Over the past 12 years consulting on web marketing  I have answered countless questions but one question I receive often stands out from all; how to remove a Google penalty. The following is an example of a question I received in the past from a person named Patrick:

PLEASE HELP! For the last 8 years we were #1 for a ton of search terms but then my site got penalized by Google because we had overused some keywords. We fixed the issue months ago but my top rankings are all still over the place. Sometimes we get back into the top 10 and we all breathe a sigh of relief, then just a few hours later we are on page 5. What is going on and how can I correct this? We are beyond frustrated!

First, Some Research

In order to answer Patrick's question I needed to find out a couple of things about his website to make my answer more accurate:

  • His site has excellent content right now and when I looked at past versions of the site I see the content was still great but definitely had keyword stuffing problems.

    Key finding: his site is really well done so I can see why it had top rankings before.

  • I took a look at competitors found in the top 10 under several keyword searches that were obviously main targets for his website. After reviewing the backlinks for each competitor's sites I could see they were all very well entrenched but their content was not up to par with Patrick's site. I reviewed Patrick's backlinks and was surprised to find that he had very few. 

    Key finding: his competitors have a lot of backlinks than Patrick's site does.

  • An SEO Tool Note: I use Yahoo Site Explorer for cursory examination of backlinks for my clients and their competitors. For more in-depth research I use OptiLink by Winrose Software which provides excellent statistics that are very useful for analyzing the quality of backlinks among other things. Here are more recommended web marketing tools.

  • I checked the server headers for their home page and other key pages to make sure nothing was outwardly wrong with their server configuration; everything was fine.

  • I took some time to surf through Patrick's website and discovered that not all of the keyword stuffing had been removed.

    Key Finding: Google may still feel his site deserves a penalty because it is not 100% clean.

My Answer to Patrick

First I will layout why it seems your site did so well to begin with. Your website has very few backlinks in comparison to your competitors who have significantly more. So, as near as I can tell your top rankings were so high because you had built an awesome reputation with Google by providing unparalleled content; I can't find a single competitor that can match the quality of your content. For a long time you managed to stay at the top of your marketplace by continuing to provide great content. Unfortunately, you were over-optimizing the content by adding too many incidences of the same keywords (keyword stuffing) and Google took a disliking to it.

So why is it so hard to regain your ranking stability? Your site lost the glue that kept it competitive when Google penalized it. The glue, in this case, was your site's reputation that was created based on your content which lost its stickiness due to Google's penalty for the keyword stuffing. Without your content advantage your competitors have leaped ahead of you because they have far more links than you have and no ranking penalties (that we know of). Without links and with the Google penalty applied to your site your content hasn't the power it had before so your rankings will fluctuate for an indeterminate amount of time; there is no sure time limit on a Google penalty.

My Recommendation for Removing the Google Penalty

  1. Remove all of the keyword stuffing on your website. I know it is a large site and this is no small feat but it needs to be done. With your site cleaned and nothing remaining but quality content there will at least be an end in sight to the Google penalty and your site will also benefit from being more readable and usable to a visitor.

  2. Begin an ongoing link building campaign now - there is no time to delay. Links are another path to building credibility for your website which it sorely needs right now. There is also a good chance that high quality incoming links will act as additional entry points to your website for Google to index your newly revised site and reconsider the penalty.

  3. Review Google Webmaster Tools and attend to any errors/alerts/warnings that Google has provided. Also make sure to submit a fresh sitemap once the site is cleaned so that Google takes notice of any content that may have gone unnoticed and/or new content.

  4. Freshen content on key parts of your website with rewrites or additional articles. This will provide positive activity that Google will not deny adds value to its index.

  5. Bolster your Pay Per Click campaigns so they can bear some of the burden during this dry spell of low organic rankings.

  6. Be patient. If you do everything I have noted above you are in a great position to succeed and your site will be stronger than ever before.
By applying these recommendations you will very likely discover that the Google Penalty was more a blessing than a curse because your site will come out stronger than ever before.

Ross Dunn is the CEO of StepForth Web Marketing Inc., a web marketing company founded in 1997 and based in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. StepForth provides cutting-edge search engine optimization services that provide highly successful, targeted results for its clientele. Ross Dunn is a Certified Internet Marketing and Business Strategist (CIMBS) with a background in web design and business management. His broad Internet experience in combination with a talented staff has made StepForth a name synonymous with top results.


I was thinking about one of my sites on the same pattern as Patrick did. I am more than happy to be here to know what was wrong with him.I am going to analyze my those sites on the same pattern.
Pit Bikes

That sound's perfect.Optimizing while penalized.

say if the site is sandboxed would the site automatically get back to the listing after using the methods you mentioned ?

I have to agree with this article wholeheartedly. I've had an experience with a penalty - we had to work to discover where the fault was, and in the process we made the site better overall, by just revising all the content. Ideally you keep tabs on your site to not have to experience a penalty in order to motivate you to make adjustments.

