The Complete Guide to Google Penalties (Both Manual and Algorithmic)


It’s your worst nightmare…

You wake up one morning and check your analytics. But something’s wrong…where’s all your traffic?

Whether you like it or not, websites in most niches rely on Google for a large percentage of their traffic.

If you get hit by a penalty, 10%, 20%, or even more of your business can be wiped out overnight. That’s a pretty scary thought.

There are two types of penalties that can hit you: manual penalties and algorithmic penalties.

Algorithms get most of the attention because those types of penalties affect tens of thousands of sites all at once.

However, there are over 400,000 manual penalties that are applied every month, according to Matt Cutts—that’s a lot. 

To be fair, many of the sites that get penalized are legitimately awful sites that consist of nothing but content spam. However, hundreds of site owners are penalized every day who are trying to make the best site they can. It could even be you one day.

If you’ve been fortunate enough to avoid a penalty in the past, you might think reports of penalties are exaggerated. In most cases, they’re not.

While not all penalties will have the same effect on your traffic, some can wipe out 90% or more of it in an instant.

And penalties don’t discriminate either—they affect both small and large sites.

After the Panda 4.0 update (more on that later), eBay’s traffic was hit hard:


But that’s far from the only example of a big site being penalized.

Recently, another large company named Thumbtack was penalized.

Thumbtack, in case you didn’t know, is a company that Google invested $100 million into, and they still got penalized.

That being said, there is a difference between penalties for small and large sites. If you’re a very large site, where a penalty will garner a lot of press, you may be able to get prioritized support in fixing the penalty.

Thumbtack was able to get their penalty lifted in less than a week. If you have a lesser-known site, it’ll typically take a few weeks or months (at least) to correct the penalty.

I didn’t tell you all this to make you terrified of getting hit by a penalty. I did it so you recognize that avoiding penalties is ideal for your business.

If you understand all the different common penalties that Google hands out on a regular basis, you can take simple steps to reduce your chances of being hit by one by 99%.

In this article, I’m going to go over all the main types of penalties you can be hit by:

  • Panda
  • Penguin
  • Mobile-Friendly
  • Top Heavy
  • Payday
  • Pirate
  • Unnatural Links
  • Spam
  • Thin Content

For each of the penalties, I’ll let you know if you have the type of website that is at risk of being hit and what steps you can take to minimize your chances of being penalized in the future.

If you’ve already been hit by one of these penalties, check out my step-by-step guide to fixing any Google penalty.

Panda – This penalty chews up weak content

The Panda algorithm might be the most well-known algorithm.

It was one of the first updates that specifically penalized websites. The first Panda algorithm was run in 2011 and decimated the traffic of a lot of low-quality websites.

In the three years following its release, Panda was run about once per month. Now that the algorithm is more established, it only seems to be run a few times per year.

While this might seem like a good thing at first, it’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand, with fewer updates, there are fewer opportunities to get penalized.

However, Panda is an algorithmic penalty. This means that if you get hit, once you fix the underlying issue(s) that caused the penalty, you have to wait for the algorithm to be run again to get your rankings back.

That means you could be waiting several months to get the penalty lifted.

And if you’re unsuccessful fixing the issues, you’ll have to try again and wait for another iteration of the algorithm.

The basics – What is Panda? The amazing thing about Panda is that even though it’s been run several times over the past four years or so, we still don’t have an exact definition of what types of sites it affects (although we have a good idea).

Google’s search team keep their algorithms as secret as possible. They don’t give much help to sites hit by algorithmic penalties, whereas they provide a lot of support for manual penalties.

As of now, we know that:

The purpose of the Panda algorithm update was and is to keep low-quality (“shallow”) content from showing up in search results.

Therefore, if you don’t have low-quality content on your site, you should be safe from the traffic-eating pandas.

Here is the problem, however. Low-quality can mean many different things.

Google provided a list of over 20 questions to help alleviate the worries of webmasters, but most of these are open to interpretation:


Two different people could be asked these questions regarding the same site and come to different conclusions. I don’t think they are very helpful.

Over time, the SEO community has come together to analyze websites that were hit by Panda and arrived to the following conclusions about pages that get penalized:

  • The content is poorly written (perhaps “spun” using software)
  • The content is very short (“shallow” content that is too brief to be valuable)
  • The content is mostly duplicate content (copied from another page)
  • The content adds no real value

It’s no surprise that content farms, like most web 2.0 sites, were hit the most. They were heavily used by SEOs to create backlinks to content, but those links were placed in terribly written, short articles for the most part.

How do Panda penalties work? Google often patents its algorithms, and it did so for Panda. It was granted its Panda patent in 2014. While you’re free to read it, it’s pretty boring, so let me sum it up for you:

Google creates a site-wide modification factor based on the quality of all the pieces of content on the site. If it falls below a certain threshold, the factor is applied to the site (lowering rankings of all the pages on the site).

In plain English, this means that if a site has a certain amount of low quality content on it, the entire site will be penalized.

That’s why, when it comes to reports of Panda penalties, you usually see graphs like this one:


Panda penalties are rarely small—they decimate organic search traffic.

How do you know if you were hit by Panda? You don’t get any messages about algorithmic penalties. The only way to spot them is by observation.

If you get hit by a penalty that wipes out most of your traffic, chances are you’re not alone. Monitor SEO news sites such as Search Engine Land to get more information. If it’s a Panda update, it’ll likely get spotted quickly.

If you ever suspect you’ve been hit by a penalty, but it happened in the past, there are online tools that can help you.

One useful free tool is the Panguin Tool. Once you connect it to your Google Analytics account, it will overlay a graph of your traffic over timelines of past algorithms:


If you see that your traffic rapidly declined a few days before or after a major Panda update, you were likely penalized by it.

Remember that these algorithms are often run over long periods of time (weeks), so your traffic decline may not start on the exact day that the algorithm was reported.

Penguin – The bird that can’t fly but can detect your bad backlinks

Only in SEO would a panda and a penguin be so closely related.

Both have had a huge impact on the way SEOs approach their work.

While Panda focused mainly on on-page factors, Penguin was a huge step forward for identifying unnatural link profiles.

The first Penguin was released in 2012 and affected over 3% of all queries. Like Panda, it decimated the traffic of any site it penalized:


What Penguin looks for: Penguin was groundbreaking when it was first run and has become more sophisticated over time.

It looks for a variety of obvious unnatural backlink patterns.

Google will never release the full details of the algorithm (or not any time soon), but we do know that there are three main backlink factors that can be used to identify unnatural link patterns:

  1. Link quality – A site that has obtained all of its links naturally will have links of both low and high quality. Sites made by blackhat SEOs often have a ton of just low quality links or only high authority links (like from a private blog network).
  2. Link velocity – Look at the backlink growth of any large site, and you will see that it gains links at an increased rate over time. Unnatural sites often get a lot of links in a short period, followed by a sudden decrease.
  3. Link diversity – Legitimate sites get links from all sources (contextual, blog comments, forums, etc.). However, bad SEOs often create a large portion of a site’s links from one source (like blog comments). In addition, links should have varied anchor text. Too many links with the same anchor text could trigger a Penguin penalty.

Complicated, right?

Penguin is one of the main reasons why most SEOs are “whitehat,” or at least “greyhat,” SEOs these days. If you want to manipulate Google, you’ll have to plan your link-building strategy very carefully to make sure that most of your links appear natural.

