How to Recover from a Google Penalty

With the non-stop rolling of Google updates, more and more businesses lost their rankings and traffic. They were slapped with a Google penalty either because of the quality of their content or how they promote their website. When this happens, bsuinesses starts looking for ways to remove the penalty.

Most Common Google Penalty that a website owner can get:

Most common Google penalties owners and webmasters may experience are Google Panda and Google Penguin, with both capable of totally dropping your traffic and knock you out of the search results. To recover from a Google penalty, you will need to identify which algorithm affects your site. This can be done by understanding the algorithm, the nearest update rolled out by Google before you were penalized as well as going to your Webmaster Tools and see if you have any notices or messages received.

Understanding the Google Algorithm

Google Panda update:

According to, the Panda update is a change to Google’s search results ranking algorithm that was first released in February 2011. The change aimed to lower the rank of “low-quality sites”, and return higher-quality sites near the top of the search results. This update evaluates the quality of a website’s content and if found having thin or low quality, it will make the site really difficult to rank and can severely impact rankings and can lead to massive traffic losses.

How to determine if you are slapped by a Panda Update?

  1. The site will experience a noticesable, yet gradual traffic decline that eventually stabilizes.
  2. The site’s pages have difficulty ranking no matter how many back links it have.
  3. The site can still rank for some keywords, albeit not as well as before. Your site might be found on page 2 or 3 for many terms.
  4. Receiving an email or message in Webmaster Tools

thin-content penalty message





Google Penguin Update: defines the Penguin update as a code name for a Google algorithm update that was first announced on April 24, 2012. The update is aimed at decreasing search engine rankings of websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines by using now declared black-hat SEO techniques involved in increasing artificially the ranking of a webpage by manipulating the number of links pointing to the page. Such tactics are commonly described as link schemes.

This Google update usually affects webmasters engaged in agressive link building which Google tag as unnatural. Google says that links should be natural and given due to the quality of content. Google considers it a violation of their webmaster guidelines if a link is created with the purpose of increasing rank. Examples of these links includes links from automated tools, paid links, links from link exchanges, footer links and widget links.

How to determine if you are slapped by a Penguin Update?

  1. Entire website getting de-indexed or just a page targeting the penalized keyword getting de-indexed
  2. A huge drop in rankings for majority of keywords
  3. Receiving an email or message in Webmaster Tools








Manual Actions in Google Webmaster Support

Watch videos from Matt Cutts that explains the type of Google penalty you may have and how you can fix them.


Google Panda Recovery

As mentioned earlier, a Panda penalty is a quality algorithm that target sites with for low quality or thin content. In order to recover from this penalty, you may need to do the following:

  1. Identify the pages of your site that you consider as low quality. Make sure to identify exactly which pages requires a content update to speed up the recovery process.
  2. Update the content of those pages making sure it provides high quality information and is unique.
  3. Submit a reconsideration request.

Google Penguin Recovery

Recovering from a Google Penguin penalty requires a lot of work and patience. Sometimes, it takes several reconsideration request before a website can successfuly recover from such penalty. Google Penguin recovery process includes:

  1. Identification of links that caused the penalty
  2. Link removal process
  3. Submission of reconsideration request

Identification of links that caused the penalty

To start, login to Google Webmaster Tools and click the penalized website, go to ‘Search Traffic’ > ‘Links To Your Site’, click “download latest links”.

Document your work by creating a Google docs file to track all of your work to see exactly where you are at with the link removal process. This file will be very useful when you submit the reconsideration request with Google, as they’ll be able to see exactly what you’ve done to sort out the issues with your site.

Start reviewing your links and spot the low quality ones.This is an extremely important section of the link removal process.You have to be very careful with what links you want to remove. Good links generally take a long time to build and if you ask for them to be removed thinking they’re potentially spammy, that hard work may all be for nothing.

  • Identifying low quality links: There are links that are easy to identify while some are really hard. Here are some ways to identify low quality links:
    • Check the link if its indexed or not. If not, remove the links as the site has most likely received a penalty. You can also see if a domain is indexed in Google by searching Google for ‘’.
  • Remove any sitewide links. These types of links are mostly considered as paid or unnatural.
  • Remove all forum profiles.
  • Remove all blog comments that you think are low quality. These type of comments usually sound like “great post!”, “you have a very nice blog”, “good work!” and the likes. If the blog comment comes from a niche related site and you think that you have provided a comment that has value, then you might want to save it.
  • Remove all social bookmarks. Similar to blog comments, remove them all unless you think the bookmark is genuine.
  • Remove all paid links. Do I need to explain this? Paid links are a big “No” from Google.
  • Remove all link networks/link pyramids
  • Remove low quality blog posts. These may be harder to identify as people may see it differently. If you find the post to be natural and not self-serving, you may want ot save it. But of course, you may want to read the post, does it make sense? What is the quality of the website? Is the site indexed?Was the article heavily stuffed with keywords? You may want to save or delete these links based on the answer from those questions.
  • Remove all links from link exchanges you have done in the past.
  • Remove all low quality, keyword stuffed, and provides little to no value Press Releases.
  • Link Directories – again, remove only those low quality directories. Same process applies. Is the site indexed? Quality of the site. Does it accept links automatically? The directory contains almost all categories.

Contacting webmaster for link removal
This is obviously one of the most important parts of your link removal process. First of all, you’re going to need to collect contact details for each of the webmasters. You will need the following:

  1. Contact Name
  2. Email Address
  3. Website Contact Form

After successfully getting all these details, its time to send the, an email. When sending emails to webmasters, avoid doing the following:

  • Sending an email to the webmaster for each link you need to remove. Gathher all the URLS of the links you want to remove and list them all in the email before sending it.
  • Avoid contacting the webmaster with every method possible. When you send an email, wait for several days to a week before reaching out again using a different method.
  • Be polite.Remember, you are asking the webmaster for his time to remove your links.
  • Use an email from the domain of the links you want to remove when sending your email.
  • Keep it short.

Sample email:

Hi %name,

We have recently received a notification from Google stating that our website has unnatural links pointing towards it. This has really damaged our rankings on Google and as a result, we’re trying to clear things up. Our website url is %website_url.

We noticed the following links are pointing to our website from your site:


I appreciate this is inconvenient and isn’t a reflection on your website at all, but if you’re able to remove the links, we would really appreciate it and would be very grateful.

I look forward to hearing from you.



And now its time to disavow links and submit the reconsideration request.

disavow links











Clicking Disavow Links from Google Webmaster Tools prompts a menu asking for the file containing the links that we want to disavow. This file should include all of the links we wanted to disavow with notes explaining each group. We want to tell Google that we’ve been working extra hard to remove this low quality links. Make sure to list all actions taken to remove this links on the Google docs we initially prepared to let Google know this is fully documented in Google Drive and share your drive credentials.

It’s very important to be specific in the reconsideration requests. Confess everything and be completely honest and upfront. You need to provide as many details and specifics as possible. If your link building foundation is built on SEO softwares and blog networks, then say so. You won’t be telling Google anything they don’t already know. If you fail to disclose a paid link you think Google “can’t detect,” then you’re just wasting precious time and burning trust with Google. Accept responsibility and promise it will never happen again: Explain what you’re doing differently now and why it will never happen again. If the spam team doesn’t get the sense that you have made a serious effort to clean up your backlink profile, they won’t believe that you are serious about change.

Upload the file and you’re done.