Are you noticing a sudden traffic drop on your website? It might be due to a Google penalty (aka Google algorithm updates).
If you’re wondering about how to check if your site is penalized by Google, this detailed guide is exclusively for you.
A Google penalty leads to a sudden drop in the rankings of the entire site or just some pages on the website. If you’re seeing a traffic drop or lost rankings for your most visited pages, you need to act fast so you can recover your traffic and search rankings.
Let’s discuss in detail about how to identify if your site is banned or penalized by Google along with Google penalty checker tools and ways to fix a Google penalty.
Are you ready? Let’s jump into the details.
Table of Contents
- How To Identify If Your Website is Banned or Completely Deindexed by Google?
- How to Use Backlink Audit Tool from Semrush to Get Rid of Toxic Links
- 10 Reasons Google can Penalize Your Website in 2023 and Beyond
- Did you spot a traffic drop that corresponds to a Google update? Here’s how to fix
- FAQs About Google Penalties And Recovery
- Final thoughts on recovering from Google penalties
How To Identify If Your Website is Banned or Completely Deindexed by Google?
Let’s first talk about how to identify if your site is banned or not getting indexed by Google search engine crawlers.
If your website is banned from Google, it is completely gone from Google servers and it will not be seen for any kind of search query on Google.
To identify whether your site is banned or deindexed from Google search, here are some Google searching strings you should enter on Google to know whether your website is banned by Google or not.
Type site:yourdomain.com (replace yourdomain with your domain name) on Google and if you happen to see no data against your website, it means Google has no data stored for your website in its database.
If you’re able to see some results, you are not banned by Google.
If you are seeing a drop in traffic on your website, your website might have been penalized by Google search algorithm updates or you have done something against Google Guidelines.
Type link:yourdomain.com (replace yourdomain with your domain name) on Google search and try to find number of backlinks Google is showing for your website.
If Google was showing some backlinks for your website earlier and now displaying no backlinks, it’s a serious problem.
If you are seeing no results against both of the above commands, your website is surely banned or completely deindexed by Google.
Would you like to watch our video tutorial on recovering from Google updates? Check out!
Top 3 Google Penalty Checker Tools
If you are looking for Google penalty checker tools to check if your site is penalized by Google or not, here are a few of them that can help you with that.
One of the widely used SEO tools is Semrush (used by over 6 million people worldwide). It offers you a tool called Semrush Sensor which measures volatility in search results.
It tracks down over 20 categories ranging from beauty to finance to travel on mobile and desktop and highlights possible Google Updates.
Here’s how the Semrush sensor looks like;
As you can see above, you can easily check the SERP volatility for the last 30 days (low means, no issues and very high means, there’s a big Google algorithm update is happening).
This is an incredible free SEO tool that will help you easily analyse whether your website has been impacted by Google’s algorithm updates. You need to create a free account using your GMail account to access this amazing free tool.
Once you log into your free account, you can enter your website’s URL to know whether your site is hit by any Google updates.
Here’s how it looks like;
As you can see above, you can easily investigate your site and find out whether you’ve penalized by any updates like Panda, Penguin or other updates from Google.
This is the latest free penalty checker tool that lets you graphically see which of the Google updates impacted your website rankings or traffic.
With the free version of this tool, you can access only two websites information and also you cannot access the last 3 months of updates. With their pro version, you can get all the latest data with more limits.
Here’s how it looks like;
As you can see above, this tool gives you an analysis of your traffic along with the impact and the Google update that caused traffic drop.
So there you go. That’s how you can either use Google penalty checker tools or manual Google search strings to easily check if your website is penalized by Google or not.
Semrush is my go-to choice when it comes to finding and removing bad backlinks.
Why? It offers an amazing tool called “Backlink Audit” which helps you identify and disavow toxic backlinks from your site before Google penalizes you with another freaky update.
Here are the benefits of using the Backlink Audit tool from Semrush.
- Find all your backlinks using the Search Console integration
- You can find, audit and remove all the toxic backlinks
- You can use Google Disavow tool to remove all the toxic backlinks
- You can monitor your lost and found backlinks
All in all, the Backlink Audit tool helps you keep your backlink profile clean and you can also perform regular recrawls to keep an eye on your backlinks.
Quick note: The Backlink Audit tool from Semrush performs a regular recrawl of your website every two weeks which helps you keep your backlink profile clean.
So what are you waiting for?
Try Backlink Audit Tool from Semrush for FREE Today! (and get rid of all the toxic links)
Do you want to know how to use their Backlink Audit tool to find and get rid of toxic links?
Here’s a simple step by step tutorial on using Semrush Backlink Audit tool.
