The Step-by-Step Guide to Fixing Any Google Penalty  

penalty

Google penalties aren’t new, but they’re still a huge concern for SEOs.

It’s scary to think that organic search traffic can be virtually wiped out overnight. You could go from wildly profitable to just getting by—if you get hit by a penalty.

In case you’re brand new to SEO, here’s the short version of what penalties are:

If you violate Google’s guidelines (and get caught), Google will slap your site with a penalty so that all your search engine rankings decline dramatically (often 50+ spots each).

Despite your best efforts to comply with Google’s guidelines and recommendations, you may still get hit with a penalty.

Some penalties can be caused by factors completely out of your control such as negative SEO attacks.

And they’re pretty common: Matt Cutts has said that over 400,000 manual penalties are doled out every month.

Regardless of what triggered the penalty, and whether it’s for a personal site or a client’s, you need to be able to diagnose what caused it and fix it. In most cases, you can get almost all of your search traffic back in the short-term. 

Before we get started, I want to reiterate the devastating effect of being penalized.

Google is by far the biggest search engine, responsible for 68.3 percent of searches. To get an idea of the size of the search engine, consider this: it handled over 12.6 billion searches in October 2014.

To put it simply: Google represents a huge source of potential organic traffic.

But the quality of that traffic is what always amazes me. Fifty-seven percent of B2B marketers say SEO has the biggest impact on lead generation.

In addition, typical outbound marketing leads have a 1.7% conversion rate. But organic search leads? They have an amazing 14.6% close rate.

If you’re ready to get rid of any penalties holding back your organic search traffic or you’d just like to prepare for future problems, let’s get started.

Follow this step-by-step guide to fixing any Google penalty.

Step 1: The 2 types of penalties (and how to tell which one you have)

One potential challenge is determining which penalty (or penalties) are affecting your site.

Sometimes it’s really easy, but sometimes it takes some digging, which I’ll show you in a second.

The first thing you need to know is that a traffic drop does not always mean you were penalized.

In many cases, traffic drops can be caused by technical issues:

  • server issues
  • robots.txt blocking access
  • crawling issues
  • improper redirects

In addition, a traffic drop can be caused by other factors. For example, if you’re in a seasonal niche, traffic will vary dramatically depending on the time of the year.

Traffic drops can also be caused by algorithm changes or changes in the SERP layout. These are typically small changes, but if Google adds a big carousel to your main keywords search results, it can have a fairly big effect on your search traffic.

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There are many things that can indicate a penalty on a site:

  • page rank (PR) goes to zero—if you’re fixing a really old site since PR is no longer updated
  • traffic drops on individual pages
  • traffic drops on specific keywords
  • a big traffic drop overall
  • a significant number of pages get de-indexed
  • an entire site gets de-indexed

Penalties come in all shapes and sizes, so there isn’t exactly one definitive sign of a penalty.

As I said at the start of this section, there are two main types of penalties, and they need to be treated differently.

Penalty type #1 – Manual: Google employs manual quality raters. It’s impossible for the current algorithms to detect all types of guideline violations accurately. Sites can be flagged as potential guideline violators and then evaluated by the quality raters.

If the quality rater sees something fishy going on, they can give you a penalty.

The good news is that unless you’re doing something shady on purpose, you’re not very likely to ever face a manual penalty. For example, not long ago, there were mass manual penalties given to sites that obviously tried to use private blog networks (PBNs) to boost rankings.

The other good thing is that Google is pretty transparent about these penalties.

To check for any manual penalties, log into Google Search Console (SC, formerly Webmaster Tools).

You can see a penalty in two places. When you get penalized, you will usually get a message about it.

Click on “All Messages” in your main account dashboard (to see messages for all sites), or click on “Messages” on the side menu for any individual site.

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Alternatively, you can look in the “Search Traffic > Manual Actions” section of the menu. Hopefully, it says you have no penalties, but you might see something like this:

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There are many different types of manual penalties. Some will be site-wide, while others may only affect specific pages.

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Note that if you’re investigating an old penalty, it’s possible for the penalty to have expired. All manual penalties expire at one point or another although some last much longer than others.

If the penalty expires, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you fixed the issue (although you might have). If you haven’t, you’ll likely get hit again if you ever have another manual review.

Ideally, the only message you will see in that section is “No manual webspam actions found.”

Penalty type #2 – Algorithmic: If you think you have a penalty but you can’t see any manual actions in SC, it’s probably an algorithmic penalty. Essentially, Google creates different algorithms to detect spam and other violations, and when it finds something, it penalizes the site.

The annoying part about these penalties is that you don’t get a nice clear message in SC or anywhere else. You’ll need to do a bit of investigating to figure out what your penalty was caused by.

To recognize which algorithm(s) “hit” your site, you need to match the date when you saw the penalty occur (sharp traffic drop or index issue) with the date when Google ran one of its algorithms.

If you continuously monitor your site’s search engine health, you’ll have a much easier time with this because you’ll know that the current algorithm that every SEO news site is talking about is the one affecting you.

If the penalty occurred in the past, don’t worry—you can still figure it out.

The first step is to identify when the penalty hit you. For this, you’ll want to use SC, Google Analytics (GA), or both.

If it’s a traffic issue, GA is the easiest. If it’s an indexing issue, you’ll need SC.

For a traffic issue, log into GA, and select a wide date range in your default audience overview panel. The day you were hit by the penalty should be pretty obvious:

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Mark down the date for later.

If it’s an indexing issue, go to “Google Index > Index Status” in SC, and see where the drop occurred.

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In this case, you’ll likely have to record a date range of when the indexing issue began since it’s not usually as clear as traffic drops.

Now, you have two options to identify which algorithm caused your penalty.

The first is the manual option. Go to Moz’s algorithm calendar to see when past algorithms were run. Find the date that you had written down for your traffic drop and see which algorithms occurred before or on that date (sometimes it takes a few days for an algorithm to fully run).

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In most cases, you can be pretty confident that you’ve identified the algorithm that caused your penalty.

The other option is to use a tool such as the Panguin Tool. To use it, you have to log in with your GA account. It will then line up a graph of your traffic with lines that indicate when algorithms were run:

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If you’re a visual person, this might be easier.

Now that you know whether your penalty is manual or algorithmic (and which one in particular), your next step is to understand what the penalty was for.

Each algorithm targets a different type of violation. So if you understand the algorithm that affected you, you’ll know which violation you need to fix.

