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Penalties in Google Search

Google and other search engines may penalize sites that are deemed low quality, spam, or are seen to be using manipulative SEO methods to rank higher. This will cause some websites to suffer in organic search results and can take time to rectify. As it is important to understand the cause of penalties and how to handle them, our SEO Office Hours notes below compile advice from Google’s “SEO Office Hours” sessions with recommendations for avoiding organic search penalties.

Sites typically won’t get punished for having different content on mobile and desktop

Because Google has switched to mobile-first indexing, this means that Google very rarely crawls the desktop version of a site. Therefore, punishment for differences between the versions is unlikely, as any differences between mobile and desktop probably won’t even be detected. Googlebot does crawl the alternate version of a site from time to time, but this is primarily to confirm the connection between the two, rather than to compare the content.


17 Mar 2022

Google algorithms can still lose trust in sites displaying a strong pattern of manipulative links

Google tries to isolate and ignore spammy or toxic backlinks. However, there still are some cases where a site with a very strong pattern of unnatural links can lose trust and be penalized with a drop in visibility.

30 Oct 2021

Sites with Reconsidered Penalties are Not Monitored More Closely

Google doesn’t monitor sites which have had a penalty and successful reconsideration request more closely afterwards, and there’s nothing that hangs around.

20 Mar 2020

Repeated Reconsideration Review Requests Are Not Delayed

Google will process multiple reconsideration requests without waiting for a fixed period between the reviews, but if they see a website going back and forth they might wait longer to take a look.

20 Mar 2020

Google Wants to Automatically Ignore Unnatural Content

Instead of applying manual penalties for unnatural content, Google wants to develop automatic solutions to ignore anything unnatural, like they already do for unnatural linking, so it won’t harm you and you won’t have to take any action. But in any situation where a penalty would be applied, the reviewer would probably take the time to look at the site.

20 Mar 2020

Reconsideration Requests Can Take a Month to Process

It can take Google up to a month to respond to reconsideration requests, particularly linking related issues. Google doesn’t send warnings first because they want to take immediate action when they find content with a problem.

20 Mar 2020

Abuse of Schema Policy May Result in a Sitewide Manual Action for the Specific Type of Rich Result

Usually if you go against schema policy, a manual action for the specific type of rich result could be applied for the entire site until a reconsideration process is completed.

17 Mar 2020

A Domain’s History Won’t Affect Reconsideration Requests

As long as your site isn’t repeatedly receiving manual actions, the domain history won’t affect the priority or complexity of a reconsideration request.

25 Jun 2019

Google Can Pass Penalties from Migrated Spam Sites

If you redirect a website that has received a manual action for spam to a different website, Google will be able to follow this and is able to penalize the target destination site if you have redirected between the websites yourself.

5 Mar 2019

Only Spam Manual Actions Have Lingering Effects

Once a manual action is lifted, there will be no further consequences. The only exception is manual actions for spam, as these sites are removed entirely from the index and need to be recrawled, reprocessed and indexed again from scratch.

5 Mar 2019

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