How Penguin penalizes sites: Penguin is not a site-wide penalty—it affects specific pages.

However, since it affects those pages that typically have the most backlinks pointing to them, you can still lose 80%+ of your traffic if those pages are responsible for most of your traffic.

If your site is flagged by Penguin, you’ll typically be penalized. In some rare cases, Penguin will discount the value of the unnatural links instead of penalizing you.

A tool such as Panguin (shown in the previous section) can confirm that your traffic drop was caused by a Penguin algorithm update.

If your traffic drop was relatively small, you were probably one of the lucky few who didn’t get penalized. The drop was most likely caused by those now-discounted links.

When you’re checking to see if you were hit by Penguin, you should know that it is an even bigger algorithm than Panda. It can take more than a few weeks to fully run.

Recovering from a Penguin penalty is possible but difficult. Not only will you have to try to fix the issue (which could be a number of different things), but you’ll also need to wait for the next algorithm refresh to see if it worked or not.

Mobilegeddon – Can Google force website owners into the future?

Google’s primary goal is to help users find the best content that satisfies their queries.

For the first decade of Internet search, most of the work done by Google was dedicated to finding and classifying content better.

But Google is pretty good at that now.

The biggest factor affecting the user experience (when someone is searching for something) is the content itself. In other words, website owners aren’t improving their websites and content fast enough to keep up.

In early 2015, Google announced that it would start trying to help mobile users find useful results on mobile-friendly websites.

This announcement caused a lot of stir in the SEO community. A mobile-friendly update was soon to come, and it sounded like it was something big.

Site owners scrambled to make their websites mobile-friendly—something that Google would be happy to see (better experience for mobile searchers).

The update finally came a few months later on April 20th.

Although it was called “Mobilegeddon” and “Mobilepocalypse,” it turned out to be much less significant than originally predicted.

There was definitely some movement in the search rankings, but only the worst mobile-offenders suffered traffic losses.


What does Google consider mobile-friendly? Mobile-friendly can mean many different things. This is probably why Google started by just demoting the worst offenders.

Right now, there’s no sliding scale. Your web pages are either friendly or not friendly.

You can see what Google thinks of your content by using the Mobile-Friendly Test tool. Enter a URL, click Analyze, and it will give you a green passing message or a red fail message.


It’s a good idea to check a few different pages such as your home page, a blog post, and any other pages with custom layouts or designs.

Another place to check if you have any major mobile issues is in Google Webmaster Tools (Search Console).

Navigate to “Search traffic > Mobile usability”, and you’ll see any errors that you should fix as soon as possible:


Finally, Google has also released a useful mobile SEO guide. In it, it explains the most common mobile errors such as blocking javascript or messing up your mobile redirects.

On top of those mistakes, here are a few more general mobile-friendly principles to keep in mind:

  • Don’t use software that most mobile devices can’t render, e.g, Flash.
  • Resize text to match the screen (i.e., responsive design)
  • Use text that is easily readable on a small screen (typically 16px or more)
  • Don’t put links right beside each other (hard to tap the right one)

Mobilegeddon in the future: Just because the first mobile-friendly update wasn’t huge doesn’t mean you shouldn’t concern yourself with making your website as mobile-friendly as possible.

Google will likely make changes to the algorithm in the future as it further develops its requirements for what is and isn’t mobile-friendly.

Keep in mind that even if you get hit by a mobile “penalty,” your traffic likely won’t be decimated. This update primarily boosts the rankings of the most mobile-friendly sites, so they’ll just push down your unfriendly pages in the results.

Top Heavy – Balance is the key to any impression

When a searcher clicks on a result in Google, they are looking for an answer to their query.

If they can’t find it, they get frustrated.

So, it makes sense that Google would like to minimize these frustrations by not sending users to sites that make it difficult for users to find what they’re looking for.

The “Top Heavy” algorithm was first run in January 2012.

As the name implies, it specifically targets top heavy sites.

The best explanation comes from Google itself:

“We’ve heard complaints from users that if they click on a result and it’s difficult to find the actual content, they aren’t happy with the experience. Rather than scrolling down the page past a slew of ads, users want to see content right away.

So sites that don’t have much content “above-the-fold” can be affected by this change. If you click on a website and the part of the website you see first either doesn’t have a lot of visible content above-the-fold or dedicates a large fraction of the site’s initial screen real estate to ads, that’s not a very good user experience.

Such sites may not rank as highly going forward.”

How the Top Heavy penalty works: This is a site-based penalty. That means that either all of your content is penalized or none of it is.

Google clarified this after an article on Search Engine Land pointed out that Google’s results themselves could be seen as “top heavy.”


Google responded by saying that only sites where most pages are “top heavy” will be penalized.

If it’s only a few pages, don’t worry about this algorithm.

The final thing you need to know about this algorithmic penalty is that it is run very infrequently.

It was first run in January of 2012, then October of 2012, and most recently in February of 2014. If you get hit with this penalty, you’ll have to be patient to get it removed.

Avoiding a Top Heavy penalty: Although it may seem unfair that the algorithm is only run about once a year, it’s fairly difficult to get hit by this penalty.

Here’s an example of a top heavy layout:


Unless you have multiple ads, all above the fold, you’re probably safe.

And really, these types of sites should be penalized. They’re extremely frustrating to the average searcher.

If your content is pushed below the fold, chances are your site visitors won’t bother trying to find it.

To avoid this penalty, just create a good user experience.

Payday – If you prey on hopeful readers, your Payday may be over

Anyone who has been in the Internet marketing industry for some time knows that shady industries can be very lucrative.

Most of the best blackhat SEOs compete against each other to rank for keywords in the gambling, loan, and supplement niches.

This algorithm—“Payday”—was appropriately named for some of the most lucrative, and therefore competitive, search engine results for Payday loans.

Combatting spammy results with the Payday algorithm: We’ve seen in the past few years how good Google is at catching blackhat SEOs.

It has repeatedly crushed large portions of their sites, mainly belonging to beginner and intermediate SEOs.

However, the best blackhat SEOs won’t go down easy.

There is a small group of SEOs who have the ability and will to manipulate Google. They are good enough to rank well in these high paying niches and make enough money to justify it before getting penalized.

The Payday algorithm was first run on June 11, 2013, and rolled out over a few months.

It specifically targeted queries containing keywords such as:

  • Payday loans
  • Casinos
  • Viagra
  • Garcinia cambogia
  • and more.


The second version of the algorithm was released on May 17th and 18th of 2014, and the 3.0 version was released soon after in June.

If you operate a site in any “spammy” niche, you need to be extra clean if you want to avoid being penalized. Otherwise, if you’re getting results with blackhat SEO, expect to be penalized eventually. If that happens, you’ll just have to move on to a new site.

If you have a legitimate site that was hit by this penalty (line up traffic drops with any of the algorithm dates), you can try to fix it. However, you’ll have to wait for the algorithm to be updated again for any positive changes to take effect.

Pirate – Outlaws be warned! The Google police are coming for you

Google almost always tries to show searchers the results they want.

However, Google has taken a strong stance on piracy.

Piracy, which is essentially stealing copyrighted content, is considered unethical by many and is illegal in some countries (although hard to enforce).

The “Pirate” algorithm was Google’s answer to the growing number of torrent sites (mainly used for pirating media and software) showing up in search results.