Step 2:  Understand your penalty

Now I’m going to outline all the most common penalties that affect sites. Note that there may be others affecting you—it’s just pretty rare.

Let’s start with the most common manual penalties.

Unnatural links: Google uses the backlinks pointing to your site as a measure of its quality. Of course, Google only wants to count “natural” backlinks that were created without your involvement.

There’s a little bit of a grey area when it comes to the question what is or isn’t an “unnatural” link, but if your link looks like a paid link or part of a link scheme, Google won’t like it.

Unnatural link actions come in a few different forms.

First, you may see “Unnatural links to your site—impacts links.” This manual action isn’t actually a penalty. If Google determines that some links aren’t legitimate, it may discount their linking value altogether and give you this message. No action on your part is required although you may want to look into why you’re attracting shady links.

Second, you might just see “Unnatural links to your site.” This is the bad one. Essentially, Google has seen that these unnatural links make up such a big part of your link profile that it labeled your site as untrusted. This penalty will affect your traffic.

This is why negative SEO can be effective. If someone sends a ton of spammy links to a small website, that changes the site’s link profile a lot. But if they send them to a site like Quick Sprout, it won’t have much of an effect. That’s why Quick Sprout hasn’t gotten a penalty like this even though others have pointed unnatural links to the site.

Finally, you can also get a manual action for having “Unnatural links from your site.” This refers to the links on your site—the links in your content. If you’re linking out a ton using suspicious exact anchor text or have site-wide links to spammy sites (among other things), you could get hit with this.

This penalty also needs to be fixed. Sometimes it will be a site-wide penalty, but it will often be placed on just a few pages if it’s a localized issue.

Thin/Duplicate content: Google’s primary goal is to help users find what they’re looking for. If the first page in your search query returns pages of regurgitated information, essentially saying the same thing, you’d feel frustrated.

This is bad for the searcher, so Google actively tries to reduce the amount of thin or duplicate content that shows up in search results. These pages are defined as producing “little or no added value.” It includes:

  • automatically generated content
  • thin affiliate pages
  • content from other sources. e.g., scraped content or low-quality guest posts
  • doorway pages

This manual action shows up as “Thin content with little or no added value” in SC.

This penalty can have varying levels of impact on your search traffic. Usually it reduces a site’s traffic by 5-50% (a big deal) depending on the severity of the issue.

Spam: There are also a few manual actions related to spam. Spam can mean a wide variety of things. It includes excessive or malicious cloaking, scraping content, automatically generated content, and more.

It’s rare to get the “pure spam” penalty unless you created a spam site on purpose. At this point you’re probably better off starting from scratch.

However, other spam penalties can also hurt your traffic and aren’t necessarily your fault. For example, the “User-generated spam” message refers to things like spam in comments or forum profiles. These can be cleaned up with a bit of work, and your traffic will go back to normal.

Another manual action is “Spammy freehosts.” Spammers typically use cheap or free web hosts. If a host primarily hosts spam sites, Google may penalize all sites on that web host. If you picked the wrong host, you’ll need to find a new one.

Those are the most common manual actions taken on websites.

Now, let’s get into the algorithmic penalties, which cause a ton of trouble for website owners.

The Panda algorithm: The Panda update was first released in 2011. It made a huge impact on the search results. Since then, it’s been released about once per month, although the frequency has gone down over time.

You have to remember that Google keeps its algorithms as secret as possible. For Panda, webmasters were told that it was an algorithm that looked at content quality. It was intended to prevent low-quality, or “shallow,” content from appearing in search results.

The problem with that is knowing what low-quality content is. Google has a list of over 20 open-ended questions that help you determine that:

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Which isn’t very helpful…

SEOs, journalists, and others have since analyzed the updates to learn more about Panda and make it a bit less vague.

It turns out that Panda actually penalizes sites for a variety of reasons:

  • poorly written content
  • “shallow” content (too brief or short to be valuable)
  • substantial duplicate content (either copied from elsewhere on site or another site)
  • content that adds no real value

Content farms composed of hundreds of thousands of short, brief keywords focused around long-tail keywords got hit the worst initially.

The surprising part of Panda is that even if you have issues only on one part of your site, the entire site could be penalized. Panda penalties can also be quite severe. Some sites lost virtually all organic search traffic overnight.

Google was granted a patent for Panda in 2014, which cleared up things further. It’s pretty bland and technical, but essentially what it says is that Google creates a site-wide modification factor based on quality factors (listed above), inbound links, and brand searches.

If a site doesn’t meet a certain score, the modification factor is applied to the entire site. This is why the entire site can be affected even if there is only a small number of low quality pages.

The Penguin algorithm: The other groundbreaking algorithm, aside from Panda, is Penguin.

It works in a similar way, run every once in a while. The first version was released in 2012, affecting over 3% of queries (huge).

It hit the offending sites really hard:

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Unlike Panda, which is about content quality, Penguin is mainly about a site’s backlinks. The algorithm was designed to find unnatural link patterns.

There are many different unnatural link patterns that could get your site into trouble. Here are the main potential backlink factors:

  • link velocity – a site should naturally gain links over time. It’s rare for a site to have a sudden large influx of links and then a drop off to very few (common with spam).
  • link quality – a natural site will have a mix of high and low quality backlinks. An unnatural site could have a strangely high number of low quality links or a strangely high proportion of very high quality links.
  • link diversity – if 90% of your backlink profile comes from blog comments, it’s unnatural. Similarly, backlinks should have varied anchor text. If all links have the same anchor text, you’re likely trying to manipulate the search engine to rank for that phrase.

Note that Penguin is a page-specific penalty. If you get hit by it, it may affect your overall traffic (because those strong pages no longer pass authority), but your other pages still have an opportunity to rank.

In some cases, Penguin can find unnatural links and will discount their value without penalizing you. If you only experienced a small traffic drop after an update, this is likely what happened. The devalued links were helping you rank before, but now they don’t count for anything.

You should also know that Penguin is a massive algorithm. In the past, it’s taken more than a few weeks to run it fully. If your traffic dropped weeks after a Penguin update started, it could still be what penalized your site.

Finally, remember that Penguin is algorithmic, while those unnatural link actions in SC are manual penalties. They have nothing to do with each other, and it’s actually possible to get hit by both.

Other less common animal-themed penalties: Panda and Penguin are the two most common algorithms that cause penalties, but they are not the only ones. Google releases more than 500 algorithm updates per year; some just make more of an impact than others.

