What is a Google Penalty? Manual & Algorithmic
Google is well known for giving penalties to websites that violate its Webmaster Guidelines, SEO’s call it the white hat practices where you follow Google’s guidelines literally, not buying/selling links even that everyone else is doing that, some big brands were caught red-handed and received a Manual Penalty, Where an actual Google employee investigate the link profile and eliminate it from Google’s index so it doesn’t show in search results.
If a Google Reviewer decided that you are manipulating search results to generate “Free Traffic” your website is doomed, it might take years to recover.
Algorithmic Penalties, on the other hand, are more common, and somehow easier to recover, unless it’s a core update and your site was hit – without showing in Googe Search Console – then you should probably do the fixes and wait for the next core update.
Penalties are indeed not a perfect system yet if you think your site is penalized connect with our SEO experts to help you recover.
1. The Day when BMW received a Google Penalty
No brand is immune from Google Penalties! and BMW learned that the hard way.
Back in 2006, BMW was accused of setting up “Doorway” pages and cloaking their content.
In simpler terms, they were showing Google bots pages that have the word “Used Cars” repeated 40 times, while showing users normal pages.
Back then, this tactic will affect the page’s relevancy and boost its page rank for this money generating search term.
Therefore, bmw.com.de’s precious PageRank has been reset to zero, and direct or branded searches for “BMW” were not returning direct results to BMW.com.de! The penalty remained for 3 days only, but it was a sales & branding catastrophe.
Matt Cuts, Google’s spokesperson has confirmed the penalty, and also accused Ricoh the Japanese Office machines manufacturer of the same act in a blog post. Nowadays Google is not open regarding manual action like it used to be during Matt Cuts Era.
2. WordPress - DoorWay Spam
The most used Content Management System around the world, and despite being Google’s favored website builder, was far from safety.
Back when it started in 2005, WordPress hosted pages for a third-party company, and it included hidden links passing “link Juice” and authority to affect rankings.
WordPress domain is high authoritative site and it worked for a couple of weeks, but the link velocity was too high that it was obvious they are sending links to their money-generating pages to increase their Authority.
If more people – other web pages- are talking about your brand, that’s an important ranking factor, but it’s supposed to come naturally as you produce “Great Content” not intentionally paying websites for placing your links.
But Fairly immediately, WordPress stated that it was a badly implemented experiment in advertising and apologized.
3. Expedia - Unconfirmed Google Penalty
This is not a confirmed Penalty but it’s well known and Google does not confirm or deny penalties like it used to.
However, it’s suspected that Expedia was involved in paid links – Everyone is, We are – therefore received a penalty one some pages for few terms, the branded searches were leading to the domain, but Expedia was excluded from other hotels related terms, Search Engine Journal covered the story in Depth.
It’s worth mentioning that Google is pushing into the hotels business with its Google Maps searches, currently, directory websites and Expedia included are being pushed down the organic results in the favor of Google local pack listings.
4. The Washington Post - Google Penalty
News websites are a great link-asset to get valuable links with traffic to your site, let’s face it, Google created the link-buying industry, and while news publishers are suffering from the rise of blogging websites and social media, few advertisers are relying on Tier1 news websites for their ads.
So selling links is the kinda reasonable business model for publishers to stay in business, but it’s against Google guidelines, therefore The Washington Post, Forbes and other esteemed news portal received their share of penalties.
That was in 2007, but the rules standstill, it’s worth mentioning that, unlike other Penalties, these sites generally didn’t lose rankings in Google, though Google reserved the right to do that. IE, you could still find their home pages and much of their content in Google searches, but their external links are attributed no-follow.
Many SEO’s are paying thousands of dollars for links that bring no value, as Google is ignoring the referring domain due to link scheme, but it’s impossible to measure a link value so publishers will keep on selling, its a hidden chaos!
5. Google Penalizing itself!
It’s no wonder with all algorithmic penalties running inside google search, Google Japan was penalized for spammy links to widget it was trying to promote in Japan.
Youtube received some auto actions during the years, lastly in 2020 after Twitter incident, where many twitter results were removed from search results.
The majority of the automatic penalties are occurring on Maps, penalizing legit Mam and Paps stores to fight spam algorithmically.
But in the end, no one complains about Google except SEOs! it’s a messy fun world we work at!