How to Recover From a Google Manual Penalty

Google is an important source of traffic.

But rankings are not permanent.

You could be ranking for your target keywords one day and nowhere to be found the next. If you notice a sudden drop in traffic, you need to find out the cause immediately as you are losing sales. There are two types of penalties your site can get, an algorithmic penalty and a manual action from Google’s spam team.

Login to your Google Search Console account and navigate to Manual Actions under Search Traffic to determine if your site has received a penalty:


Here are some of the most common reasons why your site may have received a manual penalty:

  • Unnatural links to your pages
  • Thin content with little value
  • Cloaking or using sneaky redirects
  • Using hidden text or keyword stuffing

What each of these have in common is a deliberate attempt to manipulate rankings. If you are spamming links to your pages or stuffing your content with irrelevant keywords, your site will likely get hit with a penalty. The good news is that penalties are not permanent and it is possible to recover your rankings but it can take some time.

Here we look at how to get your rankings back after getting hit with a manual penalty.

1. Conduct a Content Audit

Google strives to deliver the most relevant results for each search query. Otherwise its users would turn to other search engines to find information online. So the search giant is constantly making changes to its ranking algorithm to make it even better.

The Panda update continues to be one of the most significant.

This update is aimed specifically at “thin sites” or sites that provide little to no content. Sites that scrape content or purposely spam their pages with irrelevant pages were also affected by the update. If your site was hit with a manual or algorithmic penalty, this could be the reason why.

Start by conducting a comprehensive content audit. This process entails going through each page of your site and noting down any instances of low quality or duplicate content. Over-optimisation is another problem as Google sees it as an indication of spam.

Keep track of your efforts in a spreadsheet so you can refer to it later on.

Then go through each page. Either remove pages that do not meet the Quality Guidelines or have them completely rewritten. Make sure to record all the changes that you make as you will need it later on.

2. Cleanup Your Link Profile

Links are an important ranking factor but building them too fast or having too many from spammy sources is a major red flag. A questionable link profile is one of the most common reasons for a manual ranking penalty especially with links from:

  • Low quality sites with duplicate content
  • Spammy sites with links to hundreds of other sites
  • Sites that have been banned or penalised
  • Adult or gambling sites

You can see that not all links are the same.

One link from an authoritative site in your industry carries far weight than a hundred from questionable sources. And the latter is far more likely to result in a ranking penalty. Conduct a link audit to identify spammy links as these are likely hurting your rankings.

Use a tool such as ahrefs to download links to your pages.


Then go through each of your links.

Are there any from questionable sites?

If so note them down in a spreadsheet. The next step is to cleanup your link profile. This entails contacting the webmasters of each and sending a request to have the link to your site removed. Another option is to use the Disavow Tool which essentially tells Google to ignore certain links.

3. Submit a Reconsideration Request

Penalties aren’t permanent.

So even if your site gets hit with a penalty it is possible to recover your rankings. But first you will need to optimise your content and cleanup your link profile. Once you complete the steps as detailed, you will then need to submit a reconsideration request in Search Console.

Requests are all handled manually so it can take a few days to approve or reject your request. Take some time to prepare your request by showing documentation of what was done. Preparing your case will increase the chances of approval.

If your request is approved, you can expect to start ranking shortly after.