Other fairly well-known algorithm updates that may have affected your search engine traffic are:

  • The Pigeon algorithm – an update that changed how Google served results for local searches
  • The Payday algorithm – an update specifically targeting very spammy queries (think diet pills, gambling, etc.)
  • The Mobile-Friendly update (“Mobilegeddon”) – focused on returning results that are mobile-friendly on mobile searches

Step 3: Identifying and fixing all relevant problems

You should have a good idea of why you were penalized at this point.

Some issues are easy. If you have unnatural links pointing out, reduce the number of links you have in your content, and don’t link out to too many low-authority sites. If you have spam on your site (comments, user-generated content), delete it, and stay on top of it in the future.

A few of the penalties aren’t quite as simple, and that’s what I’ll be going over now.

Fixing unnatural links (manual penalty): The “unnatural links to your site” penalty is one of the most tedious and time-consuming penalties to fix, but it needs to be done.

The first step is to find the unnatural links, which means you need a list of all the backlinks pointing to your site.

Although you can get a portion of them from SC, you’ll need to use a paid service such as Ahrefs or Majestic if you want a complete list. This is important because without a complete list, you won’t be able to fix the issue and get the penalty lifted.

Search your domain name in either backlink database tool, and click on “inbound links”:

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This will bring up a list of all the backlinks they have in their databases. You can click “export” to download a CSV file (open in Excel or Google Sheets).

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Now you need to figure out which links are unnatural. The problem, as you might guess, is that it’s going to be hard to go through a few hundred thousand backlinks if you have a big site.

In that case, you can use an appropriate tool to flag possible unnatural links. There are a number of such tools, e.g.,

All of these work the same way. You can enter your domain or upload your list of links, and the tool will analyze them using its own secret formulas.

Although these aren’t cheap, if you’ve lost thousands of visitors (or more) from a penalty, they’re worth it.

In addition, they have other useful features to help identify penalties easier and even to make email outreach more efficient (I’ll get to why in a second), which will save you time and money:

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In any case, you’ll now have a list of high risk links:

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Not all of these are bad. Although these tools can catch obvious bad or good links, they’re far from 100% accurate. What they should be used for is to narrow down the best and the worst. Everything else needs to be inspected manually—yes, this will take a lot of time.

Some unnatural links are easier to spot than others. They might be unnatural if they:

  • contain “SEO” words in the URL – such as “links”, “seo”, “directory”, etc.
  • are forum profiles
  • blog comments with anchor text other than a real name
  • are a poorly written article or clearly spun
  • from a site that’s very generic and doesn’t look like a real brand

Mark down all of the links that you think Google might consider unnatural. Even though this is subjective, you don’t necessarily need to be perfect to get the penalty removed.

The first and best option is to remove the links. Google expects you to make a real effort before removing any penalty.

If you have control of the linking site, remove the link—easy. This is possible if you built a ton of low-quality web 2.0 sites, used article directories, or created a private blog network.

In most cases, you won’t control the linking site, so you’ll have to ask the owner to remove it for you. If it’s a forum profile or another link that the site owner can’t control, mark it down for the second option.

You should have a list of all the links you’d like to remove in a spreadsheet. Now you need to find contact information, ideally at least the name and email address of each site owner.

You can do it all manually, visiting each site and finding a contact page or email address, or you can use a fairly inexpensive contact finding tool such as Contact Finder.

Simply enter a domain or, even better, a list of URLs into the tool:

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Then it goes and tracks down multiple ways of contacting authors on that site:

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If you have a ton of URLs to sort through, this will save you hours.

Finally, you need to send an email and ask the owner to remove the link (this is where that Link Detox feature is helpful). Try to craft the best email you can—you need to successfully remove at least some links if you want to get the penalty lifted:

  • be polite
  • try to find the person’s name
  • send one email per domain (even if there are multiple links)
  • keep it short

Here’s a template you could use:

Hi [name],

I’ve recently gotten a message from Google that says my website – [website name] – has unnatural links pointing towards it, which I’ve been penalized for. I’m currently trying to remove any potential unnatural links.

A link analysis tool has flagged a few links from your site to mine as potentially unnatural links:

[list_of_links_here]

I’d be grateful if you could remove the links to my site.

Please let me know if you can help me out.

Thanks,

[your name]

The second option is to submit a disavow file. This is a list of URLs or domains that you’re telling Google to ignore.

It’s pretty simple:

  • you can add comments by starting a line with “#”
  • when disavowing an entire domain (recommended), start the line with “domain:” and don’t include anything after the extension (no slashes or text)
  • put one domain or URL per line

This will be an important part of getting the penalty removed. I’ll go into much more detail about it in the next section of this post.

Fixing thin content: If your site has a ton of 300-500 word articles that don’t add much value, you have two options:

  1. rewrite them to make them valuable
  2. delete them

Either option will work, so it’s up to you.

Duplicate content is also a fairly easy fix in most cases. You can either delete it or add a canonical link.

To find duplicate content on your site, start with SC.

Go to “Search appearance > HTML improvements” to see if you have any issues:

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Click the number to see specific cases of duplicate content.

Alternatively, you can use a tool such as Siteliner. Enter your domain, and it will find any duplicate content, plus sort it by percent match:

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Note that the free version only covers scanning of 250 URLs, so large sites will have to either upgrade or rely on SC.

Fixing a Panda penalty: It’s important to understand that both Panda and Penguin are algorithmic penalties. Even if you fix the issue, you will have to wait until the algorithm is run again to see if you were successful.

Since a Panda penalty can be triggered by many different things, here is a list of most common fixes you should implement:

  • get rid of any thin or duplicate content (see above)
  • create unique meta tags and titles for each page (if not done already)
  • go through all articles to see if they read awkwardly: if the keyword seems forced, replace it with a synonym
  • reduce or eliminate any link cloaking

Fixing a Penguin penalty: Although you’ll have to wait for the next refresh for Penguin as well, the good news is that Penguin will soon begin refreshing continuously. It’s been quite a while between the last few updates, but both major algorithms should run more often at some point in the future.

The first thing you can do (but don’t necessarily have to) is remove any unnatural links, using that tedious and time-consuming process I outlined for a manual unnatural link penalty.

There are other causes for a Penguin penalty. The bad part? You can’t do much about them.

