Google penalties: what are they actually? What can you get them for?

by David Brown

Most website owners have probably heard of Google’s penalties on websites. However, not everyone knows what this means in practice and what the consequences are. And these can be very serious indeed, including the fact that all investments in a brand’s online marketing will have been in vain. In our guide, we explain what Google penalties are and what you can get them for.

A penalty from Google? But I didn’t do anything!

This is the typical reaction of a site owner who has had the misfortune to have Google spot some misconduct on their site. For the record: the monopoly does not punish sites just for fun. It does so when it has valid reasons for doing so. Here are the most common ones:

  • Double content – i.e. duplication of the same content on several subpages or suspicion of stealing content from another site (e-shop owners publishing descriptions from manufacturers have to be especially careful).
  • Low-quality content – i.e. publication on the website, as well as on the so-called “back-office” pages, of awful texts serving only to push keywords or to obtain links.
  • Suspicious link profile – if a site has a lot of links from shady back-end sites, it is highly likely that the site will be penalised.
  • Infection of the site – if the site has been the target of a hacking attack and contains malware, Google will 100% impose a filter on the site at some point.

Types of penalties

There are two basic types, or rather methods, of penalising websites that break Google’s regulations. These are:

  • Manual penalties – imposed by Google employees who detect a rule violation. Information about the penalty is immediately posted in Google Search Console.
  • Algorithmic penalties – more problematic as the site owner may not realise for a long time that the site has been penalised (there is no information in Google Search Console). The penalty is imposed by the search engine algorithm, which is usually a consequence of, for example, an error in the site’s source code or an infected site.

An important question: when will Google remove the penalty?

There is no rule here. It all depends on the type of offence and how the penalty was imposed: manually or algorithmically. However, we know from experience that if a filter has been imposed on a site by a Google employee, removing the filter will be an ordeal. You have to write an application, which may be rejected. In that case, you should not send an appeal right away – it is necessary to wait at least a few weeks. In practice, it can even take… several years to remove a manually imposed filter. It is not difficult to guess what this means for the site owner.

In the case of an algorithmically imposed penalty, a lot depends on… luck. Once the errors for which the site has been penalised have been corrected, you simply have to wait for an algorithm update. This could be in a few days, weeks, but equally well months – no one knows Google’s plans, often not even the corporation’s own employees.

Regardless of how quickly the penalty is removed, the consequences of the penalty can drag on for years. It will be much more difficult to position the site in the search engine, not to mention the fact that the lack of access to the site by potential customers will have a negative impact on the brand image. So it is better to keep a cool head and not underestimate the risk.

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