Step 1: Once you’re on the Semrush dashboard, visit the “Backlink Audit” tool that you can find under the “Link Building” Tab. Then, click on the “New Backlink Audit” at the top right to create a new project.
Here’s how it looks like;
Enter your domain and give the project a name and click on the Create Project button to continue. For more information on setting up your backlink project properly, please refer to this manual from Semrush.
Just make sure to connect your website with the Google Search Console for better results.
Step 2: After creating your project, run the Backlink Audit so that it starts auditing all the backlinks on your website.
Once the crawling is done, here’s how the Backlink Audit result looks like;
As you can see above, we already have disavowed more than 900 links from our backlink audit.
Also, you’ll notice various things in the Backlink Audit report including;
- Overall toxic score
- Total number of analyzed backlinks
- All analyzed domains by toxic score
Step 3: Disavow all the toxic links
Once you have a list of all the toxic links to remove from your site, you can start Disavowing them. Just select the toxic links and click on the Delete > To Disavow button to send those toxic links to Google’s Disavow tool.
Quick note: You can also manually reach out to the website owners to remove those links from their end (optional though).
You can then visit the “Disavow” section on Semrush to export your most toxic backlinks.
For further information, please watch my YouTube video on how you can use the Backlink Audit tool from Semrush to remove backlinks.
10 Reasons Google can Penalize Your Website in 2023 and Beyond
Let’s now discuss about some of the possible reasons that can lead to website penalization from Google. Then, we’ll cover how to recover from Google penalties in this detailed guide.
1. Toxic or broken links
If your website pages contain too many broken links or toxic backlinks, you’re sending bad signals to Google.
Google hates 404 error pages. No one likes 404 error pages including your website visitors.
Search engines like Google give #1 priority to backlink profiles.
Backlinks are the reason why authority sites rank well. So you need to fix broken links on your website. You can use tools like Xenu link sleuth to find broken links.
If you’re using WordPress, you can use broken link checker plugin that will monitor your blog looking for broken links and let you know if any broken links are found.
2. Slow loading pages
No one likes to stay on a website that takes too much time to load, not even Google crawlers. Google always wants to provide the fastest experience to its users, so it rewards the fast loading sites.
If you’re seeing a traffic drop on your site, it might be due to slow loading pages on your site. Make sure to use tools like Pingdom tools, Google PageSpeed Insights, GTMetrix etc to find out your page performance and loading times.
If your site is taking more than 2 to 3 seconds to load, you need to give #1 priority to boosting your website speed as it matters a lot. Speed is also a Google ranking factor.
Focus on improving your page loading times by;
- Installing lightweight plugins (and limiting your plugins usage)
- Enabling page caching
- Moving to a faster web host like WPX hosting
- Compressing your image sizes
3. Anchor text over optimization
Are you over optimising your anchor text links? Are you stuffing keywords while linking to your internal posts (or external links)? If yes, you’re in trouble.
Excessive anchor text is similar to keyword stuffing (as you can have too much anchor text on a given page) and it can lead to a Google penalty. So avoid too many keywords on a page linking to other pages of a website or all to the same page but with different anchor texts.
4. Duplicate content issues
If you are simply copying or just rehashing the content which is already available on the internet, you’ll NEVER see great results from Google and your site might soon be penalized or even banned by Google.
Google only wants to show high quality, well researched and original content to its users and not any duplicate content (or repeated content). Ideally you should be creating original and niche specific content only.
Google updates such as Panda update focuses more on rewarding the sites with quality content and lowering down the ranking of those websites that are producing thin or duplicate content.
5. Too many ads or popups
Yes, it’s essential for any blogger or marketer to use ads on their sites. After all, we all need to make money from our blogs to survive. But don’t overdo it by placing too many ads (be it banner ads, AdSense ads, Infolinks ads, affiliate product ads and so on).
You need to limit your advertising usage and make sure to use your ads smartly and don’t make them interrupt your website user experience.
Similarly, stop using excessive pop ups as Google rolled out an intrusive mobile interstitial penalty where it started penalizing the pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results.
You can check out the below illustration from Search Engine Land to see the examples of interstitials that make content less accessible by your website visitors.
6. Malware or Suspicious Code on Your Website
Google looks to be taking every action to make sure their user’s browsing experience is very safe with them and thus they would not love sending people to those websites that contains malware, hacking, trojan or other type of suspicious code.
Recently Google started notifying website owners about the possible malware attacks on their website through Google Search Console accounts. If you notice any malware warning from Google in your GWT account, it’s time to remove the problematic code from your website.
7. Keyword stuffing
Keyword stuffing is the process of optimizing a page by repeating the exact same keyword too many times. It can definitely have a negative impact on your search rankings.
Here’s a basic example of keyword stuffing.
