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Google Penalty – How to get your Google rankings back

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Article Overview

Search engine traffic is significant for most online businesses, but achieving high rankings in Google is not as easy as it used to be. Therefore, many SEO agencies in Sydney push black hat techniques to the limit for their clients - to get fast rankings on Google. A Google penalty has disastrous consequences for businesses that rely on Google for customers.

If your website has been penalised by Google, your not alone. It’s very common.

Your business is tracking along quite nicely, you are shooting high on page 1 of Google and then boom, all of a sudden your rankings are gone. This is an absolute disaster and this happens all the time to websites that have violated Google’s strict SEO guidelines.

Welcome to a Google penalty. It’s a nightmare and can spell the end for many businesses that rely on Google to generate sales. penalty.

As Google continues to fine-tune, tweak and modify its ranking algorithm, many SEO agencies are finding it harder to rank their client’s websites. Even worse, there is a whole heap of ‘so called’ SEO agencies & SEO Gurus out there running rampant; offering crazy cut-price deals with unrealistic SEO ranking guarantees and pay on performance SEO, which all leads to 1 thing; a Google penalty. According to Matt Cutts, these Google penalties focus on two areas of your marketing, content and links.

Many businesses, in a hurry to get their website on page 1 of Google, often align themselves with SEO agencies that sell their services based on fabricated promises of miracle rankings in less than 90 days. These SEO cowboys are like sharks circling poor unsuspecting, naïve business people who believe the hype and end up paying for their ignorance by being stung with a Google penalty.

Also read: SEO penalty removal

What happens then?

Your once-loved SEO company will deny all knowledge of this and absolve themselves of all responsibility and you are left swinging in the breeze without anyone to help you out.

You can easily check if your site has been penalised by using these free tools – we prefer the Fruition websites tool- check it out here.

What is a Google Penalty?

A Google penalty is when Google has indexed your website, taken notice of all the internal backlinks pointing towards your website as well as all the non-compliant ‘on page’ work and has deemed it to be ‘black hat’. That is, the spam team at Google ( and yes there is a massive team who are watching every move you make online), feels that your site is trying to manipulate and artificially fabricate your websites online rankings. There are literally hundreds of ways that you can do this, but all you need is to cross the line once and you are going to be penalised.

What happens is that your website will either be taken out of the rankings where you will not be able to find it or dropped down 4 or 5 pages. This situation WILL NOT improve or remedy itself unless you take action in repairing the damage. Again, this is where we step in and fix the mess up. A word of warning here: do not attempt to do this yourself and take matters into your own hands. This will just make things worse.

How to spot a potential Google Penalty

This can be a lot harder than it looks but in my opinion prevention is far better than the cure. If you can spot a few of these techniques going on with your SEO company and if any of these methods have been implemented on your website then it’s time to hit the panic button.

How to spot a potential Google Penalty

The overuse of directory link building

It’s OK to have a few links on the most popular recognised, legitimate directories but if you think placing your website on hundreds of dodgy directories is going to help, then think again. Google has completely stamped this kind of practice out and will know if you are doing this. There is no hiding from their spiders and they will detect too many directory listings. Get your SEO company to show you all the backlinks they are doing and if the majority of them are from weird directories it’s time to get the hell out of there, and FAST!

Commenting on other websites blog

A massive no-no and this will have absolutely no impact on your rankings. One or two appropriate comments on separate websites are fine, but go overboard with this and watch out.

Repetitive over-optimised content

People often think that if they repeat their main keywords in their content it will help with the rankings. This just looks overly dodgy, will annoy anyone visiting your website and this contravenes all Googles ranking laws. Forget about spammy content, write naturally for your market and you will be fine. You might find that if you have employed an SEO company to write content for you and they are doing it on the cheap, they will outsource this and this is where the issues begin. Poor content written by amateurs is the surest path to a penalty. You will see this immediately when you look at your blog posts or web content.

Duplicate content

This should be obvious but having duplicate pages on your site makes no sense and is useless in Google’s view. Use tools like Copyscape to see if you have duplicate content. Experts at Quora agree that rented links are bad for SEO.

Rented links

If you are paying for links every month, these are considered paid links which is a bad SEO strategy. Commonly used by SEO agencies that control hundreds of websites through their private blog networks, they sell you rented links on these sites for a fee.

Having the same anchor text

Look at your inbound links. If you don’t know how to do this, then ask your SEO team. If all you see is the same keyword for your business is optimised, then you are going to get a penalty. This is a certainty. Even worse, if these anchor texts are always pointing to the home page. Google wants to see a natural and balanced looking link profile and if your website even slightly looks like it’s trying to scam the system, them its all over. This is the most common cause of a penalty so be on the lookout for this.

Many SEO agencies are working on very thin margins

The way they work is they offer you low, cheap insanely unrealistic offers just to get your business and guess what? To make any money they either do absolutely nothing or if they do something it’s really bad low quality work. If you have been persuaded by these guys to sign up with them cause the rates were just way too good to refuse then it’s likely you will suffer a penalty in the next couple of months. Even if they swear to god that you will never get a penalty and that none of their clients has ever suffered this fate, YOU WILL. This is part of their sales lies and this is why you are heading for a CRASH – you have been warned!

Also readSmall Business SEO guide – Black Hat vs White Hat SEO

If any of the above points look remotely familiar then your website is in violation of Google’s guidelines and it’s time to mitigate any potential problems. If your site is still ranking, then you still have time to correct the situation – if it doesn’t happen today then it may next week or next month. You just don’t know – so my advice is to radically shift your SEO focus at this stage to correcting all problems before you even consider any future rankings.

