How To Spot If Your Site is Being Penalised by Google


There are a wealth of mistakes which can lead to Google actively penalising your website.  If you believe your website is under-performing, the first step to recovery is to identify the algorithm update that could be holding your website back. 

Google Penguin

First implemented in 2012, Google Penguin penalises dodgy link-building efforts. Google is strict with websites considered to be building unnatural links and guilty sites are hit heavily. Visibility and traffic drop significantly, which is alarming for website managers and SEOs alike.


However, Google is fair when penalising websites following a Penguin update and notifies affected website managers through Google Search Console.

Telltale Signs:

  • A drop in visibility and organic traffic
  • A notification in the Google Search Console

What to do: if you’re concerned that Penguin is affecting your website, sign in to your Google Search Console and look for a notification from Google. If you have been hit with a penalty, that’s when the hard work starts – removing the poor quality links, submitting a reconsideration request to Google and creating great content to encourage natural, good quality inbound links.

Google Panda

Released a year before Penguin, Google Panda was more concerned with the content on your website, rather than the backlinks pointing towards it. Poor practices such as keyword stuffing, duplicate content and excessive internal linking were all factors which could affect rankings following the Panda update.


Whilst Google Panda doesn’t actively seek out duplicate content and punish websites for it, the algorithm changes mean the bots can’t and won’t identify which page of copied copy was the master page – so would often rank neither.

Five years after it was first updated, Panda is still catching websites out with regular updates and upgrades – affecting their ranking performance. Unlike sites affected by Penguin, you’re given no notice if your website falls foul of the Panda update – so it is up to you/an SEO specialist to monitor rankings and site activity to determine if Panda is the cause of your ranking woes. However, if the overall health of the site is poor, then the site will struggle to improve in every way possible.

Telltale Signs:

  • A significant drop in search rankings
  • Subsequent decrease in organic traffic

What to do: if your rankings plummeted in the wake of a significant content upheaval, there’s a good chance you’re suffering at the hands of Google Panda. A full site audit may be necessary, searching for duplicate content, thin content and over-optimisation.


In early 2015, the SEO community was aflutter with whispers of a significant mobile-focused algorithm update. The nickname Mobilegeddon was coined, as SEOs upped gears to ensure any websites they were working on were mobile-friendly – hopefully escaping any penalisation from Google.

When the update went live, many mobile-unfriendly sites saw their mobile search rankings affected – and with more internet activity taking place on mobile devices than desktops now, this had a big impact on performance. Furthermore, the update affected many websites’ analytics which had the potential to negatively impact rankings across all platforms.


Telltale Signs:

  • A significant drop in mobile search rankings
  • A subsequent drop in rankings across all devices

What to do: if you’re concerned your website’s mobile rankings may be suffering due to a mobile-unfriendly site, Google run a simple yet effective Mobile-Friendly Test, here. If your site fails this test, it may be time to implement a site redesign or update.

Hacker Attack

Fault may not lie at your feet when your website is performing poorly. Sometimes, it is the work of unscrupulous individuals – hacking into your website intent on causing mischief and damage.

Telltale Signs:

  • Unauthorised changes to the website
  • A browser alert that a hack or phishing attack may have occurred
  • A notification in the Google Search Console

What to do: if your website is hacked, Google will detect it, and your rankings will be affected. However, you will be sent a notification (example below) from the search engine if they believe the site has been compromised, so you’ll know why your search engine performance is affected. Then comes the technical process of deleting malicious files added to the website, and appealing to Google’s better nature to reinstate your rankings.


The Spammy Schema Checks

Created by a collaborative team; schema markup is a script which is added to a particular web page which helps make those pages stand out more in search engines results pages. These have been gleefully adopted by a huge number of sites to ensure that search engines are able to understand the data on the site. Useful everyday functions such as product prices, contact details and social platforms can be incorporated under the schema umbrella making it one of the more exciting aspects of technical SEO.

However, over-utilisation of schema such as the overuse of review markup is frowned upon by Google, and could lead to this structured markup being removed from your search listings. Structured markup should only be applied to pages and services where they benefit the site’s visitors and accurately tell search engines what the page is about. Google will not look kindly upon widespread implementation without consideration or restraint – and could actively penalise your website resulting in all of your structured data being removed.

Telltale Signs:

  • Rich snippets disappear in organic searches
  • A notification in the Google Search Console

What to do: overuse of structured data markup can hit any site and a manual action can appear at any time, so it is always useful to ensure that the structured markup is implemented correctly.

If your website is underperforming and you’re not sure why, or if you don’t know how to salvage the situation, Banc Media’s experienced technical SEO team can help get to the root of the problem. For an obligation-free chat, get in touch via [email protected] or call us on 0345 459 0558.