SEO

10 Ways to Diagnose a Google Penalty

An interesting thread on WebmasterWorld forums discusses ways to diagnose a possible Google penalty. If you suspect your site / URL is being filtered out / penalized (e.g. you have lost some Google rankings), try doing the following:

  1. Dig your internal traffic analytics for traffic drops or bad trends;
  2. Perform [site:yoursite.com] search in Google to see if Google reports same number of indexed URLs;
  3. Check if Google Webmaster Tools report any problems;
  4. Take a look if Google toolbar PR has changed (graybar PR might be a signal of penalty);
  5. Check your site ranking for a “domain-name” search (without the TLD).
  6. If such a query puts you in the fifties, it’s almost (!) guaranteed to be a penalty.

  7. Check if Google has blacklisted your site as unsafe for browsing (type http://www.google.com/safebrowsing/diagnostic?site=mysite.com with your domain at the end).
  8. Check the source code for any injected links to obvious “bad neighborhood” sites;
  9. Check your other sites. In some cases Google seems to devalue the WHOIS domain owner and this results in a simultaneous ranking drop in several sites under the same domain account.
  10. Copy a long phrase from your page and search Google for the exact match – make sure this very page (not the home page, not other sites scraping yours) is ranked #1;
  11. Check if your URL can only be seen by adding &filter=0 to the search URL – or clicking on the “show omitted results” link (this means you were hit by the duplicate content penalty);
  12. Any other? Please share your way to diagnose a penalty.

Further reading on dealing with penalties:

And here’s a quick video featuring Google search quality team members explaining how to deal with the penalty without going into extremes

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Ann Smarty is the blogger and community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. Ann's expertise in blogging and tools serve as a base for her writing, tutorials and her guest blogging project, MyBlogGuest.com.
f8d69258525dec38624a29eb3d570d8c 64 10 Ways to Diagnose a Google Penalty

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33 thoughts on “10 Ways to Diagnose a Google Penalty

  1. Good things to know. One of my clients recently went from over 5,000 pages indexed down to 800. At first I had a momentary panic attack, then I just paused long enough to think it through.

    In this particular case the answer was because the sitemap.xml file had been generating links to pages that weren’t all accessible via links directly on the site. Legit pages, yet just not navigable by someone coming directly to the site. So in this case the penalty was fair. And as I convinced the client of the need to add more links, Google responded positively.

    So we need to fully understand what’s going on architecturally with a site in all aspects.

    Another client went from the 1st page of organic results down to the 3rd at one point. Google Webmaster tools revealed time-out issues trying to get to pages in the sitemap.xml file. I used that info to do some tests, and sure enough, several times a day the server was bogging down. Once the client’s system admin resolved that issue, Google slowly brought those pages back up in the rankings.

    This all just shows that there are so many factors that can go into losing position, and we really need to think things through.

  2. If you are on page 1 for a specific search term for a reasonable period of time and suddenly it change to #50 or #60. This could of course also be an algorithm change by Google but it’s not a good sign either way. Then it would also be a good idea to further investigate by doing some of the things you have mentioned here.

    I think the grey PR bar as you have mentioned is a very bad sign.

  3. But I see a grey pr bar for this site! :)
    Good list – soon as I get any traffic at all I will be able to check!
    I have hardly any links (can’t seem to link build very well) but have managed to get in top 10 for reasonable keywords by doing pre research with adwords etc. After a couple of weeks this drops away further and further down the listings. Is this solely because I am pr zero?

  4. For one of mine blogs i had problem with hosting company and over used PC time. They just down my site, without notice. First for 30 minutes, and one for 4 hours (within a week) and site was penalized from 2 to 200 (PR 3 didn’t change). I moved the blog to another hosting company and one week after changing of host the site slowly starts to back positions

  5. Excellent post – and I’m really going to focus on some of those details next week.

    I own a number of sites – many of which I’m very happy with their rankings, however there’s one (linked to in this comment) which I just cannot get to rank. It’s built in wordpress, tagged well, has good content, with plenty of keywords, yet not too many, but it does not rank ANYWHERE in the SERPS for the phrase “employee productivity”, which is the domain name (with a hyphen in between).

    I’ve tried everything… is Google just being unkind – if anyone has any ideas I’d be very grateful!

    Many thanks,
    Mark

  6. Excellent post – and I’m really going to focus on some of those details next week.

    I own a number of sites – many of which I’m very happy with their rankings, however there’s one (linked to in this comment) which I just cannot get to rank. It’s built in wordpress, tagged well, has good content, with plenty of keywords, yet not too many, but it does not rank ANYWHERE in the SERPS for the phrase “employee productivity”, which is the domain name (with a hyphen in between).

