Google Penalties

How to Find, Fix, and Avoid Google Penalties: Part I – What Are Google Penalties?


Webmasters liken Google penalties to quicksand – once you’re in the pit, it’s not good. Fortunately, these Google quicksand pits always have limbs to help you maneuver out.


In this three-part summer series, you will learn:

  • About Google penalties
  • How to spot them
  • How to recover from them
  • How to ensure you won’t get hit again


Google Penalties and Filters: Is there a difference?

Yes, there is a huge difference between Google penalties and filters. It is understandable if people confuse the terms and interchange them easily. It is important to understand the difference so you can take the appropriate actions to remedy each one.


Penalty usually refers to a manual action from Google. This action can be handed down to a site when it literally is manually reviewed by a Google employee. With a manual action, it will appear in your Google Search Console (GSC – the old version, under Search Traffic  Manual Actions).


You should see something like this:

Without any message like this in your manual actions viewer, you are clear of any manual penalties.


It is no secret that Google has a vast army of employees who are physically hands-on with thousands of websites. Penalties are given out when their rules are not followed. If you want to remain penalty free, know the rules and know when they change, too.


When their algorithms signal something is out of line or suspicious regarding a website or when people report a website to Google, it will be manually reviewed for qualifying penalties. Yes – people can report your site for things like spam, paid links or malware in search results.


Currently, it appears that the amount of manual actions Google is assigning has greatly reduced. This is because Google is becoming more advanced in dealing with these items algorithmically.


Conversely, the algorithm is advancing at being able to identify quality content, so it can often look like a site is penalized. In the past, a mediocre site with enough links could rank really well. But now, if you dare try that, Google is smart enough to identify whether the links are uniquely earned or self-made and also if content really is the type of content that people want to endorse.


The sites performing well are absolutely amazing and truly are the best of their kind. Sure, rarely some can still spam their way to the top but this is getting much harder to do!


What penalties (manual actions) can a website receive?


There are two types of actions that can show up on your Manual Actions page:

  1.  Sitewide matches – affecting an entire site
  2. Partial matches – applicable to an individual URL or a section of a website


Notifications of Manual Actions are accompanied by “Reason” and “Effects” information. A list of common manual actions includes:

  • Hidden text
  • Hacked sites
  • Pure spam
  • User-generated spam
  • Unnatural links from your site
  • Cloaking and/or sneaky redirects and images
  • Thin content with no added value
  • Unnatural links to your site


Next month in Part II of our summer series we will review how to recover from penalties.

Fair Marketing