam” action, there was no gibberish, cover-up, or auto-generated scrape content on my poor blog, just a few sponsored posts mixed in with story posts.

Unfortunately, I never managed to get the site back on Google before shutting it down, but you might have better luck after all.

How to remove the penalty

The only way out of this dark pit is to try to understand why Google thought their website was “pure spam,” especially if, as was the case with my character blog, that’s not really the case.

A Google reviewer may have mistakenly considered your website to be a spam site and not useful to Google users, or the problem may come from a previous domain owner (try to check site history) .

SEO expert Marie Haynes suggests that you work on cleaning up your website inside and out, removing any auto-generated content, scraped content, and black hat signs, and adding more value (for example, creating new content that really helps your users. objective).

Slim content with little to no added value

Thin content is all that content where the amount of text is minimal and often not helpful to the user visiting your page to find a solution to their problem.

For example, displaying a list of emergency phone numbers without any other information about calling best practices or how to report an emergency creates a really thin page that is better suited to a personal note than a web page.

A simple list without comments is not enough content for the user, at least according to Google. Neither does scraped and duplicate content, auto-generated content, or doorway pages (and rightly so).

This manual penalty can result in partial de-indexing of pages that Google considers thin content.

How to remove the penalty

Update thin content pages to make them really useful to users, or just remove them.

Any ideas:

  • Convert previously written content into more detailed content, with images and data
  • Make simple lists in helpful guides or tutorials
  • Add a rel = canonical attribute to pages that accidentally became duplicate content
  • Delete any extracted content and write new content yourself or hire a writer to do it.

User generated spam

User-generated spam is the type of spam found in multi-user blogs and forums, where users can write and post their own content with or without editorial review.

This manual penalty exists to discourage overly permissive community management that gives a free pass to whatever content users want to post and serves as an impetus for the site owner to ensure that users only post quality content.

That means there is no spam, no auto-generated text, and no excuses for filling the web with toxic links. The same applies to blog comments as well.

How to remove the penalty

Lifting this sanction means telling users to edit offensive content (and they have to comply or a temporary ban or suspension falls here!), And enforcing new guidelines for content creation and management.

If they refuse to collaborate, go ahead and delete the content (but let them download a backup).

New guidelines for your community should involve more rigid editorial review and quality-oriented guidelines for posting new content.

This is not just for your users; You should be able to show Google that you have done work to improve your community when you submit a reconsideration request to have the penalty lifted.

Cloaking and sneaky redirects

Google doesn’t like webmasters showing users one thing and Google another completely.

The two versions have to match somehow!

So whenever a Google reviewer finds that a web page is displayed differently to Google and users, they can assign this manual penalty.

How to remove the penalty

If you have a subscription site or have closed / member paid content, Google recommends using structured data to tell the algorithm and human reviewers that you are not using cloaking or sneaky redirects to fool users and Googlebot.

In all other cases, use the URL inspection tool in Google Search Console to view your content as seen by Googlebot and a user.

Whenever you find differences, fix either version and eliminate accidental redirects.

Once done, you can submit a reconsideration request to Google.

Hidden text and keyword padding

Google has always disapproved of the black hat practices of hidden text and keyword stuffing because they exist clearly and solely to manipulate search engines.

Hiding text via HTML or CSS tricks and stuffing keywords throughout the page code can artificially (and only briefly) boost rankings.

But it doesn’t help Google distribute the right content to its users, who end up showing tons of results that don’t match their search query.

(Super frustrating!)

Not surprisingly, Google is against this practice and penalizes any website that is caught using it.

How to remove the penalty

Clean your website of all hidden text and repeated or irrelevant keywords, then submit a reconsideration request to Google.

Spam free host

Getting free hosting for your website may sound great, but I suggest you take a good look at the service you are about to test before you risk manual action.

Some free hosting providers clutter their users’ web pages with lots of malicious ads (especially those nasty pop-unders!), In the style of old Geocities and Angelfire. When the amount of spam reaches appalling levels, Google could decide to penalize the entire service and not just individual websites.

