Originally at https://searchenginewatch.com/2016/03/08/what-should-i-do-when-my-site-has-been-hit-with-a-google-penalty/

Google penalties are the one thing that are universally feared in the digital industry. They can be devastating and take an age to recover from.

What should you do when you’ve been on the receiving end of an algorithmic change, or, heaven forfend, a manual action? As with everything, it depends on the type of penalty, the scale of the problem and your ability to sort things out.

After you’ve stopped freaking out, there are a bunch of things that you should – and shouldn’t – do to try to identify and fix the problem. Here’s a top level overview of what you need to take a look at.

1) Avoid panic

Sure, your heart may race a little faster, but keep a cool head and figure out what’s going on. You can normally spot the most likely reason for the penalty within an hour or two.

Once you’ve determined the source of your stress, there are a few things that you need to do…

2) Figure out if you have a manual penalty

Check in with Webmaster Tools. If you’ve been given a penalty by Google’s Webspam team then you should see a warning under Search Traffic/Manual Actions.

This could be a site wide issue, or a partial issue. If there’s nothing showing up, then it’s likely to be related to a wider Google update (which is much preferable, in terms of your ability to recover). Big updates to the algorithm normally come in one of two flavours of animal beginning with the letter ‘P’.

3) See if there has been a change to the algorithm

No manual action? Breathe a huge sigh of relief.

The penalty has to be algorithmic, and as such yours will not be the only site affected. There has been a change, big or small, and it has hit your website, for whatever reason. This, believe it or not, is good news.

It could be related to onsite factors (likely to be Panda) or offsite (likely to be Penguin). This is something to figure out.

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