What is a Penalty In Google?

Penalty – An infraction issued by Google, to a webmaster, for breaking Google’s guidelines. The penalty is issued by Google through Search Console and can result in a sites’ removal from search engine results. The issues that caused them will need to be fixed before the penalty is lifted, and once they lifted it may still take some time to return to the previous rank in Google search results. They may also refer to an “algorithmic penalty” which is actually a misnomer; a website may be doing poorly in search results because of an issue that Google’s algorithm has found in the site. This, however, is not really a “penalty” but a ranking problem. For there to be a true penalty, there would have to be a manual action from Google, as denoted by the message sent to the webmaster in Search Console.

Google Penalty Means Trouble

It means your site is either no longer listed on search results, or that your ranking for your targeted keywords has dropped dramatically. When your site gets them, your target audience can’t find you. And when you are invisible to your target audience, your traffic, and ultimately revenue, drops.

It can happen to any website. The penalty can be the result of well-intended and honest efforts to improve your site’s ranking. But once you receive a Google penalty, it isn’t easy getting your good ranking back, and getting back into Google’s good graces.

Why Do Sites Get a Google Penalty?

Google’s job is to provide the most relevant search results. From Google’s point of view, any website that tries to manipulate the search results is harming the Google product. Google wouldn’t be Google if it returned unhelpful results, or gave its users a negative experience, would it?


A Google penalty is the result of a highly evolved, constantly changing algorithm that Google utilizes to crawl and inspect websites. While there are some specific actions that can result in immediate penalties handed down by a Google employee, there are others not publicly advertised, or some that can result in a reduction in rankings that happens over time. This is to protect Google from websites trying to outsmart it or further manipulate its results.

Google Penalty Triggers

To ensure your site doesn’t receive a Google penalty, make sure your site does not have:

  1. spyware, adware, or viruses
  2. hidden links or text
  3. cloaking (displaying a different version of a webpage to the search engine robots)
  4. deceptive redirects (when a visitor is automatically taken to another page without clicking anything)
  5. pages loaded with irrelevant keywords
  6. keyword stuffing
  7. a substantial amount of duplicate content

The list of Google penalty triggers is extensive, but they can easily be summed up: penalties are triggered by any action a website takes to fool a search engine or harm the user experience in some way.


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