Based on the following graph of the traffic for some of the top torrent sites, I’d say it worked pretty well.


It didn’t knock them out of the search results altogether, but it reduced a large chunk of their traffic:


The reason why they still attract organic traffic is because not all their content is illegal material. In addition, this algorithm had no effect on branded searches.

Other sites that were purely made for pirating did lose most of their traffic. For example, lost 96% of its search visibility:


How the Pirate algorithm works: The main purpose of this algorithm wasn’t to eradicate torrent sites from the search results altogether, just for certain queries.

For example, if someone searched “Game of Thrones season 5 episode 6,” the searcher should not get torrent results. Before this update, torrent links to the episode would show up. But now, only reviews and legitimate ways to watch the show (HBO) are in the results:


The algorithm works based on copyright reports.

If a site has a lot of copyright violations, this algorithm will penalize it by lowering its rankings.

While new torrent sites can be made, they will be removed each time the algorithm is run if they have accumulated enough violations.

To get an idea of the scale on which copyright violations occur, consider this: Google receives requests to remove over 10 million URLs from search each week:


Not all of those are legitimate claims (Google always verifies first), but it’s still quite a bit.

If you want to avoid the Pirate penalty, it’s simple: don’t steal content (or I suppose don’t steal too much of it).

Unnatural links (manual) – Diversity is healthy

Manual penalties are a whole different beast when it comes to Google penalties.

They can be just as damaging to your traffic levels as algorithmic penalties are, but at least you’ll be able to see if you were hit by one.

As the name implies, manual penalties are given by Google employees and contractors who review your site against their quality guidelines and deem that you are violating one or more of them (most common ones are below):


One of the most influential ranking factors has been and still is backlinks. The more backlinks a page has, the better it ranks (in general).

Of course, SEOs started manipulating this as soon as they found out.

Manually reviewing backlink profiles of “unnatural links” is one of the ways Google combats this.

If the reviewer sees that a large portion of your links are paid links or part of a link scheme, you will be hit with this penalty.

Different forms of unnatural link penalties: Many different penalties include the phrase “unnatural links.” Some have more of an effect on your site than others.

If you log in to Webmaster Tools (Search Console), you can see whether you have any manual actions applied to your site:


The three most common actions are:

  1. “Unnatural links to your site—impacts links.” If you have unnatural links, but it doesn’t look like you had any part in creating them, you’ll get this manual action, which isn’t actually a penalty. The links will no longer factor into your rankings (so traffic might drop a bit), but there’s nothing you need to do to “recover.”
  2. “Unnatural links to your site.” If you just see this message, then you’ve been penalized. It means that the reviewer has concluded that you’re responsible for the shady links. Depending on the specific message, either specific pages will be penalized or your entire site could be.
  3. “Unnatural links from your site.” If you’re always linking to specific sites with exact anchor text (for a high volume keyword) or you have way too many links pointing out from your site, you could get hit with this. This penalty can affect either a portion or all of your site.

Fixing a manual penalty: While no penalty is good, manual penalties are better than algorithmic. Once you fix the issue, you can apply for reconsideration. If you truly fixed the problem, the manual action will be lifted.

Once again, you may need to refer to my step-by-step guide to fixing any Google penalty.

Spam (manual) – If you’re going to play around, at least do it carefully

While most SEOs believe that spam refers solely to blasting thousands of links to a site, it’s much more than that.

The term spam, at least when it comes to manual penalties, also includes things such as:

  • excessive or malicious cloaking
  • scraping content
  • automatically generated content
  • and more.

Just like in the case of unnatural links manual actions, there are many different spam-related messages that can show up as a result of a manual action. These are the most common:

  1. “Pure spam.” The majority of the site is clearly spam, or the backlinks to the site are all spammed. It’s next to impossible to recover from this manual action.
  2. “User-generated spam.” If you have a site that allows users to submit content, you could be penalized for it if they abuse it to create spam content or links. Most commonly, this penalty refers to spam in comments or forum posts/profiles. It can be fixed.
  3. “Spammy freehosts.” If you’re unlucky enough to have your site hosted by the same web host that provides service to a ton of spammers, your site might be lumped together with them. This is a good reason to stay away from very cheap or free hosting services.

Since these are manual penalties, they can be fixed. Recovery usually involves either cleaning up on-site spam or disavowing spammy links.

Thin content with no added value (manual) – No one likes hearing the same story over and over again

If Google doesn’t get you with Panda, it may get you with a manual review for having thin content.

Thin or duplicate content typically consists of information that can be found elsewhere, either on or off your site.

If a manual reviewer spots that most of your content is derived from other content, you can get hit with this penalty, and your traffic will take a tumble.

Here are the most common scenarios that represent “little or no added value”:

  • Automatically generated content
  • Thin affiliate pages
  • Content from other sources, e.g., scraped content or low-quality guest blog posts
  • Doorway pages

When you go to the Manual Actions section in Webmasters Tools (Search Console), you can see whether you’ve been hit by this penalty:


Pay close attention to whether it says that it’s a site-wide match or a partial match.

If it’s a site-wide match, that means the penalty applies to all your content until you fix it. If you just have a few pages of thin content, it’s possible that the penalty will only affect those. While you should still fix it, it won’t have a huge effect on your traffic.


Penalties are part of every SEO’s education.

Most are deserved, but some happen accidently. Understanding the root causes of penalties is the first step to preventing them from occurring and fixing them if you do get hit.

Once you have a good grasp on all the penalties, monitor Moz’s Google algorithm change log for any new ones so you can stay on top of them.

If you’ve discovered that you’ve been doing something that might get your website (or your client’s) penalized, stop it and correct it. Hopefully, you’ll catch it in time to avoid a penalty.

If you have any questions about these penalties, just let me know in a comment below.


  1. A complete guide to safe yourself from algorithms or if you’re not then how to safe 🙂
    Since day one I’m doing white-hat SEO & actually I have no fear about google algorithms, I don’t even give them a damn because I know I’m going in the right way.
    Few tips to keep yourself permanent (almost) away from google penalties
    1. High-quality contents with proper on-page SEO
    2. Build genuine links (should be from relevant blog niche)
    3. Don’t over optimize
    4. Don’t use extra ads on your home page.
    5. Don’t promote large numbers of affiliate link on a specific webpage or home page.
    6. Don’t use plugins with similar specifications (specially SEO plugins)

    Thank you Neil bro 🙂 love you.

    • Deepak, always a pleasure reading your comments as they are in – depth and informative. Thanks for this great list!

    • Julie S Kalungi :

      I agree with you Deepak on the list esp, Not using similar plugins. When I first started my blog I was using all the SEO plugins I could find…I noticed i was getting the same info and I decided to simply deactivate all but one. Reading your list, thank God I did.

      Neil You delivered another value packed, resourceful post and I truly am in awe. Will keep it bookmarked. And Keep on the right side of Uncle Google! Them can stay away from mine!



    • This article makes be scared for my site.

      Although my content is original and informative,

      lately, I have noticed a drop in traffic.

      My site is only a few months old – can someone

      please tell me when is a good time to start showing ads?


    • Great Merketers like Neil, uses great tools.

      Check out a great WordPress theme that’s going to help you along the way:

  2. Thanks Neil once again.

    I laughed a lot at this:

    “Penguin – The bird that can’t fly but can detect your bad backlinks”.

