google penalty removal

Google Penalty Removal: How to Recover From 25 SEO Penalties

You’ve spent weeks on your SEO strategy, and everything is finally in place.

Excited, you check your ranks daily, waiting to for them shoot through the roof!

But when they eventually change, it’s not the change you’d hoped for. 

Your ranks plummeted.

Ay Yai Yai!

Why?

There’s a good chance you’ve been hit by a Google penalty for SEO practices that go against the Google Webmaster Guidelines (your SEO strategy could also not be up to par, in which case we recommend a review of the best SEO strategies).

What is a Google penalty?

How do you get rid of it? 

Is it time to pack up, sell your house, and apply for unemployment?

Breathe.

Google SEO penalties are confusing and scary for business owners and we’re here to help you understand what they are and how to recover from them.

In this post we’ll cover:

What is a Google Penalty in SEO? 

Google processes about 13 billion searches per month, so it can’t show everything that MIGHT be a relevant result to every search. 

It just isn’t possible.

That’s where SEO comes in. 

Optimizing your site’s pages helps Google know exactly what your page is about, increasing the chances that Google will show your page to people.

However, SEO is based on practices that use keywords, getting backlinks, and general website structure. 

And there are ways to trick Google’s algorithms into thinking your page is relevant when it actually, it’s not.

Spam websites, for example, stuff their pages with invisible blocks of keywords to rank higher on the SERP.

That’s where the penalties come in. 

A Google SEO penalty (AKA a “manual action”) is when Google identifies and penalizes a website that’s using tricky tactics to grab the top spot of the SERP.

That’s a no-no.

And Google manually hurts a spammy website’s rank.

Do I Really Need to Worry About My Sites Getting a Penalty?

You might be thinking, “My website’s legit, so I’m not sweating penalties.”

If only it were that simple.

Unfortunately, most website owners will run into a Google penalty against their website eventually. 

Google penalties can come from:

  • Bad backlinks to your site
  • User comments on your website
  • Certain mobile redirects
  • Plenty of other sources

In other words, you just can’t always predict when a manual action might be taken against your website

Sometimes you violate Google’s guidelines by accident (more on that later).

However, you’ve got plenty of options to prevent or remove Google penalties.

Consequences of a Google Penalty

Is a penalty really that bad? 

Can you just ignore it if you get one?

Sure you can, but we don’t recommend it if you’re the least bit interested in creating a steady stream of website traffic funneled from Google.

The consequences of Google penalties can be severe, we’ll address 3 here.

  • Rank Drop

The first consequence of a Google penalty is a manual lowering of your site’s rank.

News flash, if you get moved from page 1 to page 2, it’s a big freaking deal.

Less than 6% of Google clicks come from the 2nd page of search results.

Less than 6% — let that sink in.

In other words, your site might as well not even be on Google if it gets moved to page 2 of the SERP.

If you’ve worked on your site’s SEO, you know the value of the first 3 spots on Google.

After all your hard work, getting moved to page 2 is a major setback.

  • Removal of Site from the Google SERP

The second possible consequence of a Google penalty is even worse. 

Google will altogether remove specific pages from the search results.

When Google removes a site from search results, they don’t leave a placeholder. 

They don’t leave an alert that says, “This page has been hidden for violating Google Webmaster Guidelines. Show anyway?

It’s just gone. Zilch. Nada.

In other words, a user could scroll to page 100 of the SERP and never find your site.

Google site removal means your website visitors will have to come from direct traffic and referral traffic. 

Until you work on Google penalty removal, you’ll get ZERO organic search traffic to your site.

Ouch.

  • Lower Traffic

It ought to go without saying that either of the above consequences will result in drastically reduced traffic.

Lower traffic means:

  • Fewer views
  • Fewer sales
  • Less money

How Long Does a Google Penalty Last?

Google SEO penalties are pretty severe.

You may be hoping they don’t last long.

You may think ignorance is bliss and instead of worrying about Google penalty removal, you’ll be fine to stick your head in the sand until the penalty disappears on its own.

Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.

The penalty will last until your site is no longer in violation of the Google Webmaster Guidelines.

There may be exceptions to this rule, but most businesses don’t recover from a Google penalty until they’ve addressed their site’s issue.

