How To Remove Google Penalty In 5 Easy Steps

As most people already know, organic search engine traffic is quite important and it can be the most effective way of getting traffic and leads. At this point of time, getting high rankings on the first page of Google is not as easy as it was before. Google is always coming up with new versions of the algorithm in order to refine their search results and stop spammers. The results of this were that many people who do SEO will push their link-building campaigns to the limit. If you are not very careful when doing this, then you might have a good chance of getting penalised by Google for violating their rules.

Google has published that they apply a manual penalty at least 400,000 times each month. On the other side, there are numerously more websites getting punished by automatic algorithmic penalties, such as Panda and Hummingbird. Only about 5% of those that do get punished end up sending a reconsideration letter to Google in order to try and get their old rankings back. If you are one of those people, then in this article, we’ll show you how you can recover your old rankings and start getting organic traffic again.

What Causes Google Penalty?

Like we’ve already mentioned, there are two types of penalty and you have to find what caused it.

  • Manual action – If this is the case, you should see a notification in your Google Search Console and a message like this:
google penalty
  • Algorithmic penalty – You can pinpoint this problem by correlating the time when you started losing traffic with the date when a new algorithm was released. Here’s a change history timeline.

5 Major Google Penalties Explained

Thin Content

This is a very common type of penalty. Is quite common because people are sometimes in a hurry to get the page up or they simply don’t have too much of information to present on the topic. Google will parse each word and page on your website even if on some pages there isn’t a need to have a super long article.

A duplicate content issue is also usual one because that’s simply plagiarised content. You’re not even bothering to change the text a bit, and you simply copy/paste everything to your website. This is true for both articles and product descriptions. Another common mistake is when someone has many different pages on the website and the only thing that differs in them is the city or state names. People try to target different geo locations by having different cities in the text as the only variation, but in Google’s eyes, you just have thin and duplicate content.

thin content

Also, don’t try to use software to write or re-write content and generate numerous copies of it because Google has found a way to spot this and it’ll get you penalised.

How to fix the problem:

  • Delete the content that you have copied from other websites
  • Re-write your product descriptions in a unique way
  • If you can’t remove or change the content, then at least add a noindex meta tag to that page so Google doesn’t crawl it


Redirects And Cloaking

Let’s look at two ways that this can be a problem:

  • Redirects: when a page is already indexed in Google but is redirecting to a different page and content
  • Cloaking: when you show a specific content to users but to the Google bot you’re showing something entirely different


How to fix the problem:

To check any cloaking issues, take the URL that is giving you a problem and Fetch it as Google.

If that version is any different from what you see when you visit the page, then contact your developer and have him fix the issue.

On the other hand, to check for redirect issue, simply download any tool like Screaming Frog and manually check all redirect’s destinations. If you see something weird, just point that redirect to a relevant page or just remove the redirect.

Problems With Hackers

Hackers sometimes just get through your website’s security and Google doesn’t want to put you or your visitors in any danger. A sure way to know if you’ve been hacked is to see how your website address will show up in Google’s search results as it’ll have “This site may be hacked” warning below it.

How to fix the problem:

The first thing you should do is to shut down the access to your website before you resolve the issue. Next, change all your passwords (FTP, CMS, admin, etc.) and contact your website host and let them know about the issue. Search Console will help you to identify the exact type of attack. When you are in Search Console, you should go to Security Issues. If there’s such issue, you should see a notification.

User-generated Spam

In this scenario, your users have created problem instead of you. Blog pages usually have a comment box and allow all users to leave comments or upload content. They are usually promoting their products and services and using usernames with a specific anchor text that is easy to spot.

How to fix the problem:

Spammers usually post in blog comments, guest book pages, and forum posts. Usually, they don’t have a profile picture, their name might look sketchy and auto generated and are usually advertising something and writing generic comments that make no sense. There are some good anti-spam software’s that can help you out, depending on which platform you use.

Unnatural Links

Unnatural links come in two forms: unnatural links from your site and to your site and both will cause problems for you. Here are some of the forms of unnatural links that you should avoid:

  • Irrelevant backlinks
  • Links that are paid for
  • Any sort of link exchanges

How to fix the problem:

To fix the problem of unnatural outbound links, you should first get a list of all outbound links that you have pointing out from your website (use Ahrefs). Once that’s done, manually go through all the links and remove ones that are not following Google’s guidelines or just apply the nofollow tag to them.