    It hurts a lot to get penalized when you have worked hard. But Google is doing whatever it takes to satisfy its users. I get annoyed, too, when I click a link a find something else, which was not what I was looking for.

    I will implement your tips as I write my posts.

    Thank you.



    • Magz, Google’s process is intuitive so it’s important to focus on context — thanks for the feedback and support.

  3. Dear Neil Sir, I will surely read this post but I will pray god that I should not mess in this situation.
    Thanks for sharing It.

  4. I never considered that I had enough traffic to worry about this – but more and more I’m noticing that referral traffic to my site is coming from spammy sources. I don’t even know how this happened! Definitely something I’m going to have to fix. Thanks for the step-by-step explanation.

    • Jessica, glad I could help. Keep me posted on progress. Looking forward to hearing more from you.

    • Hi Jessica.
      Referral traffic from spammy sites may not always be due to poor backlinks which could result in a penalty.
      If it’s from sources like semalt then do a quick Google search for referral spam in Google Analytics.

      One article which explains quite well is over at moz:

      There are plenty of articles showing how to filter this info out in Analytics and if it is referral spam then it won’t put your site at risk!

  5. Interesting and informative overview. I wonder if Google accounts for new sites in its “link velocity” analysis. Either way, this all goes back to something you’ve said before repeatedly: focus on excellent content and follow the rules. Sounds simple enough for me.

  6. Very good! Now I can stop imagining the reasons.

  7. Hi Neil,

    For a Great Blog, you need a great Theme. Check out the WordPress theme below:

    Let me know your thoughts on it.

  8. The best advice I ever got from a fellow SEO ever was this:

    “It’s never too late to start doing things right.”

    It’s hard to characterize the reasons for any of these penalties as being anything more than “doing things wrong”. That’s frustrating for some people who heavily monetize their sites or who are trying to get a really high ROI on cheap content.

    The good news is that the way forward is pretty clear.

    Don’t want to get penalized?

    Publish an awesome site with awesome pages.

  9. How many words is a thin content? I wonder being a newbie blogger. I see some blog with maybe 250 to 350 words content rank high in google search.

    • I have read that 700+ word article is better but for best results you must have atleast 1000-1500 words.

      Websites with 250 to 350 words articles, usually depend on social media websites for traffic, not on Google.

    • It’s not about the number of words on the page. It’s about the user experience. Google said in a recent hangout that you should run the content by your friends and make sure you’re not duplicating information already found on the Web. See for their answer to this question.

    • Bigwas, I would focus first and foremost on content & context.

  10. Excellent post Neil,

  11. Detailed points,very informative. Thanks

  12. Very nice tips!

    How can I hide the low quality or high quality links? I just made my link building strategy as the most natural way possible, without leaving footprints… it is enough?

    Thanks a lot,


  13. Hi Neil!
    I agreeing all your points.but you have missed one important point google sand boxed?I have one doubt why they had sandbox penalty for newbie sites.Can you share me your thoughts.

  14. Thanks a lot Neil

    I read one by one all points..My point of view main point is

    proper on page SEO,
    High-quality contents
    High-quality back links
    User friendly website

    Once again. Thanks a lot for sharing


  15. Dear Neil! All the articles of yours provide us with a lot of information. penalty is received even by pointing too many backlinks. I have seen many niche sites that have been hit with penalty. They built so many backlinks and they never bothered to add more content to their sites.

  16. Maurizio Fumini :

    Hi Neil,
    great post again,
    but one question is obliged,
    recent years I have tried everything possible to analyze the material and remove penalty,
    I also involved some professional of a known detoxification company, the result?
    Nothing. Nothing. and Nothing.
    Google always caring about of: wide link removed and disavow file
    All these actions also repeated over time have left the site penalized in place.
    I begin to believe that save a penalization requies a miracle!

    • Maurizio, glad you found the article helpful. Looking forward to hearing much more from you.

    • Maurizio,

      Bear in mind that disavowing links will also remove any authority pointing to your site from them. If you have had a penalty and, as a result, have disavowed lots of links to your site then you will essentially be starting with a blank slate.

      You will need to build further links to replace those which have been disavowed, to build your authority back up.

  17. Felipe from Brazil :

    Thanks a lot Neil. Your biggest fan… Felipe Marx

  18. Thanks for the detailed post on Google penalties. It is easy to be a victim especially if you are new to blogging.

  19. What will the major updates in 2016 in SEO.? and how can we plan to got search engine ranking in future.?

  20. The pirate penalty doesn’t seem to be too effective, searching for most major titles will usually still yield a plethora of torrent sites. Aside from that most of this stuff is common sense, all that Google wants to see is quality content that is relevant to its users residing in its index.

  21. Thanks so much Neil, I’m amazed at how informative your work is. For someone like me who knows nothing about the system it is extremely helpful and educational.

  22. Great post. I will need a cup of coffee while reading this. I am bookmarking it right away. I will later post my comment then.
    Thanks for the great work. I am a fan.

  23. Good write up on penalties. Will be passing this post on to our employees to review.

  24. Mahbub Osmane Piyal :

    there are over 400,000 manual penalties that are applied every month, according to Matt Cutts …. OMG! Neil I have a question 2 U. if I write a blog post and publish it, also index it then after few days I add some more value in the content, do I need to re-index the content? Please Let me Know.

  25. We have been online 13 years, never done any black hat anything, but the last 3 years we have lost 75% of our organic traffic.It’s always in big steps. They just keep hacking away at our business. Our graphs look like those above, but stair steps down. 15% here, 25% there, 35% there… We have laid off 70% of our employees and are running on fumes.

    Google says it’s all about the user experience, however Google bases that on their understanding of what they think the user wants, not what the user really wants or needs. Our website was built for the user, not Google. And for 11 years it did a fantastic job, growth averaged 45% per 3 year period. Our customers were happy. They could find the parts they were looking for. Until 2013 and that’s when Google started implementing what it thought the world needed. The problem is Google is good at coding. It’s not good at the psychology of human beings. There is no algorithm for a human.

    As a user of Google I find myself on worthless sites more and more. It takes more and more searching, page after page to find what I’m looking for. Certain search terms have become totally useless. I have found MANY sites that are clearly nothing but SEO black holes. They come up on the SERPS great, but when you get to the site, it’s empty of real information. It’s just a bunch of marketing babble rehashed in as many ways as they can. One whole directory based on product 1 of brand 1. Then another whole directory for product 1 by brand 2. And repeat over and over and over. That’s what is coming up in the searches now. It ranks awesome, but it does not provide the products needed. The information is just marketing BS that comes from a brochure, just restated in as many ways as possible.

    And I challenge Googles claims of “authorship” and “trust” based systems. I author it in an email to what I think is a prospective customer, only to find it posted later on a blog or competitors website. How is Google going to attribute that content to our site? It originated here, but they seem to be giving credit elsewhere. And really Google is an expert on every subject matter under the sun? And who are they to decide was is trustworthy?

    I’m going to use Webleonz list because I think it’s typical of the type of response. (Not picking on you Webleonz, just using your post as an example) I see:

    proper on page SEO,

    I thought this was about the user? Not SEO. SEO trying to please Googles coders, not our customers. I’ve never had a customer come to our website wanting to buy an SEO for their car or home. They come to buy things, to research things, to compare A to B. None come to see who can make the best SEO. SEO is for Google, not people. But Google says it’s about the people… this is in conflict. Maybe they mean “the Google people” people who work at Google.