If you do address the site’s issue and submit a reconsideration request, the penalty should go away quickly. 

However, it may take a while for your site to go through a Google penalty recovery period.

In other words, the faster you fix the issue, the faster the penalty will go away — but don’t expect change until you’ve addressed the issue.

How to Know If Your Site Has a Penalty

By now, you’re probably expecting to hear you need nuclear security clearance just to figure out if your site has any manual actions against it.

Luckily, it’s not that hard to figure out if there are penalties against your site if you’re vigilant.

There are 2 easy ways to know when something’s up with your site’s rankings.

1. Search Console Alert

First, Google will send you an alert in your Search Console telling you your site has been penalized and they’ll tell you why.

You can check by using the Google penalty checker tool within Search Console — click “Manual Actions.

It looks like this:

There are 2 types of penalty alerts:

  1. Partial matches
  2. Site-wide matches

Partial matches mean that only certain pages are affected by the penalty and that’s good news! 

When only certain pages are penalized, that means Google doesn’t think your site is spam — they believe that only a few of your pages need work to be up to snuff.

Site-wide matches, on the other hand, are terrible news because your entire site has been penalized and possibly removed from search results.

If you’re getting a site-wide match, Google has flagged your entire website as spam. 

Be sure your site provides enough value to its viewers, so this never happens to you.

2. Follow Your Ranks and Traffic

If you don’t follow your search console, you can still identify when you’ve got a manual action against you.

All you need to do is keep up with your pages’ ranks and traffic

Then, if you experience any sharp drops, go into your search console profile to find out if a manual action is the culprit.

ProRankTracker makes this process super easy — just set an alert that notifies you whenever one of your pages drops more than 2 ranks (or your chosen parameters).

Setting alerts means you don’t have to manually check all your pages every single day. 

Instead, ProRankTracker will do that for you all day, every day.

13 Google Penalties (and How to Fix Them)

So how do you get penalized? 

And what’s the Google penalty removal process?

As of today, there’s a total of 25 manual actions that Google can take against a website. 

Until early 2021, there were only 13 manual actions that exclusively applied to Google search results. 

With the most recent additions to the webmaster guidelines, Google added 12 new manual actions specific to News and Discover results.

We’ll start with the original 13 penalties, then follow with the new 12 — we’ll explain how you can get hit with each penalty and show you how to get rid of it and restore your site’s ranks.

1. Third-Party Spam

Third-party spam occurs when one of your website visitors (or, more likely, a bot) adds spammy content to your site. 

If you’ve ever scrolled through online forums, you know third-party spam when you see it.

Spam doesn’t just occur on forums, it can also be added through:

  • Guestbooks
  • Social media platforms
  • File uploaders
  • Free hosting services
  • Internal search pages

Spam is essentially any content that doesn’t provide the viewer with value. 

For example, irrelevant advertisements, links to adult content, and auto-generated text are all third-party spam

If you get a third-party spam alert on the Search Console, it means some of your pages have been attacked by this type of spam. 

Google will identify the affected URLs in the Search Console alert.

How to Fix It

First, locate and remove all third-party spam on your website’s pages.

To locate the third-party spam, look at the URLs that Google identified in your Search Console alert. 

Next, go to those URLs on your website and remove anything that violates Google’s guidelines.

Especially look for adult links, bot posts, and gibberish text.

Once you’ve removed the content, submit a reconsideration request through the Search Console alert.

Ensure to protect against future spam attacks by adding a CAPTCHA, blocking inappropriate content, and regularly moderating all third-party content on your site.

2. User-Generated Spam

User-generated spam is similar to third-party spam, but it’s solely limited to site visitors as opposed to third-party content.

This type of spam content can be generated anywhere that your users can submit content on your website.

  • Comments sections
  • Forums
  • Profile pages

Advertisements disguised as usernames, comments, or profiles are familiar sources of spam — users will sometimes infiltrate the comment section with links to unrelated websites.

These comments not only look awful on your site, but they’ll catch Google’s attention.

This type of content will be flagged by Google as spam and will result in the “User-generated spam” manual action in your Search Console.

How to Fix It

Fixing user-generated spam isn’t complicated, but it does take time.