If your link velocity is screwed up because you previously bought links or someone attacked your site, you can’t do anything to fix it. Most of these are low-quality links, so if you follow the removal and disavow steps, it might be enough to get your penalty removed.

Most SEO experts don’t spend too much time removing low-quality links after a Penguin penalty because of link decay. After about a year, most of these links will “disappear.”

The better use of time and resources is to invest into attracting more high-quality backlinks. Remember, Penguin is based on some sort of ratio between low-quality and high-quality links. While you can improve that ratio by removing low-quality links, you can also improve it by adding high-quality ones.

Due to the length of time between Penguin penalties and degree of ambiguity behind them, removing one is not easy. That being said, it is possible.

Step 4: (for manual penalties) Put your best foot forward and ask for reconsideration

If you were hit by a manual action, you can submit a reconsideration request (also called a review request). In effect, this means that you believe that you’ve taken sufficient action to fix the problem and to ensure it won’t happen again.

Once the request is sent to Google, a new manual quality rater is assigned to revisit and re-evaluate your site. If they are satisfied, the manual action will be lifted.

To submit a review request, go back into SC and find the manual action under “Search Traffic > Manual Actions.” For each manual action applied to your site, you can click the red “request a review” button to bring up a form:

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This is where you’ll write and submit your reconsideration request.

Now, the actual process of submitting the request is simple. You just type in the box (or copy and paste from somewhere else), and click submit. What isn’t simple is gathering what you need to include in the reconsideration request.

You need to take the time to fill out your request correctly. A large portion of these requests are rejected, and sometimes it takes multiple requests to finally get one approved.

Part #1 – fix ALL the issues (and document them): At this point, you already know why you were penalized and what you need to do to fix the underlying issue.

The next step is to actually fix the issues and to record your progress. When you submit a reconsideration request, the manual reviewer won’t just take your word for it when you say you fixed things. You need to compile documents and spreadsheets that prove you really did what you said.

Here are a few examples of what Google suggests to include:

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This is extremely important if you have a penalty for unnatural links. If your penalty is for something that’s an on-site issue, then the screenshots aren’t as important as the reviewer can see the final result.

Part #2 – Why did it happen?: If possible, explain why the issue came up in the first place. For example, if you have an unnatural links penalty, you could explain that you hired an SEO company that you trusted, but then you found out that they were building unnatural links.

Part #3 – How did you fix it?: Explain how you fixed the issue in a step-by-step procedure.

Google wants to see that you made a real effort to fix the problem yourself.

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This is where it’s important to include any supporting documentation that proves your efforts. While you can’t attach a file to the request, you can include a link to a Google Doc or other online file.

Part #4 – How will you prevent it from happening again?: The final part of a reconsideration request is basically telling Google that you learned your lesson.

If you built bad links that led to the penalty, you can write a few paragraphs about your understanding of the fact that your actions were against Google’s quality guidelines and that you understand what the guidelines are for. Write to show the reviewer that you won’t try to manipulate Google in the future.

Step 5: Don’t get penalized again…

I don’t think I need to tell you how much time can be wasted fixing these penalties.

The best-case scenario is to not get penalized again. There are three main ways to drastically reduce your chances of a future penalty.

Plan #1 – Perform regular audits: It’s important to ensure that your site remains in Google’s good graces. Perform both technical SEO audits and content audits on a regular basis.

This involves:

  • monitoring links – use whatever link database you want to monitor your backlinks. If you see that someone pointed 10,000 spam links towards your site, disavow them before they can cause any problems.
  • check SC messages often – if your site gets hacked, you will get a message so that you can fix the issue before too much damage is done.

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  • check for duplicate content – use the tools outlined in the above sections to test for duplicate content. This is especially important if you own a site that allows user-generated content.
  • don’t allow spammy blog comments – I love to encourage readers to comment on my posts, but you don’t want people to comment just for the sake of getting a backlink. These are typically one-line comments with a keyword in the user name. Don’t approve these.

Sometimes, penalties are out of your control, but performing audits every few weeks or months can help you spot most issues before they result in a penalty.

Plan #2 – Monitor SEO sites: Google changes its quality guidelines on an on-going basis. They evolve with the Internet. In the beginning, getting exact anchor text links was a good thing, but now such links can get you penalized.

It’s important to monitor SEO blogs and news sites to make sure you know about any big changes that could lead to being penalized in the future. It’s better to be proactive about fixing violations than trying to fix a penalty.

Quick Sprout is a good place to start, but so are SEO news sites like Search Engine Land and the Moz blog.

Plan #3 – Avoid the shortcut: Building traffic to a site isn’t easy, especially if you’re a beginner SEO/marketer. When you see someone on a forum claiming to be getting tens of thousands of visitors a month to their site with blackhat techniques, it’s tempting to use those techniques as well.

But remember that any successful site took years to build. It took me over three years to get 100,000 visitors per month to Quick Sprout. Those rare blackhat success stories don’t last—they get penalized eventually.

Conclusion

Penalties are a part of SEO, and they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

You need to not only understand what penalties are but also how to identify and fix them. I’ve given you five really in-depth steps that show you exactly how to do this.

If you’re a professional SEO, add penalty evaluation and removal to your arsenal.

If you’re a business owner, you can use this guide to fix any existing penalties you have and protect your site in the future. As you can see, it can take a lot of work and expertise, so if you know that you have a penalty, it may be worth hiring an SEO expert to help you out.

To wrap up, I’d like to ask you to share any stories of being penalized and how you’ve tried to fix them in the past. Please leave me a comment below with the details.

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Comments

  1. Google-Penalty title is quite scary in itself.But Neil covered almost covered everything in the article to recover from the google penalty.
    But I would like to say there are more things which can easily cause google penalty for any site.
    -> Using too much unnatural ads on your homepage can easily cause penalty.Few days back by mistake I installed W3 super cache plugin & super cache plugin on my blog http://www.shouterbuzz.com which caused me google penalty It took me few days to figure out the problem.
    Loved the article 🙂

  2. It’s one of the scariest things getting a Google penalty especially if you’re #1 source of traffic is the SEs. That’s why it’s very important to diversify and try and get a spread of sources and therefore a spread of risk.

    If one source drops off, how much business will you lose? It’s a question everyone should ask about their traffic.

  3. I thought today was the day for the monthly update.

    However, I feel that the post has to have something about the recent mobile-friendly update.

