Top 20 Methods to get Penalized by Google

Google is working very hard in order to provide accurate and unique information to its users. They continue to improve their algorithms so that best content gets the exposure. And to do the same they have to penalize few spammy or low quality content websites.

What is Google Penalty?

top 20 Methods to get Penalized by Google

It simply refers to the negative impact on a website ranking or visibility on search engine. There are two types of penalty

  • Automatic – Due to algorithm or data update in Google search engine.
  • Manual – There are few frauds activities that can’t be caught by advanced algorithms and that’s why Google has to take manual action.
    Major reasons for Manual Action :
    1) Unnatural links to your site
    2) Hacked Site
    3) User-generated spam
    4) Thin Content or no added value
    5) Hidden text or keyword stuffing
    6) Cloaking or nasty redirects
    7) Pure spam
    8) Unnatural links from your site

In both cases, either a part of a website or entire website is removed/dropped down from search engine ranking position.

Why my site has been Penalized by Google?

Well, there are hundreds of possible reasons for that. We are listing top 20 that will help you to find out your mistake.

20. Slow Speed or Bad Server

Google uses around 200 factors for ranking a website page. Page speed is one of them. If your website doesn’t load quick or you are running a website on low quality servers (with less than 80% of uptime), then don’t expect your page on the top 10 search result.

Read more: 10 Effective Ways to Decrease Web Page Load Time

19. Dooraway Pages

Dooraway pages are low and poor quality pages which are built to get top ranking in search engine for specific keywords. They redirect user to different websites. For example, template pages made solely for affiliate links.

18. Code Swapping

The site owner and popular SEO firms work very hard to get top ranking for a single page. Once they get it, they cleverly swap the page with another. According to the Google, this is a violation of webmaster guideline, hence website doing these kind of activities deserves the ban.

17. Overuse of H1 and H2 tags

Using H1 and h2 tag is really great for search engines as well as for visitors. Often with the help of these tags, the search engines came to know what the content is about. However, putting too much keyword in H1/H2 can impact your web page in the negative manner. Also, use a limited number of h1 tags.

16. High Ad to Content Ratio

Google’s Page layout algorithm also known as “Top Heavy” monitors the ad to content ratio. If the website has too many ads above the fold, it is more likely to get penalized for distracting visitors.

15. Internal and External 404 Errors

Internal linking plays an important role in reducing bounce rate and somehow increases your ranking. But if the same link redirects to 404 page, that might leave a negative impact on search engine. As a result, ranking will drop for not providing the information user is looking for.

14. Robot.txt defect

The Robot.txt is used to tell search engine crawlers how to deal with your website. There are numerous valid reasons to block your few URLs such as author info, few copied content, archive etc. But you should know that excessive blocking can cause penalty.

13. Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing is putting a specific phrase in the content again and again in intent to fool search engines. Remember, nowadays search engines are much smarter, do not try any dirty method. The best way is to write for viewers instead for search engine.

12. Malicious Backlinks

This is the only thing that is not under your control. The webmaster doesn’t deserve this penalty, but you should have knowledge about this. If low quality, spammy or site with malicious content links to your site, this is gonna impact your website ranking in a negative manner. The good news is you can remove these links through Google webmaster tool and request for reconsideration.

11. Buying Links

Nowadays buying links is seen as intent of manipulating the PageRank algorithm. Also in the last couple of years we have seen hundreds of websites got banned entirely for doing the same.

10. Comment Spam

Always keep a close eye on comment you are getting. It’s up to you what kind of comments you are approving and please don’t let spam build up. If you are linking to fuzzy websites, remember it is gonna affect your site SERPs. To be on a safe site, make all your comment links NoFollow.

9. Excessive Affiliate links

We know webmaster want to earn profit through their website. But sometimes they go wrong. It’s a good idea to make money while providing quality content to viewers.  But if you are interrupting and distracting your visitors through a bunch of affiliate links, your site deserves the ban.

8. Hidden Content

Some of newbies hide keywords by changing the text color to same as the background. This text can’t be viewed by visitors but search engines can easily identify them (in HTML code) and will penalize you for Keyword Stuffing.

7. Hacked Content

Usually hacker uploads malicious content or spam within codes which appear as spam in the index. If your site has been hacked by a third party, Google will quickly remove all your hacked pages from search engine. However you can request a review once you get total control on website.

6. Linking to bad sites

Be careful about your external links. Don’t send your visitors to spammy or sites with malicious contents. Also, try to avoid link site with blog containing some other language. Visitors generally prefer to read one language; redirecting English web to Chinese page is not a good idea.

5. Black Hat SEO

Black hat SEO is a collection of all dirty technique and tricks for fooling search engine algorithm. Even if you find a method (that can’t be caught by algorithms) to fool the search engines, you will soon receive a manual penalty. Remember, black hat technique can never stand in the market for long term.

4. Hidden Footer links

If you are using a content management system such as WordPress, you should be aware of the theme you are using. There are numerous premium themes available for free which contains malicious code usually in footer.php file. Because of the presence of these codes, a website becomes more vulnerable and easy to hack.
Read: Free theme vs Premium theme

3. Excessive Form Linking

Linking your site to form has no harm. But when you do this beyond a limit in order to get more visitors, Google will consider this as a spam which can ruin your website position.

2. Cloaking

Showing different content/URL to user and search engine is known as cloaking. It provides unexpected and far different contents to the user for what they are looking for. For example, serving an image file to search engine while showing HTML or flash content to the user.

1. Duplicate Content

Also Read: Google Search Algorithm Change Timeline + Infographic

This is the major factor for which most of the website got penalized in the last few years. We recommend you not to copy from other websites. The word “Copy” also refers to taking other’s stuffs and writing it in your own language. Even if you are copying, try to add additional value to the content that can’t be found anywhere else.

Written by
Varun Kumar

Varun Kumar is an experienced science and technology journalist interested in machines, AI, and space exploration. He received degree in computer science from Indraprastha University. To find out what his latest project is, feel free to directly email him at 

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1 comment
  • Hi Varun,

    An excellent list here! You have gone into a great deal of detail and for anyone unsure of how you could be penalised, this provides plenty of useful information. A number of these I didn’t know about so thanks for the info!!