Take these 3 steps:

  1. Identify the URLs affected by user-generated spam (check the Search Console alert to start, but also make sure to check every area of your website that accepts user input).
  2. Delete anything that isn’t a legitimate post, including users that appear to be bots or spam accounts.
  3. Click “Reconsideration request” on the Search Console alert.

A word to the wise, the best defense is a good offense. 

That’s some truth right there. 

With playing offense in mind, consider taking the following measures to avoid user-generated spam in the future:

  • Establish consistent moderation in forums and comments sections.
  • Require approval before new comments are publicly posted.
  • Use a CAPTCHA as a check before allowing users to post comments.

3. Spammy Free Host

If you provide free web hosting services, there’s a chance that users or bots will create spammy websites using your service.

Google has stated that it tries not to take action against the web hosting service if possible. 

However, if the majority of websites using your free hosting service are spammy, you might get slapped with a Google penalty as well.

Since Google’s primary goal is to keep spam content from appearing to viewers, they’ll address the source of the spam if necessary.

How to Fix It

Again, removing spam from your web hosting service isn’t complicated, but it can be time-consuming.

These 3 steps will point you in the right direction:

  1. Go through the list of accounts using your service and identify any spam accounts.
  2. Remove them.
  3. Submit a reconsideration request via the Search Console.

While you’re waiting on Google to review your site, improve your security systems to weed out future spam accounts. 

Google recommends taking the following actions to prevent spam on your hosting service:

  • State clearly in your user policy that you don’t allow spam on your hosting service.
  • Require authentication via CAPTCHA during account creation.
  • Monitor all URLs using your hosting for malware and spam.
  • Monitor account creation patterns to identify possible spam accounts (things like account creation time, IP address, and usernames could all point to possible spam accounts).

4. Structured Data Issue

Structured data and rich snippets are fantastic for your search results. 

They can improve your rank by increasing the value your site offers to viewers.

However, adding structured data to your website that isn’t compliant with Google’s structured data guidelines can sink your rank faster than an anchor tied to your waist can drag you down to the ocean’s floor.

So, with the goal of helping you stay afloat, let’s address some structured data issues that can get you strapped with this Google penalty.

Basically, if the structured data tells Google that something is on your page that isn’t actually there, you’ll get this penalty.

A few examples:

  • A JobPosting rich snippet for a page that doesn’t contain job postings
  • Adding structured data to an element (headline, image…) not visible to site visitors
  • Using the Event rich snippet to promote rather than describe an event

How to Fix It

First, read through all of Google’s structured data guidelines — adding structured data to your website is a great idea, but only if you stick to Google’s rules.

When you’re familiar with the structured data guidelines, check over all the structured data elements on your website to ensure they follow the guidelines.

When you find elements that don’t comply, update them into compliance, then submit a reconsideration request from Search Console.

Finally, review the guidelines each time you add new structured data to your website. 

A quick review will ensure you don’t get penalized for the same mistake twice — aka “the penalty of shame”.

5. Unnatural Links TO Your Site

Backlinks to your site are good, right?

Not always. 

Certain backlinks to your pages can hurt your rank and saddle you with a Google penalty.

One common way that people end up with this penalty is by buying backlink packages from sketchy SEOs online. 

Spoiler alert, buying links to your site is a violation of the guidelines and Google will punish you with this penalty.

Most of the people selling backlinks aren’t getting you links from reputable sites. 

There are sites that exist as link-selling farms, and their links to your site aren’t helpful in the least.

This is one area where people accidentally violate Google’s guidelines and get penalized, but don’t panic, it’s fixable.

How to Fix It

Since you can’t delete links on other people’s websites, getting rid of bad links to your site can be a touch complicated. 

Here’s what Google recommends:

  1. Get a list of all the pages that link back to your site from Search Console.
  2. Identify spam or low-quality sites from that list.
  3. Contact the owner of the site and ask them to kindly remove the link.
  4. If you can’t get it removed, use the disavow tool in Search Console to disavow bad links.
  5. Submit a reconsideration request.

The best way to avoid bad backlinks is NEVER to purchase links.

6. Unnatural Links FROM Your Site

If you’re selling backlinks from your site, you’ll eventually earn this Google penalty. 

You might also get this penalty if you’re using an excessive number of backlinks to certain websites.

In short, never participate in any kind of backlink scheme — it’ll end up hurting both your site and the site that you’re linking to.

