Many small businesses have a hard time understanding the different search engine penalties from Google. The following information will help you determine if you have been penalized and how to possibly recover. We have helped recover many websites that used spammy SEO techniques, but never have been able to share results due to our non-disclosure agreements. Here is an informal case study about a combined Panda and Penguin recovery. Due to the sensitive nature, all identities are omitted and facts are vague.

Panda VS Penguin VS Manual Unnatural Links Penalty

Some SEO’s and webmasters get the Penguin and Panda algorithms confused with each other. They do not understand the difference between a manual unnatural link penalty and a Penguin algorithm update. Here is a comparison between Panda, Penguin and a manual penalty from Google.

Panda is an algorithm that penalizes websites that have duplicate or thin content and low quality content. It focuses on user experience. In other words, if you visit a website that has little content and it was of no help, then Panda will probably not find it useful either.
The Penguin algorithm goes after websites that are using black hat SEO techniques that are against Google’s webmaster guidelines, particularly unnatural link schemes.
A manual unnatural link penalty is a penalty that was given to a website by a real person that actually reviewed the data. The difference is that Penguin’s algorithm determines this and demotes your website automatically. The recovery method for this is much different.

Warning Signs

By reading the information above, you should have a good idea of why you have been penalized. If you do not, then your internet marketing or SEO company should. One warning sign would be a website majorly suffering in rank over night. If you slip a few positions, this could be normal fluctuations in the search results. If you slip pages, this could be due to a search engine penalty.

Issues Of Concern

If you are using white hat, or solid SEO techniques, you should not have a problem with Google algorithm updates. This is usually the case, but there have been exceptions.

Here are a few areas of concerns to note:

  1. Links using exact match anchor text, usually paid
  2. Buying unnatural links from individuals or link networks
  3. Trading links
  4. Links from adult websites
  5. Using article marketing websites
  6. Comment spam
  7. Using gateway pages to rank for multiple cities your business does not have physical locations


  1. If your current SEO, or internet marketing provider, has been selling you backlinks (or adding them for free), you should stop working with them. It may work for a little while, but your website could suffer shortly after.
  2. Hire a company to execute a very detailed technical SEO audit. You can hire a company to audit backlinks, but at this point it would be smart look at everything SEO related. If someone has been using spam, to rank your website, chances are they have not been doing an overall good job.
  3. Execute all of the solutions that were reported from the highly detailed SEO audit. The report must be highly detailed. It is critical to choose a company that is well known for their audits. Ask for references as well.
  4. Hire the same trustworthy company to monitor the changes and continue to tweak your website as necessary.

Note: If you have been using unnatural backlinks to rank, and do not have any real backlinks, you will probably not recover. The reason being is that you will not have high quality backlinks to take the place of the spammy backlinks.

What Not To Do

A reconsideration request is when you formally ask Google to forgive you. They review your request and then make a decision. You do not have to file for reconsideration for a Penguin recovery. Penguin, like Panda, is an algorithm and will not apply a manual penalty to your site (unless you received an unnatural link penalty at the same time). Only Google’s manual penalty warrants a Google reconsideration request.

Healing Time

The healing process may take time. Be patient if your website is a valuable asset to your company. It takes different amounts of time recovering from the various search engine penalties. Here are examples. Remember, nothing is set in stone.

  1. A Panda algo penalty may have a quicker recovery time. If you clean up the issues, Panda is in flux, meaning it will notice the changes and note the changes to the penalized website.
  2. Penguin penalties are more severe, in our opinion. As of today, the Penguin algo is not in flux. This means It will take another update to the algorithm to note the changes you made for a possible recovery.
  3. With a manual penalty, you are at the mercy of an actual person. If you clean up the issues you were penalized for, recovery can be quick. The key is to find all of the unnatural backlinks and disavow all of them. If any spammy content remains, you will more than likely continue to be penalized.

Learn From Your Mistakes

If you recover from a search engine penalty, you may need to start thinking about your SEO endeavors and how they will impact your company’s future. There is no going back to black hat techniques. Real, non-spammy SEO takes time. If anyone else tells you different, or promises you “first page ranking for x amount of dollars”, think twice.