34 | Google Penalties; The What, Why & How with Kaspar Szymanski


Kaspar is consulting at Search Brothers. You might remember, his working partner, Fili Wiese, spoke about technical SEO not long ago on this very podcast. Kaspar also used to work at Google and did so for 7 years. He applied penalties in the past so knows what kind of signals Google is looking out for when branding a site with a penalty.

What is a Google Penalty?
A Google penalty is the violation of Webmaster guidelines. There are many types of penalties, with the most common being vastly related to content and on-page signals.  

When websites are compromised. This is when a third party compromises a site and offers deceiving content. It will often be highlighted in Search Console.
User generated content. This is when third parties and users can add content without oversight. This attracts undesirable actions.
Unnatural outbound links. This tactic is spammy and isn’t desirable.
Off page penalties can include excessive inbound links.  
You can read more here: Google Penalties

“Slow Organic Death”
Progressive drops, could be gradual drops. Slow decline without Google highlighting an issue, it’s not a manual action or penalty. It’s a site that doesn’t live up to the expectation as a whole, usually it’s the technical setup or poor content and SEO. The signals given to Google’s algorithm lead to slow decline. Hypothetically speaking, there could be so many things that could be wrong but what could be done is an audit. This should be run on any commercial site at least once a year anyway.

If done in-house then you need a good set of tools. Best case scenario is looking at log files which will help you understand what’s being crawled. It’s often difficult to identify what is happening as it could be legacy/historic backlinks. Get an audit as it offers a fresh perspective.

Neither have to be permanent states. Google is not vindictive and keeps no grudge against someone’s site. Any site can and should do really well again so there is no such thing as a permanently tainted website if you did get a penalty.

Consequences of a Penalty
Firstly, you will know you have a penalty because you would usually get a warning or message saying so in Search Console. It often even says why making it useful for recovery.

Loss of Google trust.
Loss of real estate/share.
Loss of Organic traffic.
You can fall out of Google’s grace and SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) almost overnight.
Resulting in drops in revenue.
What to do if you had a Google Penalty?
See the message in Search Console and find out the issue.
Research and gather information so the issue can be avoided in the future. This is also good as rational to submit to Google. Unfortunately you can’t ask Google for help as there is no dedicated channel for that. Apart from maybe via Twitter and speaking to people like John Muller. There are also Webmaster help forums which may be a good place to start.
Run a full technical SEO audit/report. This will be a guidance compliance audit too.
After investigation, remedy the issue.
Formal step to remedy it by offering commentary of what has been changed on the site via Search Console and request a consideration. There’s no guaranteed time for Google to address the request (could be hours or 1 day but the norm is much longer; 8 weeks the longest.)
Penalties can sometimes expire without a reconsideration but may take an excruciatingly long time.
Good examples of Google penalties are covered on the podcast.

Asking Google for a Reconsideration
An investigation may have to be done again as sometimes what has been done wasn’t enough. Occasionally Google offers additional information but Kaspar says don’t count on it. You currently can apply for reconsideration as many times as you please but this should be avoided.

Best practice is to get it right the first time!

Penalties & Algorithm Updates
Google releases several updates every single day and vast majority these are unnoticed. Kaspar suggested that unless you are a total SEO buff, then there’s no need to follow closely with industry news. It doesn’t translate to the average site and there are no actionable insights as one doesn’t have the full picture when looking at other people’s sites. Every site and industry is different.

Related Episodes

Technical SEO with Fili Wiese

Technical Bugbears with Google – Simon Cox

Music credit: I Dunno (Grapes of Wrath Mix) by spinningmerkaba (c) copyright 2017 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/jlbrock44/56346 Ft: Jlang, 4nsic, grapes.


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