Can You Ever Make A Full Recovery Following A Google Penalty?

If you have ever incurred a Google penalty and suffered a significant drop in organic search positions as a result, either manually or by means of an algorithmic update, and you want to know if it is possible to restore the balance and regain your initial place in the SERPs then you may be somewhat disheartened by a statement from John Mueller in a recent Google+ hangout session.

When asked a question about a website being restored to its previous position following a penalty removal, John replied with:

“It’s almost never going to be that we will just restore the previous state because things evolve on the internet, things evolve in our algorithms and any previous state will be different when we look at it now.”

One of the main causes for concern seems to be centred around the fact that once a webmaster has taken the necessary steps to remove a penalty by addressing the offending issue – such as removing any bad or low quality links that have been “punished” by Panda or Penguin, Google will not simply restore the original ranking position because, as John says, the rest of the web will have evolved and caught up with the site in question. In fact, you may even find that a competitor’s website that has even gone so far as to copy your content is in a higher position that your own site following recovery – which can be extremely annoying.

For example, if you had hired the services of a less than reputable SEO company that offered you a quick fix solution to increase your positions – which involved the placement of hundreds of questionable links across a large number of untrustworthy websites in order to fool the PageRank algorithm into believing your website had a fantastic following, and you had been caught out and punished for this practice by a Panda update – then you would obviously lose any positions that you had gained as a result of this “quick fix”.

Disavowing these links and telling Google that you have resolved the issue might get the penalty removed – but it certainly won’t get you back on page one if the only reason you were there in the first place was owing to a number of highly questionable SEO practices. Of course, we are all human and you may have hired the services of a problematic SEO company as a genuine mistake whilst having no idea that they were doing more harm than good and Google should take this into account once you fix any issues and explain the situation.

On a positive note, it’s not all doom and gloom as there are many site owners out there that we know about who have successfully addressed their search quality issues and ended up ranking even higher than they did before – so it does seem to depend on whether or not the signals which helped a site rank well were the cause of the penalty.