Or it could be the fault of the users of the service.

An example is the free registrar that was completely removed from Google in 2011 as a result of massive user spam.

How to remove the penalty

There is nothing to do here but change your hosting provider and/or domain registrar, soon!

Stealth Mobile Redirects / AMP Content Discrepancy

As with the other “stealth redirect” penalties, Google doesn’t like it when webmasters show different content to mobile device users than desktop users.

Even more so if the mobile pages you are trying to index and rank well are optimized as AMP.

This manual action can lead to full or partial deindexing.

How to remove the penalty

Google wants you to show the same content (albeit in different formats, layouts, and resolutions) to its users, so be sure to check all of your pages to achieve this.

Pay particular attention to the AMP content and its markup.

Submit a reconsideration request later.

A Link Penalty Story: How I Removed a Customer’s Google Penalty By Cleaning Their Links

In 2014, I was working as a content writer and social media manager for a client in India.

Because I was also offering SEO help as a professional “add-on” to our contract, my client would come to me whenever something didn’t look right in his SEO strategy.

One day this customer urgently emailed me to inform me that Google had penalized their website for unnatural inbound links.

Since the website we were working on was fairly new, I asked him if he had purchased link packages from a link vendor.

He admitted that yes, he and his business partner had bought dozens of backlinks of a guy who sold them in cheap bundles (probably from Fiverr or a similar service), thinking that they would quickly scale the SERPs with these new link signals.

The solution

After a short talk about the whole story, I asked my client to give me access to his Webmaster Tools (now Search Console) and Google Analytics accounts so I could fix the problem.

And yes, there it was: the obvious manual action “Artificial Links to Your Site” in my client’s Webmaster Tools report pane.

Google Analytics hadn’t shown a drop in traffic yet, but I knew it would come soon.

In addition to Google tools, I used a few different backlink analysis tools, including Monitor Backlinks Free Backlink Checker to discover suspicious backlinks.

I found that the new backlinks were, in fact, all low quality and spam. Most of them were backlinks from

link exchange pages, sidebar, and footer. Those things were practically worthless! But at least he knew what he had to do:

Remove spam and toxic links from my client’s backlink profile and then submit a reconsideration request to Google.


It was a bit of a headache to get the penalty lifted.

My client’s backlink profile was riddled with toxic links that I had to manually add to an Excel spreadsheet (this was back in the day before I discovered monitor backlinks. If I had had a tool like back then, the process would have been much simpler!).

Then I emailed the webmasters on my client’s behalf asking them to remove the wrong backlink. Many webmasters were nice and removed the backlinks, but in many other cases, I did not receive any response.

So, I added those backlinks to a disavow file and submitted it to Google for evaluation. Then I submitted a reconsideration request to Google detailing how I had cleaned up the backlink profile to the best of my ability.

Fortunately, this story has a happy ending:

Within two weeks of submitting the disavowal file and reconsideration request to Google, my client got the penalty lifted and they got their traffic and rankings back.

The timely “cleanup” job paid off!

Summary of Google Penalty Removal

As you can see, Google’s penalty removal process involves acting quickly, making sure your website is completely free of anything that goes against Google’s guidelines and asking Google to reconsider the penalty.

So as soon as you find out that your website has received a penalty from Google, it is important to act promptly.

Start with an evaluation of the latest actions taken on the site (on-page SEO, mobile optimization, etc.).

Also consider outside actions, such as link-building methods that might have gone wrong (buying links from untrusted sources or having your guest post delivered as-is on shady sites), or even changes to backlinks. that generated bad signals (maybe the site owner moved their backlink to a new domain that they didn’t know was penalized).

But at the end of the day, don’t be too afraid of Google penalties.

Most of the time, they can be fixed. It’s just a matter of getting it right and keeping it working right next time.

Good luck!

Certified Expert on Organic and Paid SEO (Local and National), Social Media Marketing, Content Marketing, Online Reputation Management, Website Development and Design.

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