Penalized or Banned Site? How To Recover Your SEO Rankings

Recent Google penalties have hit hard. If you have lost your rankings and have reasons to believe your site has been banned, we can help.

Penalized or banned site? You can have too much of a good thing when it comes to Search Engine Optimization.

If you have been on the receiving end of one of Google’s Dear John emails, and you have a penalized or banned site, you’re not alone. But don’t worry, it’s only a break, not a total break-up. If your site has been penalized, Google may send “manually generated” warnings via Google Search Console. But they are not always so gracious. Sometimes your rankings may drop and you may not know exactly why.

Tips to recover your SEO rankings

Wait and see

Don’t panic! Rankings will change slightly every day. You may see a dip in your rankings now and again, but if there is a significant drop, you may have a problem on your hands. Firstly, check if your website is banned altogether by doing a site search by typing in– and see if Google returns any results. If your website returns page listings, your website is not banned, but it may be penalized.

Read more about why your website may have been penalized in our article ‘Banned from Google – What Now?’.

Carefully read Google’s quality guidelines

If you have a penalized or banned site, you may need to refresh your knowledge of Google’s Search Essentials, otherwise known as their Webmaster Guidelines, and ascertain why you may be in breach of those policies. Google clearly outlines its terms of use and provides information about how web developers can create a Google-friendly site. Matt Cutts, Google’s head of web spam, has spoken out in favor of SEO saying that it is not spam and there is even an SEO Starter Guide provided.

Make the necessary changes to your site

Google will usually notify you if your site has been penalized*, and if your rankings have dropped significantly, you will likely have to clean up your site. You may know you have done something naughty such as employing a company that uses black-hat SEO techniques and thus, you will need to undo all the ‘not-so-good work’ you have done to your site. If you do not know why your website has been penalized, here are the key elements to look at:

  • Analyze your link-building campaigns and see if any low-value websites are linking to your website. If they are, you can email the webmasters and ask them to remove the link or add these to your website’s disavow file.
  • Look at the anchor text that you are using in your internal and external link-building. Vary the keywords in the anchor text so that they are not too keyword-rich.
  • Review your content and look for instances of keyword stuffing and duplicated or scraped content. Rewrite the copy, so the keywords are inserted more naturally and the content is original.
  • Examine your web design – Google is penalizing websites that are ad-heavy and have less actual content above the fold (the part of the website a visitor sees before they have to scroll down the page).
  • Take this moment to review your site in its entirety and see whether there are any other potential SEO problems that may raise their ugly head.

Read more in our article ‘Penguins, Pandas And Polar Bears – How Not To Get Bitten By The Google Algorithm Updates’.

Submit a request for reconsideration

If you believe your site was penalized unfairly following an algorithm update, you can file a report. Otherwise, if you have been caught spamming Google or engaging in black-hat SEO techniques, log in to your Google Search Console account and submit a reconsideration request. Be honest and upfront about what you have done to receive the penalty and how you have made amends.

Start off fresh with a new domain

For sites with an established brand presence, this is clearly not an option. But Matt Cutts has said on the record in an interview with Danny Sullivan from Search Engine Land, that if you’ve cleaned your site, and it still hasn’t recovered its rankings, ultimately, you might need to start all over with a fresh site i.e. new domain name.

This should be a last resort approach and gives a few suggestions on how to relaunch your site:

  • Launch the new site entirely independently of the old one (host IP, WHOIS, new content).
  • Don’t link the new site and penalized or banned site together.
  • Don’t add 301 redirects from the old site to the new site, as it is not known how the penalty is carried across at this stage.
  • Don’t cross-domain canonical unless you have a safe testing ground to validate that the penalty is not transferred.
  • Don’t associate the sites via Google Search Console and Google Analytics.
  • Assume you’ll need to submit “updates” to any linking text in old guest posts.

Monitor your website

Google Search Console is a great tool set for webmasters to use to monitor their sites. You can check your average ranking positions regularly to see where there has been a huge rankings drop or, equally alarming, whether you have had a traffic drop. In addition, Google may send you a message via Search Console, so if you’re not checking your account, you may not get a heads-up from them about your rankings drop.

Even big names such as JC Penney, Overstock and BMW websites have been penalized as a result of hiring unethical companies who used black-hat SEO techniques to artificially boost their rankings. At The SEO Works, we use white-hat SEO techniques and play nicely with Google to help your websites rank organically and naturally. If you have a penalized or banned site, contact us today, so we can help you recover your lost rankings and ultimately your online revenues.

*If you have a clean site (no adult, gambling or such) and are using Google Webmaster Tools, you will receive a notification saying it has been penalized.