Google penalties – What are they and how do you check if you have one?

Google penalties – What are they and how do you check if you have one?

These days, it’s difficult to get new customers without ranking well on Google. The fact of the matter is that people all over the world turn to Google to find the products and services they need.

This is great for companies who have well-performing websites already, but it poses a challenge for startups and companies that don’t currently rank well.

Although there are many reasons why your website may not be performing optimally in Google, penalties are a major one.

In this post, you’ll learn more about Google penalties, what they are, how you can find out whether you’ve been penalised, and what you can do about it!

If you have any questions after reading this post or would like us to help you with your SEO, please feel free to reach out to us. We have extensive experience helping companies improve their Google ranking and would love to see how we can best support your business too.

The importance of understanding Google penalties

Understanding what Google penalties are and how you can deal with them is vital to ensure your website performs well and continues doing so in the future. A penalty can completely remove your website from the search results until it is fixed, so avoiding them where possible and fixing them quickly if they do occur is very important.

An image of a Google penalty email received from Google Search Console
An example of a Google penalty email received from Google Search Console

What is a Google penalty?

A Google penalty is a penalty given to a website by Google that reduces its visibility in the SERPs. Websites are penalised when they don’t comply with Google webmaster guidelines, which is most commonly discovered during a manual review of the website.

Sudden drops in search engine traffic can happen for other reasons too. The most notable of these is something often called an algorithmic penalty. Although not technically a penalty, Google’s algorithm is constantly changing and constantly discovering new content. It is common for sudden drops in traffic to be caused by this process.

For example, if the algorithm suddenly discovers a large number of spam links pointing to your website, or that you have started using shady redirecting practices, your rankings could drop suddenly. Since it can take weeks or even months for the negative impact of these changes to show, it often catches website owners by surprise.

The different types of penalties

As mentioned above, there are two main types of Google penalties: manual action penalties and algorithmic penalties. Lower rankings as a result of Google’s algorithm can be caused by a wide range of issues, which are best discovered during an extensive manual audit of your website. Since Google doesn’t see this as a penalty, they don’t communicate what is causing the sudden loss of traffic.

A manual action is a different story…

Google sees manual actions as penalties, and they will let you know if action has been taken to reduce the visibility of a page on your website.

There are various reasons why a website may receive a manual action penalty. Some of these include:

  • Spam
  • Shady/unnatural link building practices
  • Shady redirects
  • Dangerous or harmful content on the site
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Hidden content
  • Hacked website

Although it may seem like these issues could only exist if done on purpose by the website owner, there are many ways in which this can happen by accident. For example, an SEO campaign that’s slightly too aggressive could result in a penalty for unnatural inbound/outbound links, or even for keyword stuffing. Shady redirects could be caused by a hacked website or even a typo when redirecting a page.

This is why understanding the different types of penalties and the things that cause them is so important.

Site-wide vs page-specific penalties

Penalties can either impact a single page or the entire website. Page-specific penalties restrict a single page’s visibility in the SERPs. Although this is still a major issue that should be dealt with as soon as possible, the loss of traffic is restricted to that individual page.

Site-wide penalties restrict your entire website’s visibility in the SERPs and can result in your website receiving nearly no traffic within a day or two. Site-wide penalties are generally considered an emergency and should be prioritized over any other marketing task if they occur. 

How do you know whether Google has penalised your domain?

You can see whether Google has penalized your website in Google Search Console, which will also automatically send you an email if a manual action penalty occurs. Algorithmic penalties are a little different since you won’t get a notification if your page or site drops in the rankings.

An image of Google Search Console showing where to check for manual actions
An image of Google Search Console showing where to check for manual actions

You can see a loss of traffic in Google search console as well as Google Analytics, but they are best combined with a rank tracking/monitoring tool to ensure you are aware of drops in rankings as quickly as possible.

Google penalty recovery

Recovering from a Google penalty can be very challenging, especially if the issue is caused by something outside of your control. It also requires you to communicate with Google directly, which is an art in its own right.

In general, you first have to fix the issue that has caused the penalty. This needs to be done correctly to ensure the reconsideration request is accepted the first time around.

Afterwards, you file a reconsideration request with Google. It’s important to be honest and clearly explain what caused the issue, what you have done to solve the issue and what you will do in future to prevent it from happening again.

If you don’t have any experience with fixing Google penalties, it’s advised you work with an expert. Here at Racer, we specialize in digital marketing and search engine optimization. If you need help improving your search engine rankings or fixing a Google penalty, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

You can find out more about the penalty recovery process here.


There are different types of Google penalties and different reasons that cause them. You should now understand what these penalties are as well as some of the main reasons that cause them, as well as have a general understanding of the recovery process.

Here at Racer, we are experienced in all areas of SEO and can help you quickly and efficiently recover from both manual and algorithmic penalties. Feel free to reach out to us if you’re interested in partnering with an SEO agency in London.

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