Has Your Website Received a Search Engine Penalty?

By Peter Kent

It may seem counterintuitive, but just because your site appears to have been penalized by a search engine doesn’t mean that it has. In fact, in most cases when a site owner thinks his site has been penalized, it really hasn’t. You see, when your site drops in the search results, a number of reasons could be behind it. A few are as follows:

  • You’ve done something to damage your site, telling Google not to index it anymore.

  • Someone else, perhaps a hacker, has done something to damage your site.

  • Google has changed its algorithm, and all the great little SEO tricks you were using in the past no longer work, so your site is dropping in the ranks.

  • Google is in the middle of an upheaval, and your site is dropping for no particular reason and will probably come back in a few days . . . and then perhaps drop again and come back later.

  • You really have been penalized. Google’s algorithm has identified something it doesn’t like in your site.

  • You really have been penalized. A Google webspam team member has seen your site (perhaps because it was reported by a competitor), didn’t like something you were doing, and penalized the site.

Before you can figure out which of these possibilities is true, you have to determine what is really going on with your site. “It’s dropped in the search results” isn’t enough; you need more detail.

Here are a few things to consider when trying to figure out whether your site has been penalized:

  • Is the site still indexed?

  • Has Google flagged your site as “suspicious”?

  • Has the number of pages in the index significantly changed?

  • What happens when you search for your domain name?

  • What happens when you search for the domain name minus the TLD (Top Level Domain; the .com piece, for instance)?

  • What happens when you search for a text string in your <TITLE> tag?

  • What happens when you search for a text string in your home page?

  • Does your Google Webmaster console contain a message?

  • Is Google still crawling your website?

  • * Have you used a Penalty Checker?