    It ranks for plenty of longer tail phrases – but not the single one I am looking to target.

    I’ve tried everything… is Google just being unkind – if anyone has any ideas I’d be very grateful!

    Many thanks,
    Mark

  7. This is great information – I recently have had problems with nasty code being injected into one some of my blogs (luckily NOT a client’s site).

    But getting them was relatively easy once they were clean.

    Of course now I’m extra vigilant!

  8. really it good information about penalty issue with google.

    but guys i have one que…some day ago my site internal pages is cached and today i m checked but it not cache ..is there google penlty?

  9. another way to check keyword penaulty:

    take a goolgle search with

    domainname (perhaps whitout www and suffix) keyword

    if you not listen on the top places it’s possible your domain sitting in the sandbox…

  10. Adding &filter=0 to the search query does not mean you were hit by a duplicate content penalty… IF searching your site:domain.

    For search results, that’s different.

  11. Heya Mark,

    Also check your neighborhoods, if you haven’t already.

    Do a reverse IP scan on http://www.domaintools.com (you seem to get a little ‘red’ here, if also running the IP explorer, I might look into the hosting environment, dedicated IP’s, etc). A subscription reveals more…

    Additionally, check your bad link neighborhoods: http://www.bad-neighborhood.com/text-link-tool.htm (you show up with “spammy” blog icons here).

    Again, use tools like these as guides, and compare them to others (domains) you may have used in the past that were successful.

    All SEO efforts are weighted to a total aggregate “scoring” number as you know (and always moving!), but we always look to build the “least imperfect site” – so ‘everything’ needs to be looked at. Cheers! – Jon

  12. can someone explain the correct procedure or code to apply when wanting to redirect mydomain.com to http://www.mydomain.com
    I have tried 301 redirect but it doesnt seem to work. I know your supposed to have a /file.html for old domain then leave a space full url for new directed to page. So how would mydomain.com fit into this and what is a proper redirect for such?

  13. Thanks you cleared up some questions I had. I liked the links you posted and were a big help. I will bookmark them for the future. Again thanks alot this was a big help to me as a webmaster.

  14. We can use the next search commands to detect any problem:
    allintitle:domain-name.com
    intitle:domain-name.com
    allinanchor:domain-name.com
    allinurl:domain-name.com
    inurl:domain-name.com
    inanchor:domain-name.com

  15. hey I have didn’t noticed and posted a comment on daily seo tips blog also. and now when i came back on search engine journal I realized you are same same writer :)

  16. I’m hoping some of you on here can help me out. I went from a steady average of over 2,000 visits per day just from google search. Almost 0 visits the last two days from google yet I still get traffic from Yahoo, Bing and Google Images. Seems I’ve been hit with a penalty or filter? I’m a novice web guy that’s been enjoying a very successful blog for several years until now.

  17. I feel like Google has been over penalizing sites as of late. I have heard of many instances of companies losing thousands of indexed sites, and they did not change anything. We haven’t had any recent problems, but this is a nice write-up for the companies that have.

  18. Great info, just spent hours looking for info on this topic and found this page on google search and although old thread best to date. All the sites i have have always been fine except one which from day one has been disaster in google but great on bing and yahoo. Will give it one final go using some of the info here (just tried the safe browsing and fine on that)

  19. Hey Ann. There are some things I would like to say to you.

    1. I think your blog is truly awesome, fantastic and all of those fancy words. I’ve subscribed to your RSS-feed, and everytime you update your blog – I read the latest post… no matter where I am. It could be on my mobile or on my computer. It doesn’t matter. Your blog simply owns. I will therefore link to it from one of my tech blogs if that’s okay with you.

    2. Why does everybody keep spamming your blog? Gah, all the comments are invaluable, and will be counted as spam-comments by Google. How about enabling Akismet or turning on comment moderation? It gets a bit annoying when you’re trying to look for valuable information.

    Anyway, don’t let me waste your time… keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks for your kind words :)
      We have all sorts of anti-spam plugins but spam is sometimes still published – I guess it is inevitable with high-traffic blogs but we are looking into that!

  20. Ahhh, this is enlightening. I am pleased to have found out about the definition of ‘neigbourhood’ with other sites being on you shared IP. I had not realised this could be as big an issue.

    Should I go for a static IP as I have done a reverse IP look up and one or two of my neighbours sites are a bit too adult.

    thoughts would be appreciated, thank you!

  21. I started my wordpress blog last year and it is now ranked around 3million on alexa. I am currently working to improve that ranking. The site still doesnt show up in the google organic search in the top 20-30 pages. There are many unranked sites that show up ahead of me. Why are they ahead of me and how do I fix this?
    Thanks,
    Dave