The Step By Step Process To Recover From Any Google Penalty

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Got penalised by Google?

You’re not alone.

There are over 400,000 manual penalties dished out by Google every month. That doesn’t even include the websites that get penalised by core algorithm updates.

Here’s some good news:

It’s possible to recover from any Google penalty.

But Google penalty recovery is not for the faint-hearted. You need to have the right process in place and be committed to getting the results you need.

In this blog post, I’ll give you my 4x steps Google penalty recovery process to recover from any Google penalty you receive.

Let’s get started.

Identify What Penalty Hit Your Site Before To Make Any Changes

The first step for a successful Google penalty recovery is identifying what kind of penalty you were hit with.

There are 2 types of Google penalties:

  1. Manual
  2. Algorithmic

Depending on the type of penalty you have, will depend on what you need to do. Each requires a different strategy or a combination of strategies to get past them.

1. Were You Hit By A Manual Penalty?

Manual penalties are given by Google employees from the search quality or webspam team. They review your website and after consideration decide to manually take action against your business’ site.

gsc manual google penalty message

Manual penalties usually come from:

  • Unnatural links to or from your website
  • Spammy content or pages
  • Manipulative structured markup
  • Cloaked images and redirects

You will know you have received a manual Google penalty because Google will notify you through Google search console.

2. Were You Hit By An Algorithmic Penalty?

If you didn’t know…Google search is powered by an algorithm.

The algorithm is really just a series of complex mathematical equations used to determine what results should be shown to a user.

Algorithmic penalties are triggered by the Google search algorithm rather than by a human. There are usually two algorithmic penalties to worry about:

  1. Google Panda penalty
  2. Google Penguin penalty

algorithmic google penalties

Google Panda was launched in 2011 and has since become a big part of the core Google algorithm. Its primary goal is to target content-related issues.

These include pages that offer very little value or pages with tons of ads compared to the content they offer.

Google Penguin was launched in 2012 and caused considerable issues to thousands of websites. Its goal is to target websites using dodgy links to increase rankings.

That’s why you should only ever build high-quality links or use reputable link building services that focus on quality control.

How To Recover From A Google Penalty Step By Step

Think you’ve been hit by a Google penalty?

Just follow my step-by-step Google penalty recovery process. I use this very process with our own clients and have successfully helped tons of businesses recover quickly.

Here’s how you do it.

Step 1: Examine Potential Ranking Issues

Before you can do anything, you need to understand what’s happening.

Stabbing around in the dark hoping to find the “right fix” won’t get you anywhere.

Check these following sources for potential ranking issues first.

Google Analytics Check

Firstly head over to Google Analytics and ensure that your analytics tracking code is installed properly. You would be surprised how many times this is the problem.

google analytics debugger chrome extension

Use the Google Analytics Debugger extension to make sure everything is in order.

Manual Penalty Review

Go to Google Search Console to see if there is a manual penalty taken against your website. Click on Security & Manual Actions and then Manual Actions. Now look for any error messages here.

security and manual actions

Have you confirmed the problem is a manual action?

Get in contact with a professional SEO agency to take care of it. Manual penalties can be tricky to solve.

Google Search Console Error Check

Check to see if Google Search Console is reporting any errors.

Click on Index, then Coverage.

index and coverage

Google search console will highlight any coverage issues here.

Lastly, you need to check your website experience.

Click experience and then check through each of the following reports:

experience report

If you find any issues – don’t worry.

Just work through each one and submit the fixes for validation. Any major errors that are causing penalties should be highlighted within Google Search Console.

Recent Site Changes

Still can’t find the issue?

Make sure you check with each member of your team (or developer) to see if anyone has made any big site changes in the last 3 months.

You’d be amazed at some of the changes people make and the effect they can have on your website.

Important: Don’t panic if you find errors.

Panicking will lead you to make unnecessary changes based on emotion. You only want to make decisions based on data. Follow through with the rest of the process.

Step 2: Look Into Recent Algorithm Updates

Google’s algorithm gets frequent updates.

A change in the algorithm can be the culprit for a drop in traffic and site performance. In some cases the update will mean you end up with a penalty.

That’s why it’s essential to:

  • Keep your eyes on Google algorithm updates
  • Take action when needed

Moz has a super helpful page that lists each Google update as it happens.

Check their page and see if any of the updates listed correlate to when your website performance dropped.

moz algorithm updates page

Found a correlation?

Investigate what the update targeted and make the appropriate changes to your website.

Over the years there have been tons of tools to help you pinpoint which updates had the biggest impact on your site and why.

Use any of these Google penalty checker tools to really help you drill down into updates and overcome them.

Step 3: Run A Complete SEO Audit On Your Site

Now it’s time to look at your own site and identify any issues on it.

There are two audits to run:

  1. SEO audit
  2. Content audit

This will ensure that you identify any issues that may have caused a Google penalty.

1. Complete An SEO Audit

You should run a complete SEO audit on your website every 6-12 months.

5 step seo audit process

Here’s the thing:

Unless you have extensive SEO knowledge it’s hard to do a true technical SEO audit. It requires a level of skill that only professional SEOs really have.

If you aren’t confident, reach out to a professional agency to help you out.

Ready to run an SEO audit by yourself?

Follow these 5 steps:

  1. Listen to your visitors – Run a survey and ask for feedback from your users.
  2. Manually observe problems – Take a walk through your site and see how you can improve user experience.
  3. Perform technical spot checks – Do a brief technical SEO audit to see if there are technical errors that need to be fixed.
  4. Scan your site with an SEO audit tool – Use a quality SEO tool to run an audit on your site.
  5. Create a plan of attack – Now you have the information you need, design a strategy to make all of the improvements.

