A Google SEO penalty, often referred to as Google Algorithm Update, is a kind of algorithm created by Google to improve on their search results. The purpose of launching Google penalties is to provide a good user experience for internet users. Over the years, Google kept on updating their search algorithms and continued on adding newer ones to refine their search results even further.


The Internet before the Google Penalties

Google Penalties

Long before Google launched these penalties, there have been many black-hat link-building activities taking place all over the internet. For the sole purpose of landing on the first page of the search results, website owners employed SEO experts that used various types of link building techniques. Back then, the only way to rank higher was to acquire lots of backlinks as much as possible. The internet was crowded with duplicate content, scraped content, spun content, cloaking activities, link farms, doorway pages, etc.


What pushed Google to take action?

What pushed Google to take action Spam

Website owners were too busy thinking about the rankings that they didn’t bother providing quality content from their site. Searchers later complained to Google about the bad experiences they had when browsing the internet for information. This prompted Google to take action by creating algorithms that would filter the internet from spammy websites and their useless pages.


And the Cleanup Began

When Google finally released its Penguin algorithm on April of 2012, all those high ranking but spammy websites and blogs found on the search results were totally wiped out, especially the big players. Business and website owners freaked out after discovering that their sites were nowhere to be found on the internet. Google Penguin made a huge impact on the internet marketing industry.


Some common reasons why Google penalizes a website:

  • It has over optimized anchor text
  • There are too many links from irrelevant sites
  • Buying links / participating in link schemes
  • Having low engagement  but high bounce rate
  • It has too many links from low quality sites
  • The keywords are overly optimized
  • It’s loaded with Ads and there are hardly not much useful content found
  • It has deceptive and manipulative On-Page tactics
  • It was hacked / it has malware


These are the common signs your site has been penalized:

  • Even at least with that one keyword, your site is not ranking at all
  • Your page 1 seems to be slipping back to page 2 or 3, even without you moving a muscle
  • Your Page Rank dramatically dropped to zero
  • Your site was wiped out entirely from search results and not a single trace to be found
  • A site search (site:yourdomain.com keyword) didn’t help either


There are only 2 types of Google penalties and they are:

  1. The Manual Penalty

  2. The Algorithmic Penalty


The Manual Penalty

A Google employee will contact the site owner or webmaster if the site has been detected of using link-building techniques outside the webmaster’s guidelines. Usually, the webmaster will receive an email about the violation and Google will offer their help to resolve the issue.


Google Algorithmic Penalties

Google panda penguin

Google Panda

Google Panda is just a small part of the overall Google search algorithm. It was designed to find spammy or low quality websites. Spammy websites are the ones that are set up mostly for revenue, they have a lot of advertisements and/or they have a whole bunch of affiliate links in them.

Google Panda is more about on-site issues, particularly, the site’s content. This algorithm looks after duplicate, spun, thin and scraped contents. It was launched a year ahead of Google Penguin. It didn’t received much attention from the SEO community because it only removed traffic from spammy or low-quality websites. Google just wanted to prevent these sites from showing on the top search results.


Google Penguin

A year after Google released Google Panda, they came up with another Google update called Penguin. This new algorithm was aimed at removing websites from the search results that has specifically gamed Google by buying links on other sites to their websites. Penguin also targeted other forms of search manipulation or black-hat techniques like cloaking, link farms, doorway pages, etc.

When the first version of Google Penguin was released, it literally wreaked havoc on all of the spammy websites.

Google Penguin is in a way, just like Google Panda, there’s an update that runs every once in a while. So, if you’ve been hit by it, you are supposed to start cleaning up your backlinks by either removing them or by “disavowing” them. To “disavow” is to tell Google that you no longer want those links on your site to count.

Several sites lost 60 to 70% of their organic search traffic for 8 to 10 months completely. They soon got their traffic back but still lost some of it because they’ve lost some of the links completely.

8 to 10 months is usually the period where Google needs to re run this algorithm. If your website got penalized, you will have to wait for the next refresh (after 8 to 10 months) to see if your site has fully recovered from Google penalties.

Penguin was mostly about external linking or Off-page optimization violations. If you have a bad link profile and you had links from crappy domains and stuffs that are not relevant to your site, you’re in trouble.

One of the main issues was with anchor text, say your website is selling motorcycle boots, and you had a ton of people linking to you with the term “motorcycle boots”, you can get kicked out of the search results for that query.

There are lots of different philosophies out there but basically, if your entire profile has a certain percentage of anchor text that’s too high, Penguin will detect that and boom, you’re out from the search results or index.

The other thing that penguin look after is keyword stuffing. If you had just jammed the bottom of your webpage with a bunch of keywords trying to get Google to rank you, Penguin will also look at that and will kick that web page out of the index.


Google Hummingbird

Google Hummingbird

This was an attempt by Google to provide better responses to voice queries on mobile devices. What we see on webpages now are answers to questions, facts, statistics, dense articles, etc.

These helpful, in-depth pieces of information started surfacing a lot more after the Hummingbird Update.


Google Pigeon

This algorithm was designed in order to improve local search results so small business owners benefited from it as well as the searchers. The changes made by Google Pigeon allowed website owners of small businesses to compete with the big players. The big businesses who felt that drastic change in their rankings did not like the idea of having to do the extra work in order to adapt in to this new search algorithm.


Payday Loans Update

Google increased the efficiency of their search results by targeting spammy industries and search terms like Viagra, porn, Garcinia cambogia, gambling/casinos, payday loans, etc.


Top- Heavy Layout

This algorithm targets websites so full of ads that there’s hardly any content to be seen. This makes very frustrating for the average internet user and it just makes sense that these sites should be penalized.


Google Pirate Algorithm

Google Pirate Algorithm

Google also addressed the issue on piracy and copyright infringement by launching this anti-piracy algorithm. This Google update is targeting those sites that have been receiving multiple copyright complaints. The Pirate algorithm prevented torrent sites from showing in the search results.


Although it‘s okay to search for articles on how to get around after getting penalized, the best thing you should do is to take action as soon as possible. Here’s what you should do as a webmaster.

  • Be vigilant. If you sense something that could get your website in trouble, don’t wait for things to get worse, fix the problem immediately. Remember, if you get penalized, you will have to wait for next Google update, and you don’t want that.
  • Most of the time, bad or unnatural links are the reasons why websites are considered spammy. Disavow and/or remove these links. For manual penalties, ask Google for reconsideration.
  • You can check your Google’s Manual Actions page to know your violations and steps on how to fix them. You can also ask for a review of your site directly from this page.

Here you can see all of the Google Algorithm Change History

Google penalties are here to remind webmasters that they have a responsibility to give value to their visitors by providing quality content from their sites. They should not only think about gaining profit but also giving out useful information as well.