For the unnatural links that are pointing to your website, you must also get a list of them (with Ahrefs as well). Once you pinpoint the problematic backlinks, you should remove them by yourself (if possible), contact the webmaster of the website where the link is located, and as a last resort disavow the backlinks.

5 Main Steps to Take When You Encounter Penalty

Step 1. Find all your backlinks

The first step is to find all links that are pointing to your website, preferably from a few sources. Google has noted that they prefer that you use only their Search Console to get the links, but that you should try to find all the links that are causing the issue even if that means to use other tools. Other tools that you could use include Ahrefs, Majestic, and Open Site Explorer and they require a monthly subscription to gather data.

webmaster tools

Step 2. Identifying bad backlinks

This is the most important part of this process. It may sound simple, but you must be very careful in regards to what links you will try to remove. The best way to approach this is to manually examine each link by hand. Once you have all links in an excel spreadsheet from the previous step, you should mark ones that don’t need to be removed. Don’t delete any of the links from the spreadsheet as that will show Google what you’ve done.

Spotting spammy links can be tricky. You can usually tell straightaway if the link is on high-quality and authority website (such as BBC) or something of that nature. Natural links don’t usually need to be removed and these are links that have appeared from content that you’ve written naturally before (or someone else did). If you’ve written an article that got shared and posted in the right places, then you probably acquired those links naturally.

Sometimes you can spot a spammy link easily as well. An example would be a page where your link is listed along with 5,000 other links on the same page or a blog post with thousands of other blog comments that are also linking to their website. A good way to find out if the link is spammy is to check if the URL is indexed in Google, and if is not, then you can remove that link.


Site-wide links are also a good thing to disavow because they appear across every page of that website, so you can either try to remove them or at least nofollow them. Link directories are also often bad and usually need to be removed, and you can spot the low-quality ones if they list every kind of business and website there. On the other hand, there are some good link directories and they are usually targeted to a single niche and industry and are manually reviewed.


Step 3. Remove the bad backlinks

Once the first two steps are done, you can proceed to try to remove all those bad backlinks that you’ve found through your research.

Email the webmaster

When emailing the website where backlink is placed, you should always be very polite and be very specific. You are requesting someone’s time so make it easy for them to help you out. Always use your company’s email address and don’t use Gmail, Yahoo, etc. You should keep track of all emails that you send. Most websites will have a contact page where you’ll find email form or email address. If the webmaster refuses to remove the link for some reason, you can simply disavow it instead.


Step 4. The Disavow tool

This tool is something that you should use only when is absolutely necessary. An instance when you should use it includes the case when you simply can’t remove all the bad links, and in that case, do it before submitting a reconsideration request. You must not use it to avoid doing the previous work as that will not work. Google wants you to put in the hard work and try to fix your mistakes and not be lazy about it. By the time that you come to this step, you should already have that spreadsheet with all the links where you marked ones that are bad and ones that you’ve already removed, but also the ones that you were not able to remove for some reason.

When you submit links for disavowing, you can either disavow the entire domain where the link is placed or just that specific link, is up to you. When submitting the file, don’t include http:// or www prior to a domain, just use the root domain. You should put each domain in a new line but also write comments about which links you haven’t removed, why, etc. For more detailed instructions, you can check Google’s guide on how to use the disavow tool.


Step 5. Writing a Reconsideration Request

This is the last step that you have to make in order to try to lift a penalty. In the request, you should explain to Google what exactly you’ve done wrong in the past, what have you done to remedy the issue (send them the spreadsheet), explain how you won’t be doing the same mistakes again, and sincerely apologise for the issue.

The worst thing that you could do when submitting the reconsideration request is not being very specific. You should tell them everything: the links that you’ve paid for, comment spam that you did, etc. If some SEO company did a very poor work and got you into trouble, you should mention that as well and basically note that you take the responsibility, but that you’ve learned a lot since then and that you are committed to not crossing the guidelines in the future.


In the past, you could get away with building any links, but the times have changed as Google constantly updates its algorithm. Google wants search results to be very relevant to the search query and that websites provide a great user experience. If you’ve done something wrong in the past, and now you’re experiencing consequences of it, don’t worry because you can remove the penalty and get your old search rankings back.