Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 3.02.19 PM

Matt Cutts Explains How You Can Tell If Your Website Has Been Hit By A Particular Algorithm

Matt Cutts, Google’s head of search spam, answered a question about Google penalties in his latest Webmaster Help video where a user writes in to ask:

How can you tell if your site is suffering from an algorithmic penalty, or you are simply being outgunned by better content?

Although the user didn’t specifically ask about manual actions, Matt starts by briefly touching on that subject. Matt reminds everyone if you have been hit with a manual penalty by Google’s webspam team you will receive a message in Google Webmaster Tools. The notification will come with a message that explains why you were penalized and give you an idea of how you can go about correcting the penalty.

Speaking directly to the user’s question, Matt says it’s tough to answer because the webspam team doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about algorithmic penalties. The webspam team writes code that could have a negative impact on certain sites, but that all goes into the holistic ranking. Matt says it’s tough to call it a penalty when it could be benefitting other users at the same time.

On any given day, Matt says the odds are good that Google is rolling out some kind of algorithmic change. When they roll out a change that could have a noticeable impact, Matt says they try to give users a heads up about that. For example, the Panda and Penguin algorithms.

Matt says Panda has gotten to the point where it’s become integrated within the indexing and changing the index on a regular basis. As a result, Google has stopped notifying users of every individual change related to Panda. Matt describes Penguin, on the other hand, as “a switch that flips.” Penguin changes roll out at a certain time, so Google is more open about notifying users when they may be affected by a particular change.

If your site is not ranking the way you’d like, Matt says it’s difficult to say whether that’s due to a penalty or not. The good news is that it’s always possible for the algorithms to re-score your site after you make changes or improvements to the content.

To hear Matt’s full response in his own words, please see the video below:

Matt Southern

Matt Southern

Freelance Writer at
Matt Southern is the lead news writer at Search Engine Journal. His passion for helping people in all aspects of online marketing flows through in the expert articles he contributes to many well respected publications across the web. Contact him via his website if you'd like him to write for you.
Matt Southern

Comments are closed.

13 thoughts on “Matt Cutts Explains How You Can Tell If Your Website Has Been Hit By A Particular Algorithm

  1. I use Link Detox by Link Research Tools to clean up inbound link profiles of web sites that have been hit by penalties. The tool classifies the links as Healthy, Suspicious or Toxic. Every manual penalty I have seen has +70% Toxic+Suspicious links always. This also seems to be the case with sites that have lost a considerable amount of traffic overnight. For me the confusion arises when you attempt to remove the penalty – with a manual penalty it gets revoked and Google will tell you. But in the case of an algorithmic penalty it’s harder to know as sites have usually been ranking with very bad links and very few good links, so you don’t usually see any major change in traffic.

  2. Our site had been hit by a penalty, and luckily we lifted it up. And it’s lesson for those link schemers and those who abide SE rules. And Cutts never tells us specifically on how to avoid penalties :D. Tricky.!

  3. You would make a great politician, sometimes people want a straight answer but as you are not allowed to tell everyone how the algorithm works, your videos tend to go like this, yes and no, possibly but not possible, maybe and not maybe, so there you have you it you now know nothing more than when you clicked play.

  4. Hey Matt i want to say thanks to you for Helpful Information. Because I was looking for the related information. Thanks a lot it is very useful for me.

  5. Matt cutts indicated us to be aware of the algorithmic changes happening which are not notified unless they are major like penguin and panda.

  6. it’s good to know that chances are their for the algorithms to re-score your site after you make changes or improvements to the content. So, content plays a major role in search results..!