How to Fix It

First, avoid these 3 things:

  1. Linking to spammy sites
  2. Selling links
  3. Participating in link schemes

If you’ve already gotten this penalty, go through your list of links immediately. 

Then, do the following:

  1. Identify the problem links (links you sold, links to bad sites, or excessive links).
  2. Remove any suspicious or low-quality links or add a nofollow tag so they don’t affect page rank.
  3. Submit a reconsideration request on Search Console.

7. Thin Content

Sidenote — “thin” isn’t a word you’d want to be used when describing the content you’re publishing on your website.

However, there may be specific pages on your website that cause you to receive this penalty. 

For example, a low-quality guest blog post is one of the causes that Google lists for this penalty.

The others are:

  • Automatically generated content
  • Duplicated affiliate pages with no added content
  • Stolen content
  • Doorway pages (multiple pages designed to funnel users to a single destination)

In other words, Google penalizes sites that aren’t producing valuable content for their visitors. 

Low-quality sites rely on the squirmy methods above to trick people into visiting their site instead of using original content.

How to Fix It

If you get this penalty, it can be difficult to fix. 

It isn’t too difficult to remove content from your website, but it’s time-consuming to replace it with high-value content.

Here’s how to recover from the thin content penalty:

  1. Check all of your pages for thin content like the examples we mentioned above.
  2. Remove any low-value or valueless content.
  3. Replace thin content with high-value content.
  4. Submit a reconsideration request.

Before you invest the time that it’ll take to redo all of your content, commit to value, first and foremost. 

If you don’t replace thin content with quality content, you’re likely to get this penalty again.

A good rule of thumb — if your content isn’t valuable, don’t post it in the 1st place.

8. Cloaking/Sneaky Redirects

Google decides what to show users based on the content that it thinks is present on a given page. 

However, it’s possible to trick Google into thinking that the page shows different content than it does in reality.

It’s called cloaking.

And it’s ugly.

A sneaky redirect accomplishes the same goal as cloaking.

It tricks the search engine and then shows the visitor a different page than the one shown on the SERP.

Google penalizes pages employing these strategies because they show different content than the user was expecting, which reduces the value that Google offers. 

How to Fix It

The alert you get in Search Console should let you know what URLs on your site are affected by cloaking or sneaky redirects.

After you figure out what URLs you need to inspect:

  1. Use the Search Console URL inspection tool to compare what Google sees to what users see when they click on your page.
  2. Reprogram any page guiding users to an unexpected destination. Make sure that Google accurately represents the page’s content.
  3. Submit a reconsideration request.

In general, redirects should only be used to redirect users to a newer version of the page they clicked on and should never be used to misrepresent content or trick users.

9. Pure Spam

In Google’s words, pure spam is when a website has committed “Repeated or egregious violations of Google’s quality guidelines.

Yikes.

More simply, any site full of what most of us would already consider “spam” gets labeled as pure spam.

Most often, the sites that get labeled as pure spam are run by black hat webmasters.

They set up a site to make as much profit as possible before it gets shut down, then they move on.

Due to the business model often associated with pure spam sites, almost all websites with this penalty are removed from search results. 

Very few ever submit reconsideration requests because they don’t care.

How to Fix It

Let’s assume you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having purchased a domain that was previously labeled with the pure spam penalty? 

How do you get the penalty removed from your new domain?

  1. Make sure you review Google’s webmaster guidelines.
  2. Create a site following the guidelines.
  3. Submit a reconsideration request emphasizing the change of ownership and documenting the changes you’ve made from previous owners.

Google is typically understanding when a pure spam domain changes hands, so you shouldn’t fret much about it. 

Although, it can certainly be a hassle to go through when you’re launching your new site.

10. Cloaked Images

We mentioned cloaking earlier — a site hiding its content from Google.

Rather than being upfront as to the actual page content, it tricks Google into thinking it’s something else.

There’s a separate penalty for websites using this same sneaky tactic with images.

 There are several ways to cloak images from Google:

  • Covering 1 image with another image
  • Covering images with text
  • Showing Google different images than visitors see

All 3 of these methods will earn the site the cloaked images penalty.

How to Fix It

This one’s a pretty simple fix:

  1. Determine which are cloaked images by following the URL on the Search Console alert.
  2. Make sure that Google search results show the images actually displayed on the site.
  3. Submit a reconsideration request.