Resource: You can follow my complete 5 step SEO audit guide to get more detail on each of these steps.

2. Complete A Content Audit

Content is the face of your business online.

Good content will help your business grow and bad content can damage your reputation. A content audit highlights content issues for:

  • Quality
  • Relevancy

Both are important to ensure that your content is helping your business and website grow.

For content audits, I use Surfer SEO.

surfer seo

Surfer SEO has a SERP analyser which will:

  • Analyse each URL
  • Audit your content
  • Make suggestions for improvement

Pretty cool, right?

Surfer SEO does all the heavy lifting. All you have to do is follow the recommendations.

Check out my Surfer SEO review to learn how to run a complete content audit.

Step 4. Clean Up Your Backlink Profile

If you need to recover from a Google penalty, cleaning up your link profile is a must.

Here’s how to do it yourself.

1. Find And Identify All Your Bad Links

You need to do a backlink audit to find and remove bad backlinks.

There are 2 tools to use for this job:

  1. Google Search Console
  2. Moz

Google search console provides a list of all of the domains that link to you. Login to your GSC account and click links on the left sidebar.

export external links

Click export external links.

Google Search Console won’t necessarily have a complete list of all backlinks to your site. That’s why you should cross-reference with another SEO tool to make sure that you get them all.

Use the Moz Open Site Explorer tool to find more backlinks. You will need to create a free account and then add your domain.

export links from moz

Now export the list of links that Moz has found. You should now have 2 lists of backlinks.

The last thing that you need to do is evaluate each link and identify the bad ones. This will require you to use the right tool.

I recommend using Monitor Backlinks – they have a 30-day free trial.

monitor backlinks

Upload your 2 lists of backlinks into Monitor Backlinks.

add new backlinks

Monitor Backlinks also uses Google Analytics and Ahrefs API to find other links so this combined with the lists you just uploaded, means you won’t miss a single link.

Use Monitor Backlinks to evaluate each link so you can prepare to remove the bad ones.

If you need more help to evaluate and get rid of bad backlinks, use my how to remove bad backlinks guide.

GROWTH ALERT: Sign up for my free link-building training.

2. Request Removal Of The Bad Links

Once you have a list of links you want to remove you need to reach out to each website owner and request a removal.

correct link removal request

Use a tool like to track down the name and email address of the site owner.

If you have a lot of site owners to reach out to I recommend using a tool like BuzzStream. It makes it super easy to track all of the emails sent and even send automated follow-up emails.

Word of caution: Be friendly and polite when sending your link removal request. The site owner is helping you out so being polite will go a long way.

3. Disavow The Remaining Bad Backlinks

Some sites just won’t respond.

After sending a couple of follow-up emails and not receiving any responses it’s time to switch strategies.

Disavowing links is when you request Google to ignore certain links. If the link disavow is successful, those bad links won’t be counted against you.

Here’s how to disavow backlinks step by step:

You will need to create a disavow report to submit to Google. For this I use Monitor Backlinks.

You should have a complete list of your backlinks already which allows you to easily select the ones you want to disavow.

create disavow report

Now you just need to upload that report to Google. Use Google Disavow Tool and simply upload your file.

disavow gsc

Just make sure you have selected the right backlinks before submitting the report.

How Long Does It Take To Recover From A Google Penalty?

This is the ultimate question.

Google penalty recovery is not an easy thing to do and will require significant effort on your part. That’s why I always recommend that you get a professional recovery service to take care of it if you are not confident.

For manual penalties you can expect about 10 to 30 days. It will depend primarily on how long it takes for a Google team member to notice your changes.

You can always email them to speed up the process.

Algorithmic penalties are a different story. It can take more than 6 months to recover from this kind of penalty.

There are tons of factors that will affect this so the best thing to do is rebuild trust with the Google search algorithm again.

Check out this core update recovery case study to see how we helped our client recover from an algorithmic penalty brought on by a Google core algorithm update.

google penalty recovery

Wrapping It Up

You now have all of the information you need to identify a Google penalty against your website and more importantly how to recover from it.

For Google penalty recovery, you need to remove bad backlinks and duplicate content. In addition, you need to make sure you are taking care of other on page seo factors as well.

We’ve helped our own clients recover from penalties and even end up with better results than they had before following this exact process.


Google penalties don’t have to be permanent.

As long as you have the determination and follow the steps above you can recover from any Google penalty you encounter.

Have a Google penalty you need help with?

I recommend Search Logistics Google penalty recovery services. They will help you get out of Google’s bad books and back on track with your organic traffic.

google penalty recovery search logistics

Not penalised but stuck in the Sandbox? Learn how to get out of the Google Sandbox.

Frequently Asked Questions

A Google penalty in SEO is a negative action taken by Google against your website. This directly affects your rankings in the Google search results. There are 2 types of penalties - manual and algorithmic.
Manual Google penalties will typically last 10-30 days after you implement the appropriate fixes. Algorithmic Google penalties can last up to 6 months depending on what the penalty was for.
To recover from a manual link penalty you will need to remove bad backlinks. This can be done by either reaching out to the site owner or disavowing them.
Spammy or unnatural links will trigger a Google penalty. If Google believes that you have built links to manipulate your search rankings it can trigger a penalty against your site.

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