An unfortunate Google penalty has ruined many Search Engine Optimization (SEO) campaigns, and they can prove challenging to recover from. First, you need to identify the specific cause of the penalty. One common possibility is an unexpected algorithm change that completely changes the SEO game, especially if there is more than one in a brief period.

Once you know what the problem is, you need to take the correct steps to address it. This can be harder than it sounds, as Google doesn’t always make what you need to do clear. Still, this guide can help you recover from any Google penalty.

1. Is Your Google Penalty Manual or Algorithmic?

Most Google penalties may be described as either manual or algorithmic in nature. Manual penalties are triggered when Google’s algorithm detects spam on your website, either on individual pages or throughout your site as a whole. They are easy to identify because you get a notification on your Google Webmaster Tools account. Simply log into your account and check out “Manual Actions” located under the “Search Traffic” tab to discover it.

Manual penalties are easy to find, but the fix is kind of annoying. You need to file an official “reconsideration request” to Google, which must approve your request before your SEO efforts have any chance to recover. You can overcome this Google penalty, but it takes a while.

Algorithmic penalties are harder to pinpoint because they don’t include any helpful notifications, but they’re also easier to fix once you know what they are. The first step is realizing that you have an algorithmic penalty on your site, usually revealed by a sharp reduction in website traffic without a corresponding manual penalty.

Once you know you have a problem, it’s time to determine whether you ran afoul of Google Panda or Google Penguin. Google Panda looks for websites that lack usability, while Google Penguin searches for unnatural inbound links that seem like they were paid for or otherwise set up without the webmaster’s permission.

If you’re unsure where to focus your recovery efforts, Moz offers a great Google Algorithm Change History page that reveals when specific components of Google’s algorithms are updated. If something updated on the same date you started having a problem, that program is the most likely culprit.

2. Fix The Problem

The solution to your Google penalty depends upon its exact nature. If you have a Manual issue, the underlying problem is likely manipulative link building. If so, you must remove as many links to your website as possible by contacting other webmasters and politely asking for a removal. Once you’ve cleaned up your act, you can submit a well-written reconsideration request and hope for the best. It is not unusual for Google to subject you to this process multiple times before granting your request, so stay patient!

The first step to solving an algorithmic issue is to compare your analytics to Moz’s algorithm change history to determine whether you’re dealing with a Panda problem or a Penguin one. If the answer is Panda, your site isn’t user-friendly enough. Over-abundant ads, inadequate amounts of fresh content, duplicate content, slow site speeds, and poor navigation structure are the most common causes of these issues.

It is best to tackle each of these potential problems one at a time. If your site has more than two ads per page, that’s too many. If both adds are located above the fold, that’s a problem too. Next, do you have enough fresh content? Is it any good, or merely shallow fluff because you had to post something? Do you duplicate content on your website, or have content plagiarized from somewhere else on the Web?

Then, test the speed of your site. Pingdom offers an excellent speed testing tool (link here). Website speed depends on your hosting provider, so you should match them up whenever possible. For example, a site based on WordPress’s platform will run fastest on WordPress-specific hosting. Finally, evaluate your website’s navigation structure. Is it user-friendly and logical, or a hindrance to the user’s experience?

Penguin problems are frequently caused by linking issues, requiring link audits, removals, and disavows to rectify. The process is a little too involved to summarize here, so check out this link for further information on solving a Google penalty rooted in Penguin.

3. Build A Gameplan

Cleaning up all of your links is a laborious, expensive process that is best avoided altogether. Therefore, it is in your best interest as a business owner to design marketing and SEO strategies that operate according to the latest rules.

For example, you will have no problem generating organic inbound links if you produce high-quality content that other people will find legitimately interesting. You will no longer need to pay for links, preventing Penguin from flagging you for questionable linking practices. Likewise, your social media campaign will benefit greatly from regular posts as they can help drive people to your site.

If you need help designing a content marketing strategy fit for the current digital landscape, check out these articles on overhauling your SEO strategy and learning what your audience wants so that you can deliver it.

Final Thoughts

A Google penalty is enough to ruin any business owner’s day as the SEO ramifications are often contended with for quite some time after the initial discovery. Still, you can overcome these problems with effort and patience. If you want to avoid a headache entirely, invest in a solid content marketing strategy and social media marketing initiative. These two tactics are proven to drive productive traffic to your site while avoiding Google penalties completely.