    High-quality contents

    How is “high quality” determined? How is trust validated or authorship arrived at? What are the qualifications for those who will determine what is high quality? All you have to do is look at the Wikipedia UK scandal to see how important these questions are.

    High-quality back links

    Same questions. What is “high quality?” If you sell or make or invent widgets, every link to your site will be “widgets.” So someone comes along and arranges for links that say “My widgets” “discount widgets” “wholesale widgets” “friendly widgets” and how is that “higher quality” than “widgets” from the site that sells widgets?

    User friendly website

    Again, users are funny, and there are billions of them. The whole reason the Mustang and the PC took off was that those products allowed people to personalized to their individual tastes. What might be “friendly” to one person may be downright awful to another. What Google really means is friendly to OUR Operating System. Not user friendly, unless of course the user is a Google OS user. Okay now we know what “user friendly” really means.

    To bring it back to the point of the article, which is helpful, but only in a historical way. You are documenting is what happened. Reading the article applying it to our website, It goes like this: No, we don’t sell advertising on our website, no we don’t do that, we didn’t do this, etc. No we don’t spam, never have, never cloaked, never paid for links (Sponsors a few website yes, but sites 100% in line with our products, and never bought links anyplace.) Then I get to this: Is there “shallow” or “the content adds no real value,” How do they decide that? I’ll give you an example, a list of numbers.. worthless right? But not if you are looking for that list of numbers because you (the user) knows what that list of numbers represents. Our top pages could be viewed as “lists of numbers” but in fact those numbers have come from years of hard work, experience and research. But to Google, they are just lists of numbers. Boom, we now have “shallow” content but to the user, those lists of numbers are very valuable. Oh and the competition just copies them. Now Google has to decide who is the author of this “no real value” content, but which is highly valuable to the customers we serve.

    The Mobile issue is a big one for us, as our site is not optimized for mobile users, however that does not mean it’s not usable by mobile users. Up until the last few months our orders supported this position. We still got a proportional amount of orders via mobile system on our un-optimized site. Until Google decided for the mobile user that our site was no longer worthy of being included in their mobile SERPs. There 30% of customer hacked away.

    If Google could inform us of how they are applying these penalties to us and allow us to explain it would go a long way toward finding a resolution. But they do not. I’m sure all our drops in traffic are caused by their penalties because the drops are dramatic, short sudden losses in traffic. That’s the clear indicator of a penalty. But if we go to our Google Webmasters site, the only things listed are all for the mobile issue which we know about. Nothing else.

    Summary: If Google is going to apply a penalty to us, which they clearly have multiple times, we have the right to know what it is and why and at least be able to address it with them. Misunderstandings are almost always resolved with additional communication.

    Frustrated doesn’t even come close to expressing how I feel.

    • Hi Neil
      Please help this guy.. I am really sad for him / her! 🙁

      • Can’t he approach Google for review on penalties? I think if he submits an application for review may be they remove all the penalties because he says that he has never done something bad.
        Best regards,

    • re: Frustrated

      While the technical merits of your website seem to rise to the top of the conversation it is important to recognize that Google is an income producing machine. All the terms and rules they espouse serve no other master than driving Google income. As such no matter how you slice it, the shell game of Google updates, has you twisted like a pretzel and understandable so. What can be concluded beyond anything iterated for technical jargon sake is that all the updates have nothing to do with what any of these good hearted authors have said. Even this article as nicely and as completely covering the topic matter is nothing but a discourse on the shell game. No matter what you do it is a fact that aside from paid traffic the most valuable competing space in the web is “organic”traffic. If you and your website do nothing to integrate pathways to enrich Google it is a matter of time before they find some one, some website that will. That is the most important thing to understand. You were fortunate to see great growth and results as you did but you were not well served for the advice and or the stewardship of your internet presence and as such magnifying your frustration will only serve to keep you out of the loop. Your own commentary bare fruit in the realization that doing nothing wrong…and you got screwed and tattooed by the Google beast. It was however predictable. While you did nothing wrong you are in a world of hurt as though you did. This is what I referred when I stated that this article while informative and seemingly authoritative does not promote the understanding that makes the difference you seek. Now what I refer to is in the realm of what I do professionally and remains part of a battery of tactics and methodologies that I consider proprietary to my business, I can say you need to look at all things internet, business ranking and traffic through the eye of the Google money machine, not all the rules and metrics touted endlessly by every authority out there. The technical stuff will get you sunk if you fail to back up, get some distance and ask questions filtered through the lens, “does this help Google make money” if you say yes then it is worthwhile doing for true white hat marketing efforts. If you say no then don’t do it. If on the other hand it is in that grey area, well some things are just to vague to detail and evaluate aside of opinions from one source or another. You then have to ask the questions in different ways as it relates to what you intend to do or want to do and make a best guess, go forward and monitor your traffic and be prepared to modify and or delete processes, and or content or what ever it is that resides in the grey area. As a disclaimer I am not revealing all I know certainly…for me it has all been years of hard fought attainment. I am not adding a link to any property of mine nor am I trying to solicit business, I have more than I can handle right now. I am hopeful you find some solace here that you would have had to be Houdini to have not gotten caught up in the jaws of Google money machine. It is my hope you can gain the perspective to ask better questions, relieve your self of the frustration for something you could not have known better of to avoid. I say this because I monitor a select few resources online because much of it is dished out by kids who have never run a business or people that have no intuitive understanding beyond what they memorized from a favorite source. regards Keith Richard President SEOtactical Inc.

    • I completely understand your frustrations. What we have to understand is that Google is providing a free service to host our websites search results on — so often times we are at their whim. With that being said if you follow all the right procedures you can get the best out of your efforts. Often times taking short cuts is the reason why people experience setbacks — not saying you take any shortcuts.

      If you have any specific questions please feel free to ask and I’d be glad to help.

    • @Frustrated:

      In addition to the good sense spoken above, I would say:

      1. Check your site for negative SEO i.e. malicious SEO bought by a competitor to bring down your site…for example, have you checked your link profile? For 15 bucks somebody could buy you a 100 or so spam links and Google would read that as YOU buying links. It happens. You have to be a cad to do it, but there’s no shortage of those in the world.

      2. Diversify your traffic sources. You seem to have a great business and you consistently provide value for customers. Excellent. If for whatever reason Google still decides to penalize you, their loss–focus on gaining greater shares in other search engines. And not just search engines. It’s 2015. Social media could be a serious traffic (and revenue) generator for you and in my experience, businesses that treat their customers well are already at an advantage in the social media sphere.

      Wean your business off of Google, reach customers through other channels such as social media, apps, and secondary search engines, keep doing what you’re great at, and DO make sure no-one is trying to sabotage you through SEO, and I am sure in good time you’ll find Google bending to YOUR will for once. Google does, after all, follow the money: users. If you’re what they want and Google does serve up your pages, it’s going to lose out.

  26. Farcas Gelu Danut :

    Good post, Neil, good post! Tnx! 🙂

  27. Thanks patel for the amazing post. I have been following to learn about the Google Penalties and this post helped me a lot. One my website got hit by a Google penalty but I never did any black hat yet I got hit. I feel frustrated to see that big websites exploiting my keyword via keyword stuffing yet I get penalized but not them. However, I m working to fix and fight the penalties.

