How to Detect if You’ve Been Hit With an Algorithmic Penalty

Google penalties, which are normally given to sites for partaking in spammy link-building practices or offering a particularly poor end-user experience, can often result in your site rapidly dropping in rank for the overwhelming majority of relevant search engine results pages, or even vanishing from Google entirely – depending on the reason that you’re being penalised.

It is possible to recover from these penalties once you know that they’ve been applied to your site, but working out whether or not you’ve actually been hit by Google can often be quite difficult in and of itself, particularly if the penalty that you’ve received is algorithmic, rather than manual.

This is because algorithmic penalties, unlike their manual counterparts, never come bundled with a corresponding warning within your Google webmaster account.  This lack of concrete notification means that the first you’ll know about a penalty is often a sudden drop in organic traffic, and a corresponding decline in the number of sales or signups that your site experiences.

This drop can happen as soon as a penalty is applied, but it usually takes a few days (or even weeks) to become noticeable, particularly if you’re not in the habit of regularly checking your analytics account. This means that you’re often losing out on precious time that could be spent resolving the problem and restoring your lost rankings.

There are some ways that you can stay ahead of the curve though: If you want to make sure that you’re always aware of whether or not you’ve been hit by an algorithmic penalty, you can keep constant watch on a couple of key signals that will, if closely monitored, provide you with plenty of early warning, and also offer you sufficient time to begin putting a recovery process in place before your site vanishes from key SERP pages.

Step 1: Schedule Time To Regularly Check Your Traffic Levels

It might sound simple, but scheduling a regular hourly slot within which you can log into your analytics account and monitor your organic traffic really is the simplest way to ensure you’re kept fully up to date on the status of your website. Any sudden and unexpected drop in organic “sessions” (or visits) could be a sign that algorithmic penalties have been applied to your site, so try to keep on top of seasonal trends to avoid false signals, and keep a keen eye on how your site’s performing on at least a week-by-week basis.

Step 2: Keep Up to Date on Google’s Algorithmic Changes

Secondly, you can keep track of the time and date on which algorithmic changes are applied to Google using resources like Moz’s fantastic algorithm change history. This will allow you to dive in and check organic traffic data the very same day that a change is applied to see if you’re experiencing the early signs of a traffic drop that might have been caused by the application of an algorithmic penalty.

Using sites like Moz to track algorithmic changes will also allow you to match any sudden decrease in organic traffic to algorithmic changes in the past  – ensuring that you have a clear picture of your sites performance in the face of recent search engine updates.

Step 3: Keep A Careful Eye on Your Organic Rankings

As well as monitoring your organic traffic, you can also keep careful track of your keyword ranking data using a variety of tools like and to clue you in to any potential penalties. All of these tools allow you to track any sudden shifts in overall search engine visibility, and can often help highlight any sudden change to the way in which your site ranks for various keywords – providing some forewarning that a penalty may well have been applied, and again, providing you with a date for any sudden shift that can be matched up with the date of a specific update to Google’s algorithm.

If implementing either of these methods does reveal that your site has been hit by an algorithmic penalty, it’s of vital importance that you react quickly – Recovery can only occur if the factors that led to the penalty being given are fixed by the time that the next algorithmic update is applied to Google, and you’ll need to take immediate steps to rectify any problems with your back-link profile or on-site content.

We specialise in helping companies to recover from Google penalties; so if you find out that you have been hit by an algorithmic update and you’re struggling to fix the problem, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Our penalty recovery page gives insight into the way in which we generally approach the problem, and you can contact us via the contact form at the bottom of that page, or by calling us on 01423 740 152.