There are two types of penalties that can affect your business, manual penalties and algorithmic penalties. Most sites that are affected by a penalty tend to be low quality or spammy websites. Businesses that try to improve their search rankings by using manipulative methods and violate Google guidelines are also likely to be affected.

Penalties can affect everyone regardless of your industry size. This blogs outlines the core differences between a manual and algorithmic penalty and highlights the impact of a loss in revenue and traffic.

Manual penalties

There are currently over 400,000 manual penalties that are initiated every month, according to Matt Cutts. A manual penalty occurs when a Google employee has manually reviewed your website to find any errors that have breached Google instructions. If you have been issued with a notification from Google, it can be accessed by logging into your Google Search Console account. When a manual penalty has been detected you will receive a notice regarding low quality links directing to your site.

Although manual penalties can be harmful to your site, they are easily identifiable and therefore easier to resolve and manage. Common manual breaches occur when unnatural links, spammy or little added value content is found on your domain.

Unnatural links linking back to your site that do not have any relatable content is likely to cause a drop in your rankings. In addition to this, having a lot of links directing out from your site or creating low value links is also likely to affect your traffic. Spammy content refers to content which has been automatically generated or has been duplicated, low quality blog posts or little added value pages are also likely to have a direct impact on both your traffic and rankings.

In May 2014, the American multinational e-commerce company, EBAY was hit with a Google manual penalty impacting new buyer traffic and caused a staggering $200 million loss in revenue. The penalty was said to be given due to a number of ‘doorway’ pages that had been created to boost rankings. The penalty cut traffic by over 50%, in addition to pushing Ebay UK to a search position of 6, placing their competitors in a favourable position.

Resolving a manual penalty allows you to apply for reconsideration. Once Google detects that the issues have been removed, the manual action will be lifted and your traffic and rankings will be restored.

Algorithmic Penalties

Algorithmic penalties affects thousands of sites simultaneously, there are two main types – ‘Panda’ which investigates the quality of your content and ‘Penguin’ which looks at over optimisation. Panda penalties occur monthly whilst Penguin penalties occur only a couple times throughout the year.

Panda Penalty

The most common penalty is the Panda penalty, this aims to prevent low quality content from displaying in the search results. If Google detects a high amount of low quality content, it is likely that your entire site may be penalised, leading to a significant downfall in rankings and traffic.

Algorithmic penalties are easily identified by a steep drop in your search rankings or a noticeable decline in your traffic. However there are a range of online tools including Google Analytics, Search-metrics or Sistrix that can help to monitor your data.

It is important to note that once your business has been hit by a Panda update, your traffic and rankings data will not restore until the next algorithm update, which means you could be waiting a while.

Penguin Penality

The Penguin update was created in April 2012 to penalise businesses who had used unnatural and aggressive link building methods to increase their rankings. Businesses that were obtaining a considerable amount of links in a short space of time were recognised as spammy. Websites who focused on targeting either a high number authority links or obtaining a number of low quality links were also classified as unnatural links.

The penguin update penalises specific pages or keywords that you are targeting, it does not affect your site as a whole. For instance, your keywords could encounter an abrupt drop in rankings, you may also have a message in your webmaster tool indicating unnatural linking to your site. As stated with the Panda update, your errors need to be resolved however they will not be refreshed until the next algorithm update.

In 2006, Google issued car manufacturer – BMW with the ‘death penalty’. The German website ‘’ disappeared overnight after being caught for artificially boosting its rankings and misleading its users. The company violated Google guidelines by creating multiple ‘doorway’ pages to boost their pagerank and heavily invested in using keywords to exploit the Google indexing system. Google penalised the site by removing the company from search results, affecting the company’s traffic and ultimately impacting BMW’s revenue.

If you would like to find out more information regarding Google penalties contact Ricemedia today. Find out how your business can recover from a penalty and work towards preventing them for the foreseeable future.