    Nonetheless, this is still gold, if not a diamond. 😉

  4. Thank’s.
    What do you think latest update that is rolling now?

  5. Thanks neil sir I was waiting for this article on Fixing Any Google Penalty for a long.Actually I build many backlinks which affected my site http://www.alltechytricks.com Which is slowly recovering. Hope you post more such articles.

  6. Hi Neil,

    You’ve covered this so well. This is something very scary for the website owners and you did it exceptionally well to touch each and every point in detail.

    Thanks & regards

    Sunil

  7. Great Article as usual. I have a question regarding “Plan #3 – Avoid the shortcut”, though:
    If I am not mistaken, in your 100k challenge with the fitness website, you started on purpose buying facebook “likes” targeting english speakers.

    It was clear to you that those thousands likes were not useful in terms of engagement, or brand awareness or anything else BUT the “hope” to capture many other real users (users are more likely to follow a page with thousands likes than 0).

    Is this a shortcut? Is this legit or it could be a reason of penalty in some way? I know I am talking about Facebook page and not google, but I am still interested in your point of view.

    Many thanks!

  8. Neil,

    I am interested in this post from a strategy angle. It is surely more of a niche audience. (People who have been penalized vs people looking to grow traffic w SEO). That being said the smaller segment of people would be very qualified potential customers since they are likely losing money.

    Do you categorize your posts along your funnel? Top of the funnel general traffic building vs posts like this to target customers?

    Awesome in depth article!

    Nate Johnson

  9. Hello Neil,
    Great insights on Google Penalty! Everyone should take care of each and every points so that we could stay safe from the upcoming google updates.

  10. Is it coincident ? I’ve got Manual Actions on all ( 5+ ) sites on my Google Search Console,

    The Penalty is : Thin / Duplicate Content

    My Traffic Gone 95% Down = Revenue Down as well 🙁

    By going through my activity, i came to know that i’ve created door way pages & created similar blog posts with no/less change in the content.

    I’ve applied for Reconsideration for 3 sites out of which only One site got Manual Action Revoked.

    Now after revoke, i see the Rankings are altered or moved down for keywords which ranked Top pre ” penalty ” action .

    Learned some lessons ofcourse at a huge cost 🙁 .

    Hoping to recover & concentrate on Site Content’s quality More rather than quantity of articles .

    Thanks Neil ! It really will help many buddies out like me .

  11. I love your post! Tnx, Neil! 🙂

  12. I suspect that my client’s website is being hit by google for something. I have been working on it for quite some time and results aren’t great. I also see that some nefarious SEO practices were used before I took over. Those are what I need to correct. Your article is extremely actionable and I am anxious to apply your advice to my client’s website. Much appreciated!

  13. Hi Neil, I have been doing Google Algorithm recovery since 2012. I was learning the session about Google Penalty When I get started and still learning. Your Shown steps are really informative to recover Google Penalty. I just added few more resources on my bookmark by your post. Thanks for the resources.

  14. I think this is the best article I’ve read from you yet Neil, I bookmark very few links these days but this one get’s the Command-D!

    I’ve never personally experienced a Google Penalty but over the years a lot of my clients have. Most of the time it’s been due to some fast and loose spammy content of a hacked WordPress install, but occasionally we’ve dealt with “sudden and unexplainable” which has required a lot of digging.

    As scary and confusing as this is for all of us, I’m relieved by the fact that Google does not seem to actually be capricious — they’re trying to “think like a human” as much as possible, and then reward sites that deliver actual value…and the only want to do that is by penalizing those that they think don’t.

    Consequently, I love how Neil is always emphasizing the importance of delivering value through the content we post. In my simplistic mind, as long as I focus on that, Google will smile on me.

    Another great resource along this line would be https://copyhackers.com.

    Thanks again Neil!

  15. Hi Neil,

    Thanks for your yet another awesome post.

    You know I’ve been thinkibg; Is there a way to protect your site from negative SEO?

  16. Hi Neil Patel, I was penalized by Google and I’m desperate to correct the error, but I believe it is excessive keyword.

    I will follow your guide to fix my site.

    I’m waiting for you here in Brazil for the Fire 2015 event, Neil.

  17. Thanks for covering this Neil.I have the thin content notice in webmaster tools. However my content provides value, is over 1500 words, no dupe content etc but it is an affiliate site in the ecig niche which I feel like is what the penalty is all about.ive asked for reconsiderations and further clarification of what I can do to no avail. What can I do about this? Have u heard or believe of penalties regarding certain niches?

    • Tamara, I am not familiar with that niche but I think you should focus on how the penalties arose — maybe you violated some soft internet law on promotion?

  18. Hi Neil
    Great information. This is a new topic for me. Thanks for sharing.

  19. Manual Penalties are easier to fix, while the algo. penalties are a pain in the butt.

    I was hit with algorithm penalty. Funny Timing of this post.

    It’s not cheap or fast to remove penalties large scale links… It took forever to clean up 10,000 back-links to my blog. with link-detox ($150 a month)
    I did a massive link disavow, and deleted a bunch of thin content, added faster theme, CND loaded media, etc, etc.. hopefully, I’ll see some positive movement.

    Also thanks for the reference to Siteliner, I haven’t used it before, and I am going to double check my websites with it. 🙂

  20. bro i dont you how you manage all this.This is such a huge article to read. How you even wrote it

  21. This is a great article for SEO people. I really appreciate your efforts to explain things in simple language. Kudos!

  22. I had a site I was working get all their backlinks removed from google search console. They appear still in Moz though. Weird.

  23. Very detailed post. Thanks Neil

  24. Hi Neil,

    I love your articles.You add value in all of your articles.

    If a website is hit by a penguin update.Is there any way that we we can send Google an email and let them know that we have made all the changes?

    We have already used the disavow tool and all the links have been removed.Nothing has changed yet.

    Thanks
    Jay

  25. Hi Neil,

    Another good piece right here, from you.

    Thank you for pointing out that traffic is also affected by the changing demands of keywords, like seasonal changes. I will definitely make this a reference to back my claims whenever a client may ask.

    Thanks.

    Now, I also understand the advantages of having lines under or up to 100 characters (as mentioned from your previous post). It’s more comfortable to read than blogs having length that reaches both sides of the screen.

    I speed read, I think most of us do now and it’s more comfortable to read blogs, formatted like yours.

    Maybe you can edit your previous post and add that speed reading is a common skill and that may be a good reason to keep the lines close to 100 characters including white spaces? I don’t know, just a thought. You know, speed reading is more comfortable when you only have to keep your head steady.