Two SEO penalty updates

There are 2 extremely vital SEO penalties that took a chunk out of the rankings of many sites and shifted the way search engine optimisation companies performed their business and looked at the way they implemented their strategies. Google effectively drew a line in the sand and said ‘ enough is enough. From this day onwards if you in any way contravene any of our guidelines your site will be penalised.

It’s really easy to avoid these penalties. Just play by the rules, use only ‘ white hat SEO techniques and stop looking at those cheap SEO players that are the real cause of these issues. Be realistic when it comes to your rankings, and for god’s sake spend the appropriate amount of money to get the best people working for you.

SEO Penalty # 1: Penguin

The Penguin Update was a massive update and cleaned up the whole outsourcing of SEO to the third world, where one could buy backlinks for next to nothing.

A new website could miraculously appear on page 1 within a few months and all they had to do was pay a small fee for this. It became a joke when companies had millions of backlinks and it was a matter of the more links the better. Quality was not an issue. Websites of real dodgy businesses were able to outrank legitimate operations by merely obtaining more links. Penguin was the saviour to this and immediately punished websites that not only had too many low-quality backlinks but also punished sites that were over optimising anchor text keywords.

In a matter of a day, it turned the whole ranking ideology around. Quality became paramount and link quantity became voodoo. This was implemented with very little warning and well-known household names were smashed by Google. The focus is on SEO agencies finding only premium backlinks that are relevant. One link from an authoritative website will outweigh thousands of links from poor sites.

SEO Penalty # 2 Panda

In a one-two knock out punch Google released Panda and this looked at everything to do you’re your website. Surviving the first algorithmic tsunami was not enough. You then had to wait for the aftershock of Panda Update that looked at your website and anything non-compliant was punished without impunity or exception. BOOM – there goes 15-20% of websites worldwide that had websites that were visibly delivering a poor user experience. These include: incorrect titles, on-page website content, page load speeds, relevant content, graphics, the list goes on and on. Websites that were old, outdated, copy poor and particularly offensive got hit by the Panda.

How do we fix this for you?

Fixing a Penguin Penalty

Let me first begin by saying this is not easy. It’s a long and in some cases, a difficult road but what we have to do is look at both ‘on and off page’ issues. The very first thing we do is to get access to your webmaster tools account and look at your backlinking profile. If there is a message from Google telling us that there are ‘too many inbound unnatural links’, then we have to go and delete each and every link ever created.

Yes, you heard this right. This can be an absolute nightmare depending on the number of links you have. Imagine going about and deleting 20 000 links. We have to contact all website owners that your links are on and beg them and in some cases you have to pay them, to get rid of the links. The point to make here is that you cannot go about this in a half-hearted manner. You have to show Google that you have made a very concerted effort to reduce your link profile. In some cases, they will accept your efforts and in others, they will want to see each and every link removed. This can be an issue as some website owners may be reluctant to be cooperative. In this case, after we have exhausted all avenues, we can then put these links aside and use the Google disavow tool. A bit complicated I know, but this is the process.

Fixing a Panda Penalty

In regards to all on page web issues hit by Panda, this is a lot easier and we can tackle this via designing and building a new website or simply fixing the issues that we can see. A relative quick fix and way easier than getting hit by the Penguin

How Long Does it take to recover from a Google Penalty?

This is definitely the most common question we are asked and unfortunately, I cannot provide an accurate time frame. It depends on many factors and varies based on how bad your SEO company was. Some agencies are that bad and did such shonky work that it can take months to fix the issue. If I had to give you an answer I would average it out and say anywhere between 3-6 months. See what Google has to say about Google penalties and recovery times.

Removing and pruning your backlinks is a real-time issue. Be prepared to stick this out for the long haul. In so far as fixing any on-page issues, all we need to do is get in there and wait for Google to re-index your site and this should see a remarkable turnaround. I have seen penalised websites come back to page 1 within a couple of weeks after making 1 or 2 slight alterations.

Because we are relying on Google, which can only be contacted via email, we must be patient. Pestering them with emails will have zero effect and may make matters worse. Accept the fact that you are in a penalty, let the professionals help you get out of it and cop the punishment. After all, you are there cause you made the wrong choice, to begin with when going with those bad SEO gurus.

See what Matt Cutts, head of Googles Spam Team says about timings for recovery from a Google Penalty.

Google is looking to see that you are contrite when communicating with them and will want to see a marked turn around in your online behaviour. I know this sounds a bit like school, but this is how you have to play the game. You are penalised for a reason and they want to see an improvement in your behaviour and an end to your dodgy ranking practices.

As you can gather from the above article, SEO penalties are a nasty business. They are a real issue that needs someone with previous experience. It can be a long labour intensive process that can take up a considerable amount of time, nerves and money.

Some people opt out entirely and may decide to scrap their website and start again, whilst others have an established brand and may need to go through this process.


Whether you have built some toxic backlinks to your website or someone has used negative SEO against you, recovering from a Google penalty is doable. SEO Sydney Experts can help; click here! But before we do, please read Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Numerous websites have recovered from all types of algorithm & manual action penalties. The goal is to know what caused it and then fix it immediately.

steven waldberg - ceo seo sydney experts

About the author

Steven Waldberg

Steven is the director of SEO Sydney Experts and is one of the founding members ( that’s over 18 years ago). He has one of the longest careers in the SEO and content marketing industry and has written for many prestigious websites, including B & T and AdNews. If you’re serious about working with someone who will dedicate 100% of himself to your business; Steven is your SEO Expert.

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