There’s an exception to this rule — you can opt out of image search online linking by completing a form on image cloaking. 

To do so, just follow these steps.

11. Hidden Text/Keyword Stuffing

Just the other day, a website owner who wasn’t familiar with SEO said, “Couldn’t we just put white text on a white background and fill our website with keywords?

We shudder to hear those words.

Maybe you’ve thought the same thing — perhaps you’re reading this because you tried it and got caught.

That’s called hidden text and it’s similar to another practice called keyword stuffing, which involves creating unnatural blocks of keywords.

It may seem like a quick way to rank for specific keywords, but your quick solution may very well get you penalized by Google.

How to Fix It

If you created content containing stuffed keywords or hidden text, it should be simple to remove. 

Just go into your website, take out the problem text, then submit a reconsideration request.

If you didn’t create the website, it might be a tad involved, but we’ve got steps for you to follow:

  1. Use the URL inspection tool in Search Console to look for hidden text.
  2. Check the CSS on your website to make sure there is no hidden text.
  3. Make sure that you only use keywords in natural ways — reword any unnatural text, even if it means losing a keyword.
  4. Submit a reconsideration request.

As you continue creating content, remember to strike a balance between good writing and keywords. 

Excessive keywords hurt rather than help, so try targeting fewer keywords if your site got flagged for keyword stuffing.

12. AMP Content Mismatch

AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is Google’s program to optimize web pages on mobile devices. 

You can get penalized if the AMP version of a page and its standard version are too different from one another. 

There will always be differences between mobile and desktop pages, but they need to be essentially the same page.

Unlike other penalties, this Google penalty is only leveraged against the AMP version — This happens when the standard page version shows up for both mobile and desktop users.

Since over half of all web traffic is now on mobile devices, showing the standard version could harm your traffic.

How to Fix It

To fix the AMP content mismatch penalty, just make sure that the AMP version of a site references the correct pages throughout.

Compare each AMP page with its standard equivalent and ask yourself, “Are these two pages essentially the same?” 

If so, move on to the next page.

After you’ve ensured that all your AMP pages appear similar to the standard counterparts, submit a reconsideration request.

13. Sneaky Mobile Redirects

We mentioned sneaky redirects earlier — we’ll address the mobile version of the sneaky redirects penalty here. 

Some people have used mobile redirects so that mobile users see a completely different page than desktop users. 

This scenario is the primary reason for this penalty.

An important note is that using redirects from your standard site to the mobile version is legitimate. 

However, you’ve got to make sure that your mobile and standard pages are the same to avoid getting this penalty or the AMP content mismatch penalty.

How to Fix It

Follow the same steps we used to get rid of the regular sneaky redirects by making sure the content shown on the SERP is the page that the user sees when they click through.

When you’ve confirmed that none of your URLs redirect to unrelated pages on mobile, submit a reconsideration request.

That’s it for the search results penalties, now on to the newest set of penalties specific to Google News and Discover.

12 New Google Penalties: News and Discover Policy Violations

In early 2021, Google introduced 12 new penalties directed at pages ranking on Google News and Discover.

These 12 penalties work precisely like the other 13, but they only affect a site’s ranking in News and Discover instead of the Google SERP.

Some of these penalties solely apply to Discover, while others only apply to News, and still, others apply to both. 

We’ll mention what the penalty applies to at the top of each section.

1. Discover: Adult Themed Content

If you get this penalty, your site won’t be appearing on Google Discover because it contains nudity, explicit sexual content, or other adult-themed content.

If you aren’t sure what Google Discover is, it’s the stories from all across the web that Google shows on the mobile version of its app.

How to Fix It

To fix the adult-themed content penalty and allow your site to appear on Discover, take the following steps:

  1. Remove the adult content.
  2. Submit a reconsideration request.

Read the Discover policy, so you know precisely what material is allowed and what’s not.

If you want to continue to appear on Discover, make sure your future content contains no adult material.

2. News and Discover: Dangerous Content

Dangerous content is a bit harder to define than adult-themed content. 

Google identifies dangerous content as “Content that could directly facilitate serious and immediate harm to people or animals.

How to Fix It

To remove this penalty, you need to remove the content flagged as dangerous. 

