Do you think you’ve been hit by a Google penalty and you want to find out? We’ve listed some quick checks you can make below:
Ways to check if you’ve been hit by a Google penalty
If you suddenly drop in Google ranking and suspect a Google penalty quickly check your domain name by searching in Google.
1 – Check Google using the site search command
Go to Google and search googlepenalty.co.uk and see the domain name is still in Google. This is called using the site search command.
You can do a site:domain.com search within Google to show any indexed content – note this won’t show all indexed content at this moment in time, this isn’t the most accurate way to see what Google has indexed – Search Console is the best way to find that data.
2 – Search for your brand name on Google
Next you can try to search for the brand name of your company by using the exact phrase search eg “company name” and see if you still rank for the term.
If you end up seeing no results for your website from the above quick check, your website may have a specific Google penalty based on some of your previous actions.
It could be that you’ve received too many brand-name heavy anchor text backlinks, or that you’ve been buying links (or both).
3 – Check the indexed pages report in Search Console
You should have Google Search console setup for your domain, and you should be using a domain set. This allows you to have insights across all variants of your domain – so http and https protocols, plus www and non-www variants, and then the same for any subdomains that might exist.
Access the indexed pages report and check to see how much of your content has/hasn’t been indexed.
It’s normal for pages to stay out of Google’s indexed – not all content need to be indexed, or has SEO value. Google has become stricter about indexing content in recent years, especially due to the flood of badly generated AI content.
If a Google penalty has been applied you might find that content suddenly dropped out of Google’s index – it might be quite a severe drop, with lots of content dropped within a short period of time. This is the likely indicator of a Google penalty being applied.
4 – Assess your site using the Google Quality Rater Guidelines
This is a fairly long and ongoing task but if you have the appetite for it you can give it a go – the Google Quality Rater Guidelines are a great way to determine what Google is looking for when assessing the quality of a website.
This is where someone is manually reviewing a website to make specific spot checks and if you get hit by one of these it’ll be hard work, but not impossible, to resolve – there must be a clear indication that something isn’t quite right with your site.
Google Quality Raters might be looking for things like making false/bogus claims that aren’t substantiated, a site that lacks any kind of EEAT signals (expertise, events, authority, trust), hijacking the use of the back button in the browser, and any other dodgy activities.
5 – Assess your site using Google Search Essentials
Also known as the Google Webmaster Guidelines, this is where you can see the specific advice Google has for avoiding being penalised or being hit by algorithmic penalties.
You should reference your site against these guidelines (again, if you have the time and appetite to do so) to check in general how is your website doing.
The guidelines cover things like technical site requirements, spam policies, the importance of helpful, people-first content, and much more.
In a nutshell if your site isn’t ticking all of the boxes here, and you think you’ve been hit by a Google penalty of some kind, then you’ll have your work cut out in order to remove any such penalisation.
6 – How to check if you’ve been hit by an algorithm update instead of a penalty?
This is where things get interesting. It’s become quite hard to tell if a site has been hit by a Google penalty, or if it’s just one of Google’s algorithm updates.
Google has released many updates recently, in some cases a handful of updates within a month. This makes it really hard to determine when/why traffic might have dropped, and it could be that Google does this to try and prevent site owners from gaming the system. If they make it too easy for people to SEO their website, and to obtain top rankings, then that might make them too vulnerable to manipulation.
Algorithm updates are automatically applied updates to search results that affect all sites in Google, and aren’t specifically aimed to particular websites. They might be considered as a way for Google to hone their results if they can see that users aren’t as happy with results they’ve been getting.
If you’ve trying to assess if your site has been hit by a penalty or an update then you should be checking analytics traffic and search console traffic with services that have mapped any algorithm updates. Checking your traffic stats vs one of these, you should be able to determine when an algorithm has impacted your site.
Ask a Google penalty recovery expert to help
If you want a quick and easy way to pinpoint any SEO issues with your website, whether they were penalty or algorithm inflicted, then don’t hesitate to reach out.
We’ve got over 10 years experience helping to pinpoint Google penalties and to help sites overcome any organic traffic drops.
Just reach out if you want us to check if your site has been hit by a penalty – and what you need to do to fix it.
You can also email us direct: [email protected]