  28. Neill you are very great in SEO article just like this article. I always check your blog to get tips about SEO. Once again thanks to tou ????

  29. Hi Neil,

    another great post from you. I always look forward to your “words of wisdom”. And, there are a few surprises for me here…I think I am going to join Olowole Jetro (comment above) in having a big cup of coffee and pour over the details of the article. Thanks!

  30. I cant thank you enough for this golden article. you really help people like me to run their small business.

  31. Thank you so much Neil for the details of the algo’s. And especially for that Penguin tool.

  32. Cool article! Really basic but useful for everyone who wants to know more about Penalties 😉

  33. Hello neal great article for experts and beginners who want to start there own online business.

    Can i ask your thoughts about wordpress seo plugins are they added value or if not necessary when running a blog.

    And if you find seo plugins useful what will recommend?

    Gr pascal

    • Pascal, this may help:

  34. Theodore Nwangene :

    Hello Neil,
    I never knew there are more and more different types of Google penalties out there, its indeed very surprising to me.

    Talking about the Pirate, Top Heavy and Payday. It simply shows that everyone should be very careful with the way he manages and promotes his sites to avoid any of these unfriendly penalties.

    Even though you might be lucky enough to get it lifted yet, its always good not to eat a raw bitter leaf than to later start looking for soap and water to wash your mouth. Prevention they say is better than cure.

    However, the people i pity the most are those that are usually targeted even when its very obvious that they’re doing everything right, this can be very demoralizing indeed and i don’t wish that for any body.

    Finally, everyone should just play it safe and smart, don’t overdo things to avoid being kicked aside.

    Always delighted to read your posts Neil, thanks for sharing.

    • Theodore,
      Always a pleasure reading your in-depth feedback. Your points are very poignant — marketers who are cautious and choose to do things the right way will benefit most.

  35. Jackie De Burca :

    Another superb post, Neil 🙂 many thanks.

    What years of doing SEO has taught me is to be patient. This applies to how the work is done and how we analyse changes, and results over time. SEO work is a great teacher of patience….I really know this 🙂

    When creating content for our travel blog, the SEO experience that I have has also taught me to write with the end user in mind, and not Google or other search engines. In a way through the numerous updates that Google has done over the last 4 years especially, it has kind of come full circle, in terms of attempting to be an old school publisher, in the online world. In other words, striving for excellence.

    I believe if as blog owners and SEOs we view it like this, we can hopefully avoid these nasty penalties, although of course, a site can be unlucky.

    • Jackie, glad you found it helpful. It’s all about patience at the end of the day — SEO takes time and those who can wait for tremendous results will benefit most.

  36. Hi Neil,

    You give the best guide about google penalties recovery. Thanks for explaining in details.


  37. Neil! I am constantly amazed of the level of details and the quality of content you are able to produce on a constant basis. I am wondering, where do you look to to increase your knowledge to be able to produce such detailed content?

  38. Siva Thirulojan :

    An in-depth informative post. Found advanced and useful than other posts on internet for related topics. Appreciated. 🙂

  39. Muhammad Jibrin :

    I recently started working on the advanced part of SEO. Before that, whenever I see a link disappear from google, I used to wonder why. Thanks to your article, I now know why.

    Thanks Neil.

  40. Great!
    This is a 100% helpful reminder of how NOT to be penalized. Hope ill never have to use the “How to Remove Penalties” information.


  41. Dear Neil,

    Thank you very much. your guide always give me a chance to learn about SEO.

    I have one doubt. hope you will make it clear.

    What about the coupon and deals site? How google treat those site?

    I mean, coupon and deals site does not normally have 2000 word post. ( and it is not possible too to write a 500 to 2000 post just for a single coupon.)

    if anyone is having a site like that what steps need to be taken?

    what is your suggestion?

    Would love to get some helpful thought on this.

    either way, keep up the great work.. 🙂

    • They still do well if the user metrics are good… like bounce rate, time on site, etc. Click through rates from search. They look at sites category wise… so if you are better than other coupon sites you will do well.

  42. Great article sir. You’ve provided a clear insight of all types of penalties which have severe effects on blogs.

    Thank you for sharing such an informative article…

  43. Neil , you are awesome. Your writing style is really cool. Always love to read your blog. Doing great job

  44. Very thorough article! We get a handful of sites per year that come to us trying to diagnose big traffic drops and Penguin/Panda continue to be dominating forces.

    Roughly 2 years ago we even created our own analysis tool called Algosleuth to help identify these drops. It may not be as shiny as The Panguin Tool that you mention but it gives a pretty thorough output of every major algorithmic update and the traffic differentials before/after known Google updates.

    Thanks again for the great content Neil!

  45. Hi Neil,

    thanks for detail information about google penalties .I always read you article and find very have mentioned here a list of penalties,but some of them was not known by me like ,top heavy,payday,pirate etc.I did not heard about them.Now i could know from your blog post.Thanks one again.I am getting improve myself through your article day by day.

  46. Thanks for sharing this update, Neil. It’s funny how Google dictates everything that goes on in the SEO world.

  47. yes, it is very frustrating to deal with Google issues.
    As I understood there are few things making hell of a mess:
    the great idea comes to some CEO or Chief Engineers at Google
    they pass the “green light” to develop the algo
    the algo made in beta and released to less fortunate niches
    they update the algo, sometimes it brings sites back – lucky,sometimes – not so “lucky”
    what matt says is irrelevant – we did study some sites in top and they break every “rule”
    Matt just plays around “lets make world better place” and follow the Commendments
    after some time they make a new algo, based on ideas we’ll never know.
    And history repeats itself

    Yes, the google search results is the money making machine, the only goal is to send more people to Adwords, and yes, the quality of search is way worse than used to be – not only because too many sites,but due to the horrible mess that fancy algos created.

    btw, nice to read from you Neil, you sound just like a Prophet of Holy Google

    • Immanuli, understand your concerns and you bring up some great points. However, at the end of the day they are providing a free service (that provides immense value) so we should play by the rules.

  48. Thats really an helpful insight and surely will help the SEO beginners to understand, how to do clean and relevant SEO for the website.
    My concern here is, sometimes when we are buying any expired domains, and then we find out that this is not turning up as we wanted it to.
    Is there any tool to check the penalties in the past or a way to connect with Google, asking about if our website has been penalised in the past?

    • David, if you can check through historical data you can see what has happened to a domain — typically when you buy a site you can do an audit with third party services.

  49. Hi Neil, your post is awesome.

  50. @Neil Patel

    Great Great….
    This post holds valuable information about spams. But i am little bit confused that..
    what is the difference between penalty and penalized?


  51. Speaking as someone who is working on a plan to start a good website, the information in this post is kind of distressing. I am planning to do everything the ‘right way’, but it seems that even a lot of proper websites that do nothing wrong often get penalized. And when combined with the need to wait weeks or months for the algorithm to be run again… It’s a bit depressing.

    An advice I have been given by another SEO marketer comes to mind: ‘Don’t rely just on Google for your traffic’. I guess it pays to be as thorough as possible and have more ways for your audience to reach you.

    Nevertheless, it was a good and very informative read. Thanks, Neil.

    • George, glad you found it helpful. Great point as well — diversify your traffic resources to get the best results.

  52. pankaj karnwal :

    very nice article. here is whole story to read about penalties by google. thanks for sharing with us this whole story.