    Regards,
    Ross

  26. Really nice post about google penalty. One should know this if he is in SEO field. Thanks for share.

  27. This is very brilliant Neil,
    I know lots of people that has this same question….. How to recover from Google penalty.

    In fact, its much easier to get into Googles trap than it is to get out of it. I have a friend who abandoned his profitable site because it was hit and he tried all he could to reverse it all to no avail and at the end, he got tired and decided to leave the site. Will refer him to this post though.

    I’m sure many people will find this one very handy Neil.

    Thanks for sharing.

  28. Hey Neil,

    Hope you are doing well, I got your newsletter yesterday but unable to find this important post. so, i have bookmarked this page for today. finally i got something important about aid for Google penalty.

    I’m sure plenty of peoples are waiting for this post.

    Thank you,

    Have a nice day!

    @AMRahulSharma

  29. A question if anyone can help re: penalties! My team are currently working on content/SEO for a website that was previously hacked, Google have now resolved and cleared the page of any wrong-doing – However, in Google search, the homepage meta descriptions and titles don’t show, however it all shows correctly in every other search engine?

    Instead of correct description, all that shows up under the website link is:

    “????. Copyright©2014 http://www.reversespeech.com All Rights Reserved.”

    This is not in the source code at all, any ideas of how to be rid of this copyright and Chinese text so that google can pick-up the correct description??!!

  30. Hi Neil,
    I have wallpaper website. I publish daily 2-3 wallpapers with 50-60 words description below it. Would you think that my website has thin content?

  31. Hey Neil,

    Hope you’re doing good. These precautions are much needed for me. Thanks for sharing with us.

    • Martin, glad you found the post helpful.

    • Fantastic site you have here but I was curious about if you knew off any forums that cover the same topics talked
      about in this article? I’d really love to be a part of online community
      where I can get responses from other experienced individuals thjat share the saqme
      interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me
      know. Thank you!

  32. Hi, Neil

    Another great article, Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us.

    I have a questions that – How we can fix soft 404 error shown in webmaster tool?

    Thanks!

  33. Hi Neil, awesome and in depth content as usual.

    I have seen that your website http://neilpatel.com domain authority has increased 46 to 57 in last few days, it’s an ineradicable achievement . You are a genius..

  34. WOW! The Google Penalty topic has been discussed and elaborated many times on the public forums and blogs, but the way you presented it, it still smells as if all fresh info. I take this article as an excellent example of making use of content easily available on the internet and put together to get a new “Unique” content! 🙂

  35. Hey Neil,

    But if I have bad link from Irrelevant directory website, How can we remove that directory link, If they don’t have any contact address!
    Please do needful!

  36. Arg – Neil!

    Penalties – in Google speak, are only ever Manual.
    There is no such thing as an Algorithmic Penalty (not according to Google :D).
    It’s an automated ranking adjustment and/or filter that is triggered due to one or more “issues” being detected.

    Being hit by an algorithm can be a general nightmare – and for many, you might as well just quit.
    Google hates that being suggested – but tough on G.
    The chances are that you will never fully recover.
    Further, even with more rapid/frequent rollouts, there is no guarantee that you will be included in that rollout. You may have missed the “in” date, you may have missed some of the required fixes etc. So you may be down for 2 periods or more.
    Further, there is the “Trust” damage – you’ve been tagged, and you will stay “tagged” for a long time (as far as I know, there are some cases where a DomainName has a black mark – and it cannot be removed. So you even have to be careful when being a Domain Name that was previously owned!).
    (Yes, that last bit means that (unless G have actually bothered to fix their stupidity) thanks to a large number of SEOMorons, there are now hundreds/thousands of domains that are blackened and start off with a lack of trust, and may always have those black marks.)

    The other big negative here is the collateral damage.
    G are aware that they occasionally hit innocent sites.
    When that happens – there is technically nothing you can do.
    As there is nothing to fix, all you can do is wait for G to tweak their settings and do the rollouts and hope you get back “in” (the whole time you are losing business without a reason, and afterwards you may always have a black mark).
    The problem here is that the Algo-system G have is automated and black-boxed/fenced.
    They cannot actually “see” what is going on inside. Numbers go in, results come out, and they cannot “fix” anything that is wrong (apart from twiddling the numbers going in, or tweaking what creates the results). They cannot white-list a domain, they cannot untick a “hit” box to remove the erroneous algo from affecting that domain.
    It sucks, but if you are innocent and hit … you’re screwed.
    (All you can do is try to talk to a Googler, get some SEOs to look over a domain and state they see nothing wrong … and get some publicity to help offset the negatives.)

    Negative SEO – is actually a long established issue (G was tackling it long before the general SEO community even had a name for it). G have numerous features in place to identify it, and it’s one of the reasons G spent years simply “discounting” and “devaluing” rather than punishing sites that breached the guidelines.
    Now that G have all those lovely unnatural link patterns (likely including NSEO ones), they can happily kick scummy link practitioners to the curb, with little worry over hitting innocent sites (does happen, and I detest G’s approach to that!).
    I think in all my years, I’ve only ever seen 9 occasions of SEO, and only seen 1.5 occurrences that worked (to a limited degree)(so we’re talking less than 1% occurrence, and 0.1% or so effective occurrences).

    And I’ll finish off with stupidity and mistakes.
    The times I’ve been called to look into a potential algo hit … and found that some idiot has used the URL removal tool, or blocked google bot, or somehow included NoIndex http responses etc.
    So, before hitting that big red panic buttons – go make some basic checks!
    Make sure you haven’t blocked the bot with robots.txt, noindexed your pages (meta and xhttp).
    Make sure you haven’t misdirected the bots (setup redirects to the wrong domain/page, caused redirect loops or excessive redirect chains – or the same using the Canonical Link Element!).
    Make sure that you haven’t told G to exclude your site from the SERPs using the URL removal tool either!
    Other common silliness is duplication of the entire site (or parts of) on SubDomains or alternative Domains… and then wondering why your primary domain is not ranking (duplication filter). Then there is using your entire page as content elsewhere – and doing this for multiple pages (like using your homepage content on a directory site!!!).

  37. My blog was getting decent traffic during 2009 to 2012. I took a break for nearly 3 years.

    In between, the blog lost all its traffic.

    Two months back I resumed and started adding fresh content like before.