As you can see above, the keyword “product marketing” is used 5 times within one paragraph. Google easily recognizes such keyword common occurrences and don’t rank such pages as they are NOT helpful for the readers.
What’s the point of using the exact same keyword within a page too many times? It’s not going to help your website audience.
8. Lost backlinks
Another most obvious reason your website rankings might have dropped in Google search results is that you have lost backlinks.
Whether you know it or not, Google gives top priority to links. It gives top rankings to the pages with more links (most preferably high quality and relevant links). So if you’ve lost backlinks in the recent times, you might see a traffic drop.
Check your website for lost backlinks over the period of last 90 days by using SEO tools like Semrush, Serpstat etc.
Majority of small scale websites depend heavily on few backlinks they gained over a period of time to maintain their website page rank and rankings on Google.
It’s quite possible, your website rankings on lots of targeted keywords are dropping because links for your website are dropped from there or the value of a link coming from such resources is reduced or gone completely in Google eyes.
If you are blogging in a competitive industry, you need to keep on building quality backlinks to your website from different sources on a regular basis. You should not think of stopping link building activities for your website. Check out these advanced link building strategies if you’re looking to build quality links.
9. Manipulating with hidden text
Are you using hidden text or links to manipulate Google? Google is smart enough to catch hidden text and using hidden text or links is against Google guidelines.
Google bots are becoming more intelligent with each update and they can easily find the hidden text section on your website even if you tried hiding it through certain CSS tricks. If you accidentally end up adding some hidden text on your website, remove it instantly.
According to Google, here’s what hidden text or links include;
- Using white text on a white background
- Locating text behind an image
- Using CSS to position text off-screen
- Setting the font size to 0
- Hiding a link by only linking one small character (for example, a hyphen in the middle of a paragraph)
Also avoid cloaking. Cloaking is the practice of serving different content to search engine bots and users. So there will be differences in the actual content you will be offering to Google bots and users of your website. If you are thinking of making a fool of search engine bots through such practices, stop doing them as it can lead to a Google penalty.
10. Doing Excessive Link Exchange or Buying Links
If you are doing excessive link exchange which may be coming in two way, three way exchange or any other way, you are violating Google Quality guidelines. To be on safer side you should stay away from link exchange type of practices and if you must do link exchange, do with very few and most trusted websites in your niche.
Apart from excessive link exchange, you should stay from link buying. As Google automatic programs find you are involved in link buying or selling related activities, they will place a severe penalty or even a ban on your website.
Here are some more reasons that can lead to a Google penalty.
Thin Affiliate Website: Thin Affiliate sites are those that have no or very little original content. People who are running such websites have the intention of making money while selling different affiliate products from their websites.
Most of time, they just copy and paste the content from websites they are affiliated with like Amazon, ClickBank, eBay etc. All search engines will soon detect your website content quality and then you will start facing penalties and bans from them.
Server Related Errors: If Google bots are finding problems in accessing your website or it’s taking too much time in responding, it could be problematic. If your website remains down for sometime only, that should not create much problem. But if your website remains down for many days without any proper server response code, you may notice drop in rankings for your website on Google.
Did you spot a traffic drop that corresponds to a Google update? Here’s how to fix
Are you noticing a traffic drop on your websites? Do you see a sudden traffic drop overnight? It might be mostly because of a Google update.
If you’re noticing a traffic drop that relates to a Google algorithm update, here’s how to fix it so you can get back your search traffic.
Step 1: Firstly, investigate everything
- Check if your website is suffering from Google updates like Panda, Penguin and others (you can use Google penalty checker tools which are already listed above)
Make sure to find what is causing a traffic drop on your website.
So keep an eye on the following things and analyse
- traffic drops on your website’s individual pages (did you see a traffic drop only in specific pages such as your high traffic pages?)
- traffic drops on specific keywords
- a huge traffic drop overall (definitely something is wrong with your site)
- a huge number of your website pages get deindexed from Google search (always keep an eye on your indexed pages)
- find out whether your entire website is deindexed from Google search results (probably due to Google violation)
Once you know how your site is affected by Google updates, you can work on the appropriate areas to fix the issues to recover from the penalties.
One common reason for traffic drop on any website is due to technical issues including the following.
Here’s where site audits can help you so much. We highly recommend you to use Semrush site audit feature to find and fix your website technical related issues to recover from any Google penalties.
Looking for a free trial of Semrush tool? You can use the following link to get a 14 days free trial of this amazing SEO tool.
We highly recommend you to give a try to Semrush site audit feature as gives you in-depth analysis about your technical or SEO related issues (so you can easily find and fix those issues).