  53. Dear Neil,

    Thank you for all the great advises … I’m receiving your newsletter and each one is a good tip or has something to teach me… thank you!

    Keep it doing like this..

    Kind regards from Ecuador.

  54. This article came along at a great time for me. I’ve been slowing building my company’s website through White Hat techniques and I’m pleased to say that in 12 months (with the blog only starting in recent months) our Organic SEO has grown 138% and our page rankings continue to increase too. We haven’t hit page 1 yet but being on 2 and 3 is really close to #1… I know it’ll get there very soon.

    The problem I’ve run into is that one of my bosses has become enamoured with a fast talking SEO specialist who cut his teeth on Pay Day loan and gambling sites. My boss is now contracting this guy into writing and publishing 2-3 pages of new content daily with TONS of keywords throughout as well as purchasing links to have this content published on for authority. I’ve warned my bosses about being penalized and how this could adversely affect the site but the SEO specialist is very confident that he will not get caught because “he knows how to do this right”.

    Should I sit back and keep my mouth shut just to go through the painful process of recovery should my site be penalized? Or am I making a mountain out of a molehill?

    • In the interest of professional integrity, I would say talk to your boss. You can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, so your boss is still free to do as they wish–although I would probably get really, really ticked off when those tactics spoil your hard work.

      So before your boss sticks you with the blame, make it very clear you want NO part of this and that by working with this blackhat guy, your boss is not only going against your professional advice but also industry-accepted practices, empirical evidence, and search engine ToS. Don’t take the fall for somebody else’s unscrupulousness.

      • Agreed. I’ve given my warnings and even last night sent over two very good blog posts on why (in not only my opinion but many others) they shouldn’t do this (especially in our area of business) and now I wash my hands of the decision.

        And if I try and look at the bright side of things, if we DO get penalized, it’ll show that 1) they should have listened to me and 2) I’ll get some hands-on training and experience on how to recover.

        Thank you for the reply, as well. It’s refreshing to have others in the industry to bounce ideas and opinions off of.

    • Mary, I think you need to provide data and some case studies to show your boss — ultimately you want to provide value and save your boss grief — but you don’t want to seem like a know it all with out the facts to back up your assertions.

      • True. I’ve delivered the warning and the case studies so I guess I’ll just sit back and see what happens. At least I know what I’ll be looking for if we get penalized thanks to Quick Sprout! Thanks so much!

  55. Love this post! Bookmarked it right away. If somebody wants to know what “valuable content” looks like, I’d just redirect them here. And Neil, I have to say, I’ve been following you off and on for years now and the Instagram experiment notwithstanding, you’re still one of my favorite bloggers online. (Which is an achievement in itself, given how fickle I can be. 😛 )

  56. Hi,

    Interesting problem…on domains that I have had for years and have done 0 back-linking or promotional work I have found tons of spam links going to the http://www version of the domain and not the root. How can I delete these links that almost always go to Nike shoes, loius viouton bags, or erectile drugs

    ty Al

  57. One of my site was hit by the Penguin Update but through the help of Google’s Webmaster Tool. I was able to recover it back. WMT is an important tool to check and fix a penalized site.

  58. Hi Neil,

    I’ve an interesting case. We got a manual penalty for “spammy markup” – we added visual rating (stars) to our blog posts (to increase CTR) but it was blocked for users that were not logged into our application. Dodgy, I know 🙁

    The action would not show for some time in Google Search Console but I noticed the traffic to the website stopped increasing. Totally. Our startegy that had been working brilliantly so far started to fail. No matter how many strong links we got, the positions would not move a bit.

    Then at some point, the visual rating disappeared from SERPs and the manual action appeared in the search console.

    We fixed it and withing a week the site was reconsidered. 2-3 days later the site was the postions started climbing again.

    Takeaway: stay away from all manipulation, monitor your traffic on a frequent basis, check Google Console.

    p.s. love your blog – we build 300k users monthly thanks to it 🙂

  59. I bought furniture from French Heritage for my home. It looks quite classy and truly grabs the eye of visitors.

  60. Thank you so much for sharing info about the Panguin tool!

    It helped me figure out that 2 of my test Amazon Affiliate sites probably got hit by Panda as they barely had any content on them when the update happened, but they were already indexed.

    I’m hoping for another Panda “check” soon so I can see if I fixed the issue or if it’s something else.

    Once again, thanks!

  61. @neil patel, this help me alot, on one of my sites traffic suddenly decreased and i was worried that maybe i am hit by new google update, but after analysing it looks like i only need to work harder on my sites in the future

  62. Thank you! Very useful info!

  63. Jason Alexdander :

    Nicely written and the explanations are really awesome. I have one question : what if the content I am writing doesn’t requires it to be big. I mean if I can provide the article within 300 words, would that be a thin content? I mean if I am already providing the main content on 300 words , should I write more relevant stuff to make it 500 words to avoid the thin content penalty?

    • Jason, I wouldn’t fluff up articles as it will dull the reading experience. Your best bet is to just write as much as possible and providing compelling links to other articles and useful graphics that may help others. You also don’t want to write too much fluff content as google will look at it with diminished interest if it’s not contextual.

      Great question.

  64. Dear Neil Sir, Thanks for writing this kind of article, it is very useful for any SEO aspirant, and we all work hard to get our site rank on Google, and ends up with some mistakes, it’s better to avoid penalty and do seo in proper way, there are bloggers write about link building. Some of them write crap and reading those tips. After reading these tips we try to use them and ends with some penality. It’s great that after reading this kind of indepth article, now we will be aware of what kind of penalty can hit your site by using wrong way to rank your site online. Thanks again for writing this indepth article.
    God Bless You!

    • Vipin, glad you found the article helpful.

      I try to provide as much detail and insight as possible. I don’t agree with putting content out for the sake of it — content should be detailed and provide value to your readers.

      Thanks for the feedback!

  65. Wonderful article!! I have just complete a workshop about SEO and how Google work and they were teaching some blackhat techniques as well. And this article is like a good sign about what would really help me with my SEO business. I have done SEO for a few websites and I am planning to do it full time and I was aware about all the updates. But this is a very refreshing article for someone who is always looking for learning something new.

    Thank you.

    • Ratika, glad you found it helpful. Which parts did you find particularly helpful? I would be curious to know…

      Looking forward to hearing from you.

  66. Very good post Niel. Google panda is really a mystery! I hope they will clear out our confusions.

  67. I have been searching for this information for a while. You have a great blog! Information like this is so valuable to us, we don’t even realize. And to be readily available on the web is like a gift! Keep up the good work!

  68. Krzysztof Furtak :

    In my opinion penguin 4 “rules” will be the same, but google will improve algorithm to find that “bad links”. For now, we have to wait.

  69. I work with blogs and my affinity is related to tumblr, in a latest update had very damaged metrics can be linked with this assessment that google made of Seo’s using webs to make backlinks? Even with relevant content?

  70. We have a site with lots of variations of the same product therefore our descriptions on our product pages can be very similar apart from references to colour. Have you any advice to help avoid a duplicate content penalty

  71. Very informative. But I think that this can still change over time – I am pertaining to the way they penalize and rank sites. I am wondering if there is a way to know when this will happen.

  72. Such a gr8 post about Penguin Tools ..looks quite helpful for many of Digital Marketers including me.. Looking for more updates for the same from your side Neil.. Good Job..!!