The URL that Google lists in Search Console will help identify the content you need to remove.

After removing the dangerous content, submit a reconsideration request.

Since it’s difficult to know exactly what might be considered dangerous content, we recommend erring on the side of caution. 

If the content you’re posting could be construed as dangerous, just don’t post it.

Caution will protect you from getting hit with this penalty twice.

3. News and Discover: Harassing Content

Harassing content is more clearly defined by Google. 

It includes any of the following:

  • Bullying
  • Threats
  • Sexualizing someone in an unwanted manner
  • Divulging private information without permission
  • Disparagement
  • The belittlement of tragedy victims
  • Denial of atrocities
  • Other forms of harassment

Hopefully, none of these words could be used to describe any of your content, but shared third-party content on your website could get you in hot water. 

Remember, you could still be penalized for third-party content as we discussed earlier.

How to Fix It

  1. Identify and remove harassing content from all pages, making sure to look through user-submitted content.
  2. Submit a reconsideration request.

We’d suggest taking a look at our recommendations for avoiding third-party spam mentioned above.

They’ll also help you avoid unknowingly allowing users to post harassing content on your site.

4. News and Discover: Hateful Content

Hateful content is defined as content promoting violence or hatred toward an individual or group of people. 

This includes discrimination of all types:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Age
  • Nationality
  • Veteran status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender
  • Gender identity
  • Any other type of discrimination

In other words, any type of hateful content toward an individual or group will get your website penalized and removed from News and Discover.

How to Fix It

  1. Remove all hateful content, including that which appears in user-submitted portions of your website.
  2. Submit a reconsideration request.

Like with harassing content, we recommend taking steps to increase control of third-party content on your website. 

These steps include adding CAPTCHAs and increasing control of third-party content on your site.

5. News and Discover: Manipulated Media

If you’re getting the manipulated media penalty, it means Google has decided that your content doesn’t accurately reflect current events. 

False news won’t get shown on Google News or Discover. 

However, it’s more involved than that. 

Also falling under this category are the following:

  • News representing things that did not verifiably take place
  • News that may cause harm to individuals or groups
  • News that might undermine trust or participation in electoral or civic processes

How to Fix It

There are a few options for getting rid of the misleading media penalty.

  1. Remove the content that was flagged as misleading.
  2. If you intended to satirize or parody, make sure that’s made clear.
  3. Identify media manipulation to your audience.

Once you’ve done at least 1 of these steps (it certainly won’t hurt to do all 3), make a reconsideration request in the Search Console.

6. News and Discover: Medical Content

Medical content being posted by non-medical professionals can seriously harm public health, so Google no longer allows medical content on News and Discover.

Medical content is defined as content that aims to provide “medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

There are dedicated sites on the internet providing medical content and news, so if that isn’t your site’s specialty, we recommend staying away from it.

How to Fix It

According to Google’s manual actions report, the only way to get rid of the medical content penalty is to entirely remove all medical content.

Identify anything on your website that could be classified as medical content — especially anything that runs contradictory to scientific and evidence-based medicine — and remove it.

After removing medical content, submit a reconsideration request.

7. Discover: Misleading Content

Misleading content is designed to attract viewers by promising a story, but then it doesn’t include the promised story.

It’s what we’d normally call “clickbait” on steroids when the headline doesn’t relate to the content at all.

This is the good ole “bait and switch” of Google Discover.

How to Fix It

The only way to get rid of the misleading content penalty is to modify or remove it. 

Use the URL provided by Google on the penalty in the Search Console to find the content that’s been flagged as misleading.

When none of your content is misleading, create a reconsideration request.

In the future, we’d encourage only creating directly relevant headlines or titles —  misleading titles aren’t a sustainable long term strategy anyway.

8. News and Discover: Sexually Explicit Content

The sexually explicit material penalty is similar to the adult-themed content penalty, but targeted to imagery and videos that are “primarily intended to cause sexual arousal.

Whereas the adult-themed content penalty was aimed at nudity and sexual material in general, this penalty is leveraged against sexually explicit videos and images.

If your site contains content that’s been flagged as sexually explicit, it’ll no longer appear in Google News or Discover.

How to Fix It

If you want to appear on News and Discover, all of the sexually explicit content must be removed from your website.