Here’s how the site audit from Semrush looks like;
As you can see above, Semrush site audit tool gives your website a total health score by including;
It also gives you reports on all the issues your website currently has including;
- Crawlability issues
- Https issues
- Internal linking issues
- Site performance and the list goes on
Step 2: Check if your website’s traffic is not dropped due to external factors
Here are some external factors that you can check;
- Any changes to your site (such as making changes to robots.txt files, installing new plugins, changing your CSS code and so on)
- GSC warnings (go to Google Search Console and see if there are any warnings and malware issues showing up)
- Design related changes (have you recently made any changes to your design or installed a new theme or completely rebranded your site’s design?)
So make sure to find out if the traffic drop is due to any recent changes that you made knowingly or unknowingly on your site.
Step 3: Understand and work according to the Google penalty
The best way to fix a penalised website is to first crack down which penalty caused the issue or traffic drop.
If you are curious to know about the most common updates (along with recent updates from Google), here’s a list of some of them. We’ll also briefly talk about how you can recover from those updates.
- Fred update from Google: Google Fred update mainly targets and penalizes those sites that practice black hat SEO tactics to monetize their pages aggressively. It includes excessive usage of ads, thin content and so on. The best way to avoid getting penalized by this update is to limit your ads usage and offer more value to your website users.
- Mobilegeddon update from Google: This update is all about rewarding the sites that are mobile responsive and punishing the sites that are not mobile-friendly. Make your WordPress sites mobile-friendly and you’ll be safe from these updates.
- RankBrain update from Google: RankBrain is a machine-learning artificial intelligence (AI) system that was introduced by Google in 2015. Rankbrain helps Google process some of its search results in particular rare or one-of-a-kind queries and it’s also the 3rd most important ranking factor after content and backlinks.
- Panda update from Google: Panda updates mainly deals with thin content producing websites. These updates focus on rewarding the sites with high quality content and lowering the rankings of those sites with mediocre or duplicate content.
- Penguin update from Google: This update mostly deals with links on your website. If your site has too many toxic links or spammy links, your site may diminish from the search results. So always keep an eye on your backlink profile and remove all the harmful links.
- Exact Match Domain (EMD): It was released to bring down the rankings of those exact match domains which were enjoying top rankings on Google just because of a keyword rich domain name.
- DMCA Penalty: Google recently started taking DMCA complaints against a website very seriously. They are going to penalize those websites that receives several copyright violation requests made against.
- Google Over Optimization Penalty: If you end up getting lots of links to your website using the same anchor text, you may face an over optimization penalty from Google.
- Google BERT update: BERT will impact 1 in 10 of all search queries. This is the biggest change in search since Google released RankBrain. BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. BERT helps better understand the nuances and context of words in searches and better match those queries with more relevant results.
- Google Core update: This was probably the major Google update in recent times and the majority of the sites including large publications like the Daily Mail, CCN etc publicly said how badly this update hit them.
Hot tip: Always keep an eye on latest Google Algorithm Updates from Search Engine Journal (Search Engine Journal always keeps track of the latest algorithm updates). So it’s a good idea to bookmark their page to see for latest updates from Google. Moz also does the same (you can check it from here).
Step 4: Filing the Reconsideration Request
Once you have cleaned up all the activities that were against Google Quality Guidelines, its time to file a reconsideration request to Google. When filing this request, you should mention the steps that you took and make sure, you will not be going against quality guidelines in future.
Lots of reconsideration requests are sent to Google on daily basis, so it may take several weeks for your request to process. This request is going to help only if your website was banned on Google and if your website was facing a certain level of penalty from Google, they will be automatically removed with time once you have taken the required actions.
In the mean time, you should continue publishing high quality and comprehensive content on your website. You should also work towards building some quality backlinks for your website targeted pages using natural looking anchor text’s.
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FAQs About Google Penalties And Recovery
Here’s a list of some important and most frequently asked questions around Google penalties, Google updates and their recovery tips.
The best way to know whether your site is hit with a Google penalty is to check your website traffic, overall search rankings, conversions and so on. If you’ve lost a significant amount of traffic within a short time, it might be due to a Google algorithm update.
Google Panda update was introduced in 2011 to crack down on websites that contain thin and mediocre content, excessive usage of ads, bad website design and so on. The major purpose of Google Panda update was to reward websites that produce high quality content and diminish the websites from Google search that produce thin and low quality content.
Here are some of the best SEO tools that can help you with site audits, finding and fixing your Google penalty issues on your site.
→ Semrush (highly recommended tool)
→ Google search console (check out for warnings and any other site issues such as crawlability issues)
Final thoughts on recovering from Google penalties
If you’ve already lost traffic due to any algorithm updates from Google, first diagnose the issues. Is it because of low quality content, toxic links or anything other? Then, you can start fixing those issues to recover from Google penalties.
Do you have any more questions about Google penalties? Share your thoughts in the comments below.