  73. I am about to embark on a link building campaign. I understand that I need to build them naturally (seemingly!) and keep my link profile diverse.
    However, I have been told that the effect links have is ever-decreasing.
    Does this mean that my time might be better spent elsewhere or will links continue to have the effect they currently do?
    I want to avoid patiently building links for a year only to find that their value has greatly diminished.

    • The value of the link diminishes if you’re getting more than 1 link from the site. Building links is something you’ll want to track and monitor on an on going basis. Create goals to add 5-10 links per month and notice how it affects your ranking positions.

      • Thanks Neil. Much appreciated!

        As a further question… What is the best way of tracking this sort of activity?

        Do you use a tool? Or are you better off manually logging each link you build?

        If you use a tool, which one would you recommend?

  74. I have downloaded the guide and it is comprehensive as i expected. This will be useful for me and my VA.

  75. Very Informative Post , Especially as per SEO Terms.

  76. Hello Neil, I love to read your posts, been long time subscriber to your newsletters and I can confirm the high quality information you share.
    But, coming back to Google penalties – I have to say this
    Suddenly in Nov 2015 my 15 years old site got slapped with “manual whatever” I kicked from SERP. means – I lost everything within week – no customers no orders.
    Spent next months doing that “banana dance” with disavow links and request for reconsideration – USELESS.
    The bot (I’m pretty sure it is bot) sent me the same answers – “after blah blah you site still violates blah blah… ”
    I asked (well sent emails) to be more specific – no reply
    I spent few days at their forum. 99% wannabees and not 1 single straight answer as well.
    I called them – spoke with some outsourced kids who barely speak English and can only do 3 things
    1. Please hold on (about 10-15 minutes)
    2. Let me ask your details ….
    3. Let me know your email I’ll check and send you an answer – never

    I checked that although my site went out of SERP the GoogleBot is banging it each 3-5 seconds. How sexy )
    Ok. Now it was 7 months. I gave up to find the solution, angry and very upset

  77. Andy Kuiper :

    Ran across this page – all good info… thanks Neil 🙂
    *c’mon Google, please get Penguin sorted out – it’s 2016 already 😉

  78. Hi Neil,

    First of all thank you for such a wonderful deep analysis on Google Penalties & their recovery process which you have shared with us. Actually I’m quite confused with one of my client website who is a famous real estate attorney in Los Angeles, the website was hit by panda & penguin in 2012 & 2013 after that we had made all the necessary changes as it affect the website but unfortunately nothing has been work still we won’t recovered our website I don’t know why.. I’m unable to find where we are lacking, I’ve applied all the SEO tools including ScreamingFrog, GMT, SEMRUSH, Ahref, Siteliner, etc. all but nothing has working yet. Please help us to find out the right solution for our client who has much patience as no one can wait so long…

  79. Wow! Neil, I’m speechless with the quality of your post. Congratulations!

    Now I have a question for you. Have you ever hired a freelancer abroad to build backlinks for your site? I thought about doing this to save time and energy so I can concentrate on the content of my blog. However I’m afraid they will create low quality links with black hat techniques.

    What do you know about this? Do you consider hiring someone else to build links for you a risky strategy? And if so, do I have better options to build manual links safely and rapidly? Thanks in advance.

    • No, the quality just isn’t there. Yes it could be risky as the link builders are more interested in making money from you than they are making sure they are building quality links

  80. The OTA Guide :

    Great info, I really needed to review these as it has been a while since I’ve caught up with Google penalties.

  81. Grazi Miranda :

    Awesome post. I’ve never been penalized and it just helped me to understand better and not make any mistakes.Thank you!

  82. Patrick McCarthy :

    What’s up with the exact match anchor text link (“payday loans”) to a payday lender (Ace Cash Express)?

    • An example of a payday loans site

      • Patrick McCarthy :

        Based on the content of the sentence, it seems like a link to the “payday loans” SERP would be a more relevant link. Plus, then you wouldn’t be helping/potentially sending your users to a payday lender.

        Just my 2 cents.

        Keep up the great work, Neil! Everybody in the industry is indebted to you for all of the incredible info you share. Thanks!!

  83. Hi Neil. Even though this is my first comment I have been learning so much from your posts. Thank you so much for sharing you knowledge with us.

  84. Michael Joseph :

    Hi Neil, I’ve received a penalty for a site because the domain expired for about 12 to 14 hours (this issue not included in above list).
    While I do realise this is one of the cardinal sins not to do 🙁 i was wondering in your opinion, how long it takes for a site penalised like this to recover to its previous ranking?
    The site is rich in original content that was previously ranking above many heavyweights in this niche, (imho) solely due to its unique content which I had personally written. It went from a CTR of 150++ daily and 6 figure impressions per month solely from google to zero CTR for the last 7 days.
    One week on from the mentioned debacle if I enter I can see that every page is stil indexed in google.
    Any advice from your experience I would humbly appreciate.

  85. These aare actually great ideas in on the topic of blogging.
    Yoou have touched some pleasant things here. Any way
    keep upp wrinting

  86. I created one website (1) then later in another name i created another site (2) with same topics (as website 1 not duplicated) but with different content / text. Does it affects ranking?

  87. Hello Neil, I love to read your posts, been long time subscriber to your newsletters and I can confirm the high quality information you share.

  88. Neil, desculpe está escrevendo em português 🙂

    Mas, de qualquer forma gostaria de agradecer por esse artigo, me ajudou muito.

    Donato Barros

  89. euripedes B. jr :

    Neil. Os seus osts estão me ajudando bastante. Desculpe redigir em português, porém acompanho seu trabalho e você é um gênio..

  90. Neil

    I have downloaded the guide and it is comprehensive as i expected. This will be useful for me and my VA.

    Tks for every help us with your articles.

  91. lucimar bontemps :

    great article

  92. Neil that information rich article. I’ll study it well. So as not to risk being penalized. Keep sharing knowledge with us.

  93. Curso Caio Fábio Exclusivo :

    The internet provides us with relevant information at all times. What a great website!

  94. Curso Vou ser Pai :

    I really enjoyed this information. Thank you!

  95. Mundo Premium :

    So much relevant information. Thanks for sharing!

  96. Thanks! Thanks for sharing!

  97. Neil, your posts are precious! Tks for sharing your knowledge.

  98. I always really like your articles

  99. Simply enlightening your article, thank you very much for sharing this information friend! Hug!

  100. Good explanation mr. I’m sure that kind of article is responsable your profit. Congratulations

  101. muito bom este artigo, sensacional!

  102. Neil,
    Very nice tips…
    Excellent post!

  103. hi! Great article, I really liked it! thanks!!!

  104. luiz fernando :

    hi! I really liked it!

  105. Great article!

  106. isabel aques :

    very thanks!!!

  107. Rohit Gautam :

    in last month 14 mar some of my keyword down but there is no changes in traffi. and dont get any manual action message in WMT.
    But i got some spammy links(nofollow) from 3 website and they link some of my website pages.
    only that pages ranking are down. is this an algorithm update effect. i have also disavow that domain last month.
    is i get my rank back on that keywords?

  108. Hi Niel, would you have an idea on how Google would rank a browser based app with minimal text content? The site has a browser based app that allows users to input data into, then it spits a result out. So there would be little to no text or text content. Would a site like that never be rankable?

    • It’s difficult to rank a site like that. Why not start a blog on the domain to generate traffic and start ranking?

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