How To Check If Your Website Has A Google Penalty

How To Check If Your Website Has A Google Penalty

In the last couple of weeks we have seen a total of 5 Google algorithm updates. This has certainly left a lot of people’s sites in tatters as traffic and earnings have dropped off a cliff overnight.

Historically Google have left a decent amount of time between updates so you can get a grip of what’s going on, but not this time.

5 updates in less than 2 weeks has created a huge amount of hysteria and fear amongst webmasters – something the web spam team are becoming an expert at.

So with all the mayhem the updates have caused, how are you meant to know where to start?

Identifying The Penalty

If you suspect your site was hit with a Google penalty after an update then you need to identify which algorithm change took your site out.

Once you know which penalty your site got slapped with it is a lot easier to analyse in detail and create a plan of action to recovery.

Unfortunately a lot of webmaster make assumptions at this stage and start fixing things that aren’t actually broken, often making things worse.

Accurately diagnosing which penalty is at play is essential to recovering your site.

Where To Start

The first thing you should do is see if your drop in rankings/traffic correlates with any new Google algorithm updates.

SEOMoz Change Hisotry

SEOMoz maintain a very helpful page that lists all of the major updates, the date they happened along with some additional information about the update.

SEOMoz Google algorithm change history

This page gets updated quite regularly and is always a good point of reference.

If you are seeing strange movements in the SERPS and that page hasn’t being updated, then you should have a look at the MozCast for the day.

Mozcast is a great tool that represents the turbulence in rankings in weather terms. The higher the temperature, the more fluctuation the rankings have seen that day.

This is a good way to check if an update is rolling out at the current time.

Chartelligence

Chartelligence is a Google Chrome extension that allows you to overlay data onto graphs in Google Analytics or Quantcast.

You can choose to display a variety of information that includes Google Panda, Penguin and other algorithmic updates.

Chartelligence overview

Not only that, but by default you can also display information such as public holidays, economic activities and a range of other key dates throughout the year.

Chartelligence holidays

How to Use Chartelligence

The first time I used Chartelligence it took me quite a while to work out how to get it to actually display the data within Analytics.

So with that in mind I decided to write a quick how to.

Step 1 – Install Chartelligence

Make sure your using the Google Chrome browser and install the Chartelligence extension.

Chartelligence data optionsStep 2 – Viewing The Data

To overlay the data onto your Google Analytics graph, login to Analytics and then view your organic search traffic only.

Look closely at the graph and you will see a little light bulb symbol with a black and green background. Click on that and then select each set of data you want to overlay and click update.

Step 3 – Customised Overlays

You can also add your own custom data points to overlay at the click of a button. For example you might want to track site changes and be able to overlay site changes over traffic or conversion graphics at the click of a button.

To do this you need to create an account (completely free) and set it up in the Google Chrome extension.

Then all you need to do is click on Create New Layer and select a topic and subtopic. In the example below I have created a new topic called Site Updates and a subtopic of General. You can choose to make these public or private as well.

Chartelligence new layer

Next click on Add Event on your newly created layer and assign a title, description and date. For example if you added Facebook Comments to your site on the 3rd of October it would look like this-

Chartelligence new event

Once you have added a few events you can jump back over to Google Analytics and see how changes to the website have affected traffic, conversion, goal completion etc

Pretty cool huh? You could add overlays for pretty much anything you want – you could even use it to track your link building. If you use a lot of services you could add a reference point to see how that affected your search traffic etc.

Panguin Tool

The Panguin Tool combines the data from the SEOMoz change history page with your Google Analytics graph.

It isn’t as flexible as Chartelligence as you can only see Google updates and how they affected your search traffic but it’s great to quickly check if an update has affected your site.

There is no need to install anything, all you need to do is login with your Analytics account and grant the Panguin Tool access to the data.

As soon as you have done that and selected your website you can see this-

panguin tool

The red lines are Panda related, blue lines are Penguin related and Orange lines are general updates to the algorithm.

What I really like about this over Chartelligence is that when you mouse over each update you get a bit information about it as well as a link to get more information.

Next Steps

Once you have isolated which Google penalty is potentially affecting your site you can start to analyse the cause of the problem.

Remember that correlation of your search traffic dropping with an algorithm update doesn’t necessarily mean it is the update at fault, for example your site may have being hacked and hosting malware.

If a drop in your traffic does correlate with an algorithm change then that should point you in the right direction of what to look at first as a cause.

Many webmasters set off in the wrong direction from the get go, so make sure you take time to understand why the site dropped before taking any action.

