Google Penalty Recovery Time

If your keyword rankings tanked on Google, don’t expect to see a positive reversal overnight. It takes a great deal of time and effort to not only correct the issue but then wait for another algorithm update to roll out. You can view the entire history of algorithm updates HERE. You’ll notice that core updates typically happen twice per year, ranging anywhere from 6-8 months. This is a good ballpark number to keep in mind for how long it’ll take to recover, IF you’ve done your due diligence to correct the issues. You can also expect to invest upward of 100-hours of time into fixing the issues that initially caused the problem. I’ll go into more detail on the time involvement for correcting the issues.

It’s very important to quickly identify the issues that caused your keyword rankings to drop and fix these problems promptly. Google needs to sees significant improvement in quality and this all must get done prior to their next core algorithm update.

Waiting for Another Core Update

Google is on record saying, “Content impacted by a core update will typically not see recovery until another core update rolls out (if significant changes are implemented to improve the site overall).” In Lehman’s terms, this means even if you identify and fix all of the issues that caused the drop in your keyword rankings, you won’t see return to normal ranking levels until another core algorithm rolls out.

There are a lot of smaller algorithm updates that rollout in between the core updates. According to Glenn Gabe, “Google can definitely push smaller core updates outside of major core updates, but they usually don’t compare to broad core updates from an impact standpoint.”

The purpose of this article isn’t to get you in a state of panic. There’s a chance you were not impacted by a Google penalty but suffered a drop in rank because of a technical glitch on your site or a bug on Google’s side. Regardless, you need to identify and fix the issues.

The Impact on Your Bottom Line

A Google penalty can have a significant impact on a businesses bottom line. At first, it’s a punch in the gut. While this is a dejecting feeling, I want you to remain optimistic. If you follow proper protocols, there’s a good chance you’ll recover and come out on the other side with an improved site, which will result in a better experience for current and prospective customers while on your site. If you were solely reliant on Google for your inbound leads and you are in the recovery phase, this is a great time to diversify your sales process to find other ways to acquire new business.

Diagnosing the Problem

If you noticed your keyword rankings dropped dramatically, you could have been hit with a Google penalty. The first thing you should do is follow a checklist similar to this one to determine whether or not the drop in keywords was because of a recent algorithm, a manual actions penalty or due to a technical glitch, bug or fluctuations.

Twitter is a great place to see if there was a recent algorithm update. There will be a lot of chatter amongst the top SEO’s on Twitter if there’s high volatility in the SERP’s (search engine ranking positions). There are tools like Moz’s Weathercast to show high turbulence days in Google’s algorithm. The hotter the weather, the higher likelihood something is brewing.

If you need assistance in diagnosing what caused your SEO rankings to drop and how to recover, feel free to reach out to our team of SEO experts at The Media Captain. I previously listed some of the top SEO’s to follow on Twitter and identified if they specifically focus on Google Penalties. There are only a few experts on this subject matter so finding the right one is extremely important.

Likely Reasons for Keyword Drops:

  • Low Quality Backlinks 
    • Google is doing a much better job of ignoring low quality backlinks. That being said, bad links can still cause major issues to your site.
  • Thin Content 
    • If the content on your site is thin, this could hurt your SEO. Thin content means that pages on your site have a low word count and are not substantial pieces of content that the user would find relevant.
      • I recommend reading my article about thin content to see if this could be posing problems for your site.
  • Duplicative or Spun Content
    • If you have duplicative content, this could have resulted in a trip to the penalty box. An example of this would be creating many city level pages, all with similar content.
  • Lack of E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trust) 
    • If you own a law firm, it’s important to list out all of the attorneys at your firm along with their degree and credentials. Google is putting more emphasis on the overall authority of your site and wants to know you have experts in your domain.

100+ Hours of Time?

Not all situations are this time intensive, but many can take this much time or go well beyond 100-hours. I want to walk through common examples of you can fix issues so you can get a better understanding of the time involvement.

  • Thin Content 
    • We utilized Screaming Frog to detect all of the pages on a website and look for the ones with thin content, which means a low word count. Once we identify thin pieces of content, we manually audit each piece of content to determine whether or not the content is relevant or irrelevant. This helps to make the determination on whether to delete or rewrite the content. There are also many instances where there’s duplicative content that could be redirected. Just the analysis is time intensive to identify quality versus non quality content on hundreds of pages. Having someone rewrite the thin content takes even more time. If you have hundreds of blogs on your site that need rewritten and each blog takes an average of 2-hours to write, you start to get an idea of just how much time this can take. I don’t believe it’s a good practice to just delete all of your blogs. Remember, Google wants to see a substantial effort made to improve your quality. Deleting 100-blogs in the backend of WordPress in 20-minutes doesn’t pass the smell test (in my opinion).
  • Backlinks 
    • Analyzing backlinks is something that can be done through SEMRush or directly through Google Search Console. Having someone experience in auditing backlinks is important to help determine what’s quality versus non-quality. It also helps you discover if there was aggressive keyword usage in hyperlinks that needs to be changed. I stated earlier that Google does a good job at ignoring low quality links. If you’ve only had bad links pointing to your site and this was artificially boosting your rankings, it could take a substantial number of legitimate sites linking back to your site for Google to recognize your efforts. Acquiring links isn’t easy and takes time, effort and strategy.
  • Duplicative Content 
    • Fixing duplicate content can be more of a quick fix. If you have 20 city level pages that were built solely to rank in different cities around a state without a physical location, redirecting or deleting these duplicative pieces of content can do the trick. Each situation is different though and identifying the problems first and coming up with a game plan is very important in this type of instance.
  • Lack of Authority 
    • In order to showcase expertise, authority and trust, it’s important to incorporate the following onto your site:
      • Showcase your employees
      • Brag about your credentials
      • Highlight the awards won and certificates received
      • Inform people of the charities and organizations you belong to
      • Share your client testimonials
      • Share any external news sources you’ve been quoted in
      • Talk about how long you’ve been around and how many clients/customers trust you
  • Technical Issues 
    • Having a developer look into the overall health of your site is important. There’s more emphasis on core web vitals as it will officially be a Google ranking factor in 2021. This means your site needs to perform well for users, otherwise it can lose rank. I always recommend having a developer look at your site to ensure it’s nothing technical impacting your drop in keywords. There are instances when certain pages on your site can be no-indexed or a redirect was broken. Having technical support should be a part of the audit of your site if your keyword rankings drop.

Key Takeaways [From Search Engine Watch] 

  • If you’ve been hit by a core algorithm update, don’t sit idle, be proactive and fix the issues.
  • Conduct a thorough audit to determine why your site has been negatively impacted – It’s important to have an expert oversee this process.
    • In many instances, Google doesn’t provide you with a warning if you were negatively impacted by a core update. It takes an SEO expert to identify what the issue and how to go about fixing it.
  • Content quality issues, lack of authority, technical issues or deceptive practices are typically the root of the problem.
  • Core updates can hurt the bottom line of your business with the loss in organic traffic.
  • The changes you make won’t reap the benefits in many instances until the next core update is rolled out.
  • Google can push smaller core updates outside of major core updates, but they usually don’t compare to broad core updates from an impact standpoint.
  • Google wants to see significant improvement in quality over the long-term.
  • It’s extremely important to surface all potential quality problems and fix them as quickly as you can.
  • In many instances, it can take over 100-hours of time to fix the issues so plan accordingly.