SEO Tip #124: When Are Site Penalties Lifted?

Matt Cutts: This is a great question. Let me back up a little bit to answer this by talking about algorithmic vs. manual. We have confirmed that Google’s Web Spam team is willing to take action manually, for example if we get a spam report for off topic, porn, and things like that. But of course we also take that data and try to improve our algorithms.

So the engineers write classifiers for content spam and keyword stuffing and all that sort of stuff including sneaky java script reader and stuff. So if your site is affected by an algorithm for the most part if you change your site, whatever the characteristics are that are flagging, triggering, or causing us to think that you might have keyword stuffing or whatever, if you change your site then after we have re-crawled and re-indexed the page and some time after that reprossed the page your site should be able to pop back up or increase in its rankings.

Now on the manual side as far as I can think of the vast majority of the time what we try to do is essentially have a time out. If it’s hidden text you might have a penalty for having hidden text and then after 30 days that would expire. If you’re doing something more severe like cloaking or really malicious stuff that will last for a longer period of time but eventually that will also expire.

So we try to write things such that if you improve your site when affected by an algorithm or even if you’ve done something from within your site eventually that would normally time out. Of course at any time you can do a reconsideration request and then if you’ve been affected by a manual penalty we’ll investigate. If we think it is sufficiently within our guidelines then we can revoke that and your site will immediately be resolved and not have to worry about that particular penalty.

Let me just take this opportunity to mention that if you do a reconsideration request, at least right now, we’re checking against whether you have a penalty that is in place manually – that is someone has taken and action to say this is in violation of our guidelines.

We check against that list but if something is only affected by our algorithms and not by any sort of manual action that flagged something that violated our guidelines then normally you wouldn’t be able to apply against the algorithm. The algorithm would just continue to run and you would need to change your site such that the algorithms would not longer detect the spam.

At least if you’re doing a reconsideration request that is something to be aware of. The way that things are set up right now is that it’s tested against the manual actions that we have taken.

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About the Author

Andy Johnson

Andy Johnson has been on the Internet since the its dawn(ie his first computer program was recorded on cassette tape) and his first hard drive cost about as much his current MacBook. His first byline was in 1993 for a local newspaper rag he eventually helmed, and his last “real job” was at a computer start up which ended when it ended. Throughout it all he’s freelanced and blogged. Now he is mesmerized by Search Engine Optimization forever trying to “rise to the top” for the right reasons. He’s been married to his wife Julia for as long as he can remember and has two lovely, wonderful children. He looks forward to sharing the latest in the technical best for all the online entrepreneurs.