As you are removing sexually explicit material, double-check user-submitted material, as there may be material you’re unaware of on your site.

Once all of the material has been removed, submit a reconsideration request.

9. News and Discover: Terrorist Content

If you get penalized for terrorist content, Google has decided you’ve got content on your website promoting terrorist activity in some form, including:

  • Recruitment
  • Extremist acts
  • Violence
  • Celebrating terrorism/terrorist acts

Hopefully, you or your team aren’t responsible for this type of material. 

If you received this penalty, there’s a possibility the posted material is from third-party visitors.

How to Fix It

The only way to remove the terrorist content penalty is by removing all terrorist content. 

Be certain to scour all areas on your site where users are able to submit their own content like forums and comments.

Once you’ve deleted the terrorist content, submit a reconsideration request.

To avoid this problem in the future, establish security steps that keep terrorist posts from being posted by implementing these actions:

  • Required CAPTCHA when signing up
  • Moderated posts
  • Identify and delete all terrorist accounts

10. News: Transparency

If you’re posting news on the internet, your readers must have access to info about each article’s author.

Google requires the following specific information to be published along with each article:

  • Dates
  • Bylines with author name and info
  • Publication and publisher info
  • Sponsoring company
  • Contact info

If you don’t supply this information with every news article published on your site, you’ll get hit with the transparency penalty. 

How to Fix It

This is one of the few news or policy penalties that doesn’t require complete removal of the content.

To address this issue, update any articles lacking transparency with the required info.

Don’t get lazy and try to pass off generic information. 

You can’t cite the author as your company and slap on a 1-800 number — you must provide specific author and contact details.

After you’ve updated all the articles, submit a reconsideration request.

In the future, prioritize including all necessary information with every published article or you could get penalized again.

11. News and Discover: Violence and Gore Content

Violence and gore content includes the following material:

  • Inciting violence
  • Glorifying violence
  • Designed to disgust the viewer

Google isn’t completely clear on whether certain types of violent material are allowed if they don’t incite or glorify violence. 

With that in mind, err on the side of caution.

This type of material isn’t limited to certain types of media — it includes video, images, gifs, or text. 

It also may include third-party material posted anywhere on your site.

How to Fix It

  1. Identify any material (including third-party material) that could be considered violent or gory.
  2. Delete the content.
  3. Submit a reconsideration request.

While waiting for the review of your site, we recommend taking the same steps mentioned above to increase security against third-party posts that may violate Google News and Discover guidelines.

12. News and Discover: Vulgar Language and Profanity

It may be difficult to clearly determine what’s considered vulgar or profane language. 

Google defines it as, “gratuitous obscenities or profanities.

As with some of the other News and Discover policies, it’s not clear what material Google considers to fall under this definition.

Vulgar language could show up in your content or in the third-party sections of your site (notice a pattern?). 

How to Fix It

  1. Search through your content and user-generated content for profanities and vulgar language.
  2. Remove the content that contains excessive foul language.
  3. Submit a reconsideration request.

By now it goes without saying, but we’ll say it one more time — ESTABLISH STRONG SECURITY MEASURES CONCERNING USER-GENERATED CONTENT.

Most of these News and Discover penalties result from user-generated or third-party content, having a security system in place will keep it from happening in the future.

We’ve reached the end of the manual actions that Google currently uses.

The News and Discover penalties are new but pack just as much of a punch to your ranks as the OG 13 penalties.

Take them to heart. 

Conclusion

You now know almost everything there is to know about Google penalties and Google penalty removal.

It’s a lot, we know. 

Let’s summarize the most important points that’ll get you out of almost any penalty:

  1. Use the URLs Google mentions in the Search Console penalty alert to begin your investigation.
  2. Remove or modify content that violates guidelines until it’s fully compliant.
  3. Submit a reconsideration request detailing why you deserve to be back on the SERP.
  4. Change the underlying issues with your website that led to a penalty in the first place.

Step 4 is probably the most important part of the process. 

If you don’t change your practices, you’ll continue to incur penalties (especially related to third-party and user-generated content).

If you follow those 4 steps and refer to this guide as needed, you should stay out of Google’s penalty box from now on!

ProRankTracker is here to help you stay on top of it all.

Good luck on the SERP!