If you think the penguin update is to blame then analyse your backlinks, if you think its Panda then do a full on site audit looking for duplicate content and site structure.

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57 Responses

10.15.2012

That's a cool extension, I hope they add support for Piwik. I stopped using Google Analytics on most of my projects as I don't want Google knowing everything about them, if you know what I mean! Thanks for another interesting article Matt anyway, superb stuff. :)

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Drop them a mail – they have only just launched so should be open to adding new features!

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Dhruv Bhagat Reply:

You must check this tool : http://www.barracuda-digital.co.uk/panguin-tool/

This is another effective way for checking the Google Algorithm update..

P.S. This is not a spam link :P

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Matthew Woodward Reply:

You definitely read the article then.

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MrMonetize Reply:

They will be adding support for Piwik in the future, I sent them an email and got a swift reply.

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10.16.2012

Chartelligence doesn't seem to show old updates , its only showing updates after October. But this plugin is very useful while planing a link building strategy. The Panguin tool is truly amazing. I just realized one of my site is not hit by penguin or panda. What is this "Other" Mentioned in panguin tool? The description says a parked domain bug. WTH was that on April update? http://i.imgur.com/J67o0.png

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Matthew Woodward Reply:

You can create a custom layer with the old updates if you need to.

I would have a search around for more data on the parked domain bug although I would expect that to totally wipe a site traffics if caught with it.

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10.16.2012

After searching thoroughly with daily traffic in panguin tool. Looks like site penalized by panda or parked domain bug. Penguin isn't the culprit , all I was doing was fixing spam links and anchors. What do you think about this report matt? Image http://i.imgur.com/JmmN5.png

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Matthew Woodward Reply:

You got hit with a Panda update, a slight hit with Penguin (keyword specific drops perhaps) and then again on the next revision of Panda.

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Mike Reply:

Looks like one of my sites got hit by Panda and Penguin. Oddly enough, I saw a recovery that coincided with Hummingbird – but the latest Penguin update in October erased my gains.

The site is going on seven years old and needs a significant facelift I admit. The content is original and I didn’t aggressively backlink at all…

Where would you start when hit with Panda and Penguin? Panda because it’s more on site and thus within my control to fix?

Thanks!

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Hi,

I would resolve onsite problems first as this is often the most pain in the arse task.

Once resolved I would start working through the backlink profile and making a spreadsheet to track to all/work through it removing links where possible.

Do you have any penalty messages in WMT?

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10.16.2012

Cool stuff about how to recover and analyze Google algorithm update.

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Matthew Woodward Reply:

I'm going to be covering the actual recovery process in more detail soon :)

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Iain Reply:

I look forward to reading that when it comes out.

And if it is out, not sure how I managed to miss it.

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Matthew Woodward Reply:

It will be coming :) Its hard to put together because of so many variables but is a topic that needs covering (after the mega series at the start of Oct)

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Tomyches Martínez
10.16.2012

Cool post man, thanks for share such useful info, best :)

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Hope it helps you out mate!!

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10.16.2012

AWEOSME post, amazing blog.Thanks for all of these great guides.

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Matthew Woodward Reply:

Glad you enjoyed it :)

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11.30.2012

Hi, Thanks for sharing such valuable information but could you please tell how to create & apply a list of Holidays in India?

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Matthew Woodward Reply:

Hi,

Just create an account at Chartelligence and then you can create your own 'data layer' which you can share with others or keep private.

Then add each holiday in India as a new 'event' on the 'data layer' you have created

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2.7.2013

Great info Matthew, thanks for the heads up on this.
Nice to see such open sharing of tips, much appreciated.

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

No worrys – come back for more :)

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Vic Limbo
3.6.2013

Awesome post! I been wondering how to detect the cause of the Google update and it easily as doing these…

Thanks Matt!

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Hi Vic,

Correlation doesn’t mean causation. These tools do not 100% confirm that is the issue, but it does give you a path to begin investigating properly.

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Peter
3.13.2013

Excellently done Matthew ! All of your shares are of true value . You are a true professional my friend ! Thank you.

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Thanks Peter (=

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Rob
3.13.2013

Thanks for this post Matthew – perfect timing! Have just been doing some analysis on the back of this.

I have a question which is related to Google’s updates – I have 2 sites ranking for virtually the same keywords in the same niche – site 1 has dropped a couple of places due to the updates which I have now rectified. Site 2 I don’t need any more and it has less links but a dmoz entry. Do you think a permanent 301 from site 2 to site 1 will help the ranking for site 1 or are 301 redirects no longer a good seo idea?

