Penalty Recovery: The what, why and how

Organic search is a long-term game. But wherever there are rules, there will be those who try to break them and find short cuts. And when making it to the first page of search results on Google can mean the difference between making a sale or not, many try to game the system with underhanded tactics. It’s inevitable and it happens all the time.

If Google were to look the other way and allow this to slide, it would ultimately negatively affect the user experience for Google Search – because the search results wouldn’t be based on quality and relevance, but rather which sites were better at gaming Google.

So Google has to enforce its rules and guidelines – and it does this by penalising transgressors, hitting them where it hurts, in the search rankings. If your site finds itself on Google’s bad side, it can be potentially crippling for any business.

No matter how you found yourself in this situation, the good news is that it can be rectified – and Mickey Llew has many years’ experience in helping clients identify and overcome Google penalties through reputable, proven methods that follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

What is a Google Penalty?

Websites can be penalised in two ways – either through a manual action being issued by Google’s spam team if they pick up an issue with your site, or automatically as a result of an update to Google’s algorithms.

Algorithms which have hit some websites hard in recent years are Google Panda and Google Penguin. Regardless of whether the cause of the penalty is manual or algorithm-based, the most important thing is to identify the root cause, and to then set about fixing it.

How to tell if your site has been penalised

A sudden and dramatic drop in traffic to your site or to specific pages, without any other changes being made to your tactics or digital marketing, could mean you’re being penalised by Google due to low quality, misleading content or bad link-building strategies.

A sudden drop in search rankings – especially for brand terms and keywords which your site normally tops the rankings for – is also a sign you’re being penalised and need to take action.

The first step is to see if you have received a manual warning from Google within your Google Webmaster account. If you haven’t received a notice from Google, it’s best to cross-check the timing of the change in your traffic and search rankings to see if it coincides with any updates to Google’s search algorithms.

Recovering from a manual penalty

There are a number of different issues that can trigger manual action from Google. The recovery process can be complex and time consuming. In all cases, you’ll need to get to the bottom of it, take the necessary action and then submit a reconsideration request to Google. This is never something that will rectify itself.

You need to be able to show Google that you have understood the issue and implemented a recovery plan in accordance with best practice. Only making minor changes and submitting multiple reconsideration requests doesn’t cut it.

Recovering from a Google Panda Penalty

The Google Panda algorithm zeroes in on low quality, duplicated and scraped content on websites. It also frowns upon sites that have too many ads before the anchor text of a page. If your site or pages of your site are being penalised by this algorithm, the Mickey Llew team will help you craft a robust recovery plan that includes:

  • Full content audit of your site to identify thin and duplicate content
  • Creation of a content strategy, including the creation of high-quality, original content across your site
  • Management of the resubmission process with Google to get your site and offending pages back into the search rankings

Recovering from a Google Penguin Penalty

This algorithm is designed to target sites that use low quality links and over-optimisation tactics that ultimately undermine Google’s processes. When your site falls foul of this algorithm, the Mickey Llew organic search team will work with you through the following steps:

  • Full audit and manual checking of all links associated with your website
  • Identification of bad links and management of process to remove them or to disavow them when they cannot be removed by other means
  • Ongoing maintenance and regular checking of backlinks to prevent future issues


The bottom line is that there are no short cuts when it comes to SEO. It’s a long game that requires proper understanding of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. The best way to build a site’s online authority and search rankings is simply through playing by the rules and putting the user experience and quality content above all else.

No matter what base we start from with our clients, the Mickey Llew organic search team will be able to get your site where it needs to be, using industry best practice and an unwavering dedication to our craft