Thank you for the key points on what to do when struck by the hammer.

Would like to ask a question. My site has been penalized by google coz of paid post and links, which left my site with a PR 0, do you have any suggestions for that?

Yes, Agree with Rose. I have faced same kind of penalty with one of my client's website. He had also over optimized his home page (only) with lots of keywords. We first analyze whole site and find keywords that was over optimized, remove them and waited for next crawling once site with new content indexed we will get rankings back after 3 months. It will take time to get rankings back once site is penalized.

We thought, let first remove website from google webmaster tool link removal request. We were not sure about that. So we had remove keywords and added fresh content and wait for next crawling and we got ranking back.

I am eager to know if we go for URL removal request and make changes to site and then again submit link to google.Does it faster way to get out from penalization?

Also, What are the other penalties still exist? Like content duplication, same meta tags for all pages, bad neighborhood, etc. If you have any resources that provides information on "Google Penalties" than it would be great to share with SEO community.

Thanks in advance

What is the percentage of a given keyword you consider is stuffing the code?

Hello all, thank you for your comments! I am glad you appreciated the article.

Almer Viloria, your question was: "Would like to ask a question. My site has been penalized by google coz of paid post and links, which left my site with a PR 0, do you have any suggestions for that?"

My answer: Yes, the best way to go is to have all of the paid posts and links removed, if that has not happened already. Then once you are certain you are no longer infringing on Google's guidelines, go into your Google Webmaster Tools account and submit a request for reconsideration of your website; if you can't find the area to do that, then just do a quick search in the help area and you will find it.

Unfortunately there is no guarantee this will get you back into Google's graces and there is also no telling how long Google will take to even get to your request, however, it is an excellent first step. The next step is to build your site into a powerhouse of excellent information by creating a blog or getting more active in the one you have. This involves posting original, high quality content that provides potential readers with something of value - be it simply an enjoyable read or useful tips. The act of building your site's reputation through new quality content will help your odds of getting back into Google's graces considerably.

Dhvanil your questions were: #1) "I am eager to know if we go for URL removal request and make changes to site and then again submit link to google.Does it faster way to get out from penalization?"

#2) "Also, What are the other penalties still exist? Like content duplication, same meta tags for all pages, bad neighborhood, etc. If you have any resources that provides information on "Google Penalties" than it would be great to share with SEO community."

My answer to #1: No, although I can't say I have tried such an option, my opinion is that removing your URL will not speed anything up because Google will retain the historical profile of the domain - including its transgressions.

My answer to #2: Content duplication is not met with a penalty per se unless the site in question is 100% duplicate content at which point it might as well be penalized since Google will have little or no interest in it. There are a few exceptions to that such as news aggregate websites which are, by definition entirely duplicate-content-driven.

As for duplication of Metas and Titles... that is just going to harm you in terms of on-page optimization but it will not incur any sort of Google penalty unless, of course, the tags are full of SPAM but that should be a given to most novice SEOs.

Bad neighborhoods is an entirely different thing altogether because it really depends what you mean by that. If you have links predominantly from "bad neighborhoods" then it is quite possible Google will go beyond just negating the benefit of the links to actually penalizing your site because it will appear as though you are trying to game Google's trust algorithms. If you mean being hosted on a server where you share the ip address with some bad neighborhoods... well that is a little more difficult to prove but I expect it can be a problem.

If you have any more questions please do not hesitate to contact me via the contact form on my site:

Thanks for your feedback!

Great case study and thanks for replying to the comments above.

I upgraded my home page and had great keyword ranking (1's and 2's) for about 6 key words. They suddenly plunged in 1 day, not completely off the charts but down to page 3 and 4 from page 1 position 1. I have an SEO company doing some work and I'm wondering if they could have caused it via directory and blog submissions??

As far as "onpage" stuff goes I think I'm following all of the google guidelines.

In Patrick's case how did he and you know definitively that the problem was key word stuffing?


All the points are true for SEO point of view, but the keyword stuffing is the real deal. Google algorithm is based on simple rules that your site is meant for viewer not for search engine. So use your keyword but in a manner that can make your site a content rich not keyword rich.

As far as getting links is concerned it is the recommendation that other sites adds their faith on you. It means that you must have something that makes them to add you.

Now-a-days, i see like the results are always moving up & down in google because its more real time now. And the top 10 pages has mixture of results, articles, homepages, videos, recent blog posts, tweets. So definitely, we can't avoid these fluctuations (in terms few ups & downs), i believe.

This is a very positive spin on a very bad situation for a website. However, I can see your point that by being penalised, it gave you the opportunity to look all his on page and off page elements and optimise his website.

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Search Engine Guide > Ross Dunn > How a Google Penalty Can Make Your Site Stronger