Cheers
Rob

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Matthew Woodward Reply:

Hi,

Yes go ahead and do that you shouldn’t have any problem, and if you do – just remove the 301 and put it back to how it is now :)

Reply

Great post Matthew,

I actually use both of those tools along with a rank tracking software called Serp Alert Pro. If any of my sites rise or drop more then 5 positions in the search rankings, I get a little pop up message in red or green in the bottom right hand corner of my screen.

It runs on autopilot so I never have to actively check my rankings. If I do lose more than 5 positions, I then use Chartelligence and Panguin tool to confirm if it is Panda or Penguin related. All of these tools together help me to keep a very watchful eye on my rankings and the algorithm updates.

Unfortunately, Serp Alert Pro is currently not available but the developers are supposed to be releasing it again sometime in the future. Keep your eye open for it. I think that you will really like it.

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Matthew Woodward Reply:

Hi Fred,

Thanks for the heads up.

I’m actually not that anal about rank checking and although I have daily checks in place I only ever look at them if there is a drop in traffic. I believe checking rankings is counterproductive and when drops (and increases) occur it is tempting to stray from your game plan so to speak.

Sounds like you have a pretty good system in place!

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Cory Habner
4.24.2013

Matt, loving your info bro!

A quick question about architecting sites in a similar way since you mention Panda related to site structure in your last sentence.

If I copy the files of a site and take its structure, and basically mimic its design on another domain, but provide 100% new and unique content, titles, meta desc., but keep all of the same pictures, is that a safe or unsafe method in your opinion?

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Matthew Woodward Reply:

Hi Cory,

Cheers man :)

Yeah that would be fine – heck you could even use the same content but that does introduce an element of risk.

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5.11.2013

Nice plug in decreased my head ache a lot.

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Matthew Woodward Reply:

no worrys :)

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5.20.2013

Great content Matthew, I’ve been using the ChartIntelligence extension for chrome, it definitely comes in handy. Thanks for the informative post!

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Matthew Woodward Reply:

Took me a while to figure out how to use it first tine round ^^

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Diego
6.5.2013

It would be great to have a full tutorial full of details of how to recover from Penguin , It would be a killer one.

; )

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Hey Matthew,

Thanks for recommending this. I was searching for a piece of software that would do just that for quite some time now. I’ve just started with this entire Internet marketing thing and I’m getting my hands dirty.

Well timed article!

Jake

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Matthew Woodward Reply:

Kudos – getting your hands dirty is the best way to learn =D

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10.23.2013

Very nice post Matt. However, not useful for me. I never got penalised with any of my sites and I developed over 500 websites in 10 years.

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Matthew Woodward Reply:

Then your missing a huge part of an important skillset!

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Daniel
10.24.2013

Really nice article. I’v just been hit by a penalty and used some of this info to investigate.

When it came to researching my link profile I didn’t want to have to pay for a subscription to all the link services but a couple of fiverr gigs came in handy.. e.g. http://fiverr.com/tirondigital/create-full-ahrefs-majesticseo-and-moz-seo-report

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Matthew Woodward Reply:

Nice resource :)

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12.5.2013

Hi Matt

Another good tool for checking the impact of Penguin, Panda etc updates is http://www.sistrix.co.uk/google-updates/

Cheers
Aaron

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Thats pretty sweeeeet!

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Naeem Malik
1.29.2014

Really good stuff to grab; that too free. Thanks for sharing.

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

No worrys :)

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Just picked this article up from an email you sent me… perfect timing as well. Nice information, well laid out, I’ll be referring some of my SEO clients to it for future reference so thanks.

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Matthew Woodward Reply:

No worrys :)

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2.12.2014

I didn’t know about the Panguin tool by Moz!

As for the backlink analysis article referred to in this post, it would be nice if you could add update the post with how you can track multiple keywords rather than just one. I know I was able to figure it out and used your template as the basis for a larger backlink monitoring dashboard for a client, but I doubt all SEOs are Excel savvy.

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Hi,

It’s not made by Moz?

Yeah you can use http://www.matthewwoodward.co.uk/reviews/inspyder-backlink-checker-tool-review/ which is what I use instead of spreadsheets now

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2.12.2014

Hello, thanks for sharing such an awesome post please tell me a tool which detect the cause of the google update .

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

There is no such thing. Use this post to find possible leads to investigate and take it from there.

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Amit
3.15.2014

Well, nice post for sure helping people to make sure if their websites have assigned with a penalty.

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Thanks!

Reply

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