    I hope this is not a penalty rather lack of refresh data.

    Is it worth to put fresh content on this blog? your thoughts are highly appreciated.

    • Prabu – have you done any checks?
      Go to Google and do the following searches
      (replace “domainname.tld” with your domain)
      (replace “string” with 6 words in sequence from a blog page”)
      (replace “title” with a posts title)
      (replace “posturl” with the URL of a post (without the domain);

      [site:domainname.tld]
      do you see your site in the index? You should have multiple pages listed

      [inurl:posturl]
      Do you see your blog listed with that post in the SERPs?

      [allintitle:title]
      do you see that post in the SERP?

      [“string”]
      Does the post URL show in the SERP that you took that part-sentence from?

      Those check will let you see if you’re still indexed and still being returned for relevant/specific searches.

      Then it’s a case of doing some more string searches, but for fewer words (5’s and 4’s),
      and title searches (without the title:operator), to see what sort of competition there is and whether you are ranking for those terms.

      If you are not indexed – you should do some technical checks (I included some at the bottom of my own comment above).
      If you are indexed – but not ranking well, you need to check to see if you are just less relevant/popular. You can also look at traffic/visits and compare against Algo dates (as per Neil’s suggestion above).

      At the end of the day – if your site has been hit by an algo, you will need to expend time/effort to identify what is wrong – only you can decide if it is worth your time/effort.

    • Prabu, it’s always worth it. Make sure there is context behind everything you do as well.

      • Personally, I’d say it depends.
        I’d be looking at 3 main factors;
        1) What was the traffic like before hand?
        2) What were the rankings, and for what sort of terms?
        3) How much work would be required to get the site back?

        If the blog only ever had search traffic (no non-search traffic – such as social, bookmarks, manual visits etc.), and that was low-volume traffic at best (30 or less unique hits per day), then chances are the site is not worth it. It may be better to learn the lesson of not falling foul of the guidelines, and starting over.
        If the site only ranked for low-search-volume terms, or low-value terms, or keywords/phrases that seldom converted (to what ever goals you had), then it may not be worth the effort.
        If the infraction is only small, and will only take a small amount of time/effort to locate and repair, then it is likely worth it. If it is going to be convoluted, frustrating, taking hours and hours of digging and guessing … then not likely to be worth it).

        The more traffic and the more sources of that traffic, the more keywords of value and the better the rankings for those terms, the smaller the breach of the guidelines and the easier to fix them … the more likely it is worth to correct and try to reclaim.
        As soon as you are looking at low value terms with low rankings, that only ever achieved small traffic (and low conversions) … alongside with hard work and time to fix … then not really worth it.

  38. Do it mean that I cannot share my blog post over other social media sites because of the fear of Google Panda and Penguin? I know it doesn’t makes any sense. Will you please let me know what are the use of link sharing over other social media sites. Let us consider about scoop.it. It is an excellent site. No doubt!! It gives me an option of sharing the link on its site. If I do share my links on this site (say 20 blog links of my personal blog site), will it be considered spam. If so then what are the use of these link sharing sites like scoop.it, wordpress.com, tumblr.com and so on. More over what is the use of writing blogs which I cannot share with others.

    Oops sorry I have forgotten to mention “Hi Neil”.

    With Regards

    Rahul

  39. Awesome article but a bit complicated. Sounds like a lot of work that you need to do if you want your site clean of spammy links.

  40. Hello Neil,

    thank you for pointing out steps one has to follow when it comes to penalty. You are right – there is no room for panic, you have to diagnose and fix the problems because sometimes a penalty does not mean the end of the world for the website.

    I got once a message from Google, saw it on my smartphone and before I read the details it scared me to death. (P.S. It was Saturday 07.00 am… my eyes did not ever before open so quickly as that day, it was like a triple-double-cappuccino 🙂 )

    It turned out that 2 of the business directories, where I have registered my website and where was a link to it, got penalised and dropped down, have been recognized as link farm, I guess but I am not sure.

    Like you said – I have contacted the webmasters and politely asked if my links can be removed. There was no problem with that.

    Using the contact form on Webmaster Tools (as far as I remember) I informed Google what steps I have taken and asked for recheck. After that everything seems to be all right now, it was about 1 year ago.

    Take care!

    Michael

  41. Hello Neil,
    Article has been crafted brilliantly.Good in-depth description on google penalty.

  42. Hi Sir, Thanks for sharing such a nice article. My website traffic was dropped in the last month, and in the following month I am trying to recover my traffic. So this article help me thanks again..

    Regards: Duryab Aziz

  43. Very interesting process.

  44. Wow is this ever an eye opener, It has certainly given me something to think about and look out for. Using the tools Neil has recommended I have found a couple of things that do need fixing. This page is something I will be referencing for a long time to come.

  45. Hello Neil,

    This really great article, Thanks for sharing your this valuable stuff with us.

    Cheers!

  46. Wow this truly awesome article, very informatic and useful and help me to understand much about google penalty.

  47. This is amazing article Neil. Thank you for this information.
    Keep it up… 🙂

  48. Hey Neil

    What about Google sandbox?
    I recovered a website from Google penalty 3 years back. But i have to shutdown one of my website due to sandbox. I waited for more than 6 month but it never recovered from sandbox. Can you please come up with sandbox issues?

    Thanks
    Gaurav

  49. Thanks Neil!
    Once again for such a nice post i always learn something New from your each post…..

  50. Niel sir you help me a lot in previous time to grow my revenue. this post is really great helpful and

  51. Neil, This is what I was looking for. very useful post with detailed instructions to be safe from Google penelties.

  52. Neil, Quite an Informative Article..!!
    If you are doing clean SEO and not after getting your websites ranked immediately, keep yourself updated about the latest trends and practices, you don’t need to be afraid o f such google penalties.
    As google is getting smarter day by day and revising its algorithms for everyone’s good, its hard to game the search engine maestro.Its always advisable to be patient and stick with good seo practices, you will definitely get to the place you intend to be at.

  53. Informative, Relevant and useful post for all the Seo professionals, Neil! This case often takes place (If someone tries to break Webmaster’s guidelines) and needs to be fixed as well. Neil, if you don’t mind i would like to share my personal experience with all of you. In past i have encountered the same problem several times due to some other fool Seo. So what i did was the following;

    * I changed the content completely (Even added more quality and value to it).

    * I deleted the website from Webmaster Tool and added it once again to re-crawl the data -This is really huge.

    * I modified the Meta tag on my Website.

    * I removed all the low quality back-links (If any) using Disavow Tool – Unnatural.

    * I tried my best to make my website more user friendly this time.

    * I did necessary modifications in Heading Tags (H1 to H6).

    * For next couple of month i stopped working a little bit – Building back-links.

    * I submitted an application in case problem was even more!

    Thanks!

  54. I read your content. All the minor and major penalties described beautifully and systematically. Neil ! I want to know which is the best mantra for saving our website from Google penalties in busy schedule?

  55. I’m a new blogger, barely 2 months old. Your post was really informative, i hope i don’t get into google’s trap, i don’t have adsense yet tho.

  56. Sertaç Yakin :

    Great piece Neil.

    Thanks for sharing.

  57. Hi Neil,
    As always a very detailed post on Penalty’s.
    Was searching for a single location for understanding Google penalties and their remedies, and you just hit the right cords ;).
    Amazing post.
    Was wondering about 1 specific issue which am not sure is good or bad for a site.
    If a piece of same content is repeated across all product pages on a site, can it lead to penalty?
    The content is a generic content talking about say the brand or ‘why to choose that brand’ , etc.
    Will this impact my SEO traffic in any sense?
    Hope you get time to address my issue.

    Anyways thanks for the detailed spam-protactive post. 🙂

  58. Hi Neil,
    Yet another great article. Just one question though; how do I fix a Sandbox Penalty? My site won’t age overnight and while Google only ranks pages that are not as yet searched for organically I will continue to struggle getting any good keywords to rank at all? By the time my site is considered to be old enough not to be considered ‘new’ and is established I may well be yet another statistic and bankrupt. Is there an answer to this unfair method? As an eCommerce site I have a considerable amount of stock and a lot of hours spent on SEO invested in it’s success (or failure). Is there a better way to get around this loop hole?

    • Jayne, have you tried revamping your content and fixing any architectural issues on your site?

      • Neil,

        I’ve added to my product range and content, moved my site to a better host, upped my time spent on SEO and as yet have seen very little difference (accept from the expected drop when I initially moved host). It may just need patience, but it seems to me that many of the small businesses that pop up and then disappear could be victims of the dreaded ‘Sandbox’.

        I will be taking on board all that you have advised and keeping a keen eye on my stat’s and hoping that Google decides (before too long) that my site is no longer too young to play with the ‘big boys’.

  59. I have started a blog, i am noticing that my queries are getting down, 3 days ago they were 111 yesterday they are 99 and now 88. Please Keep in mind my website is new and there are only 12 articles there, can you please help me with this? Blog is linked with my name.

  60. Thank you for the link to Siteliner, Neil! It’s awesome! This is what I was looking for 🙂

  61. Ummm where was this a year ago! 🙂 This is a great strategic post that so many can use! Penalties are so hard to figure out…..and even harder to overcome! Thank you so much as always Neil!

  62. Great detailed post as usual. If I do all this how long would it usually take to recover from a penalty

  63. Hey Neil,
    Great piece and a real pain point… So good that it seems it’s worth copying. Just saw this posted on growthhackers.com. Thought I’d give you a heads up.

    http://blog.brand24.net/manual-unnatural-links-penalty-lifted/?utm_campaign=Submission&utm_medium=Community&utm_source=GrowthHackers.com

  64. Hello Neil. Very good post, I just have a question. See my chart (https://www.dropbox.com/s/d91djonm6unn18n/panguin-1.PNG?dl=0) that was affected by I believe it is the “Phatom 2”.I checked my site by sitelistener and the result of duplicate content is 28%. This value is too high? Which would be a considerable value?

    Thank you!

  65. Dear Neil,

    Thanks to your nice post I could fix some errors I had on my website and now it’s all fine… thank you very much ! It’s highly appreciated.

  66. Glad reading it as always. You are really a “digital star”.

  67. I believe I was penalized last year sometime and am unable to submit a reconsideration request.

    Meanwhile, I believe we get about 1/10 of the traffic we should naturally get…and have no idea how to make progress moving forward.

    Is there another way to submit a reconsideration request? What else can I do???

    Thanks for the great post.

  68. Great post. It took me a minute to find my way to the bottom of all these comments.

    As always, thanks Neil!

    Cheers,
    Mike

  69. Hi Neil,

    This is a great post and give me some hope about my issue.
    Yesterday i received message from google about thin content and in the fix recommendations it was recommended to fix any duplicate or thin content.
    All my posts are written by professional writer.I personally searched the best selling products on amazon and then ask my writer to write reviews and informational articles.All articles are double checked in copyscape first by my writer and then by me before publishing and contain 100 percent unique content except ( i use easy azon plugin for making links and only its words get match with other sites because default code is same).
    I normally use one affiliate link (amazon) and two cloaking links through easy azon per review article and use only cloaking links in informational articles.
    None of my article in less than 500 words and i always tried to cover all info (pro,cons,customer feedback,features) in my own words.
    Can you help me how can i fix my manual penalty.Should i reduce my cloaking links through easy azon.As i mentioned i use only one affiliate link (amazon) per review article should i also remove it??

    Waiting for your response.

    • Have you thought about writing more thorough content? If your articles were 1000 plus words you probably wouldn’t be getting the messages, assuming people loved what they were reading.

      • Thanks for the response.
        Can you please guide what should be the way forward.Should i put more unique and valuable content of 1000 words per articles and then apply for reconsideration.Should i remove affiliate links?Right now i have started deleting affiliate links.

  70. What an incredibly well-written step-by-step guide – love it 🙂 Thank you for taking the time to put this together Neil 🙂

  71. Hi Neil,

    If there is a competition on who is your biggest fan, I will certainly be on the podium. I have been your long time reader and read almost every article twice or thrice. This is again a great and well-written article having lot of extremely valuable information. I am currently trying to recover a client site from Panda penalty.

    I too started my blog :www.xingmagazine.com and apply a lot of your wisdom on my site. Since I can’t hire you, but I can certainly read you through your posts. You are my guru, mentor and much more to me .

  72. HI Nile

    Good Information, But i want to know how to get fast raniking for my site my site url is bewada.com

    • I can’t say there is a “fast” way to do it, SEO is a process. Follow the tips and suggestions I give on quicksprout though and you will be well on your way.

  73. yes , good information my website ssl is there any seo penalty not work i think?

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