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- With some 1 billion searches each day, search engines are the gate keepers of the web.
- Search penalties can have a severe impact, effectively removing a website from the net.
- Most penalties are applied for a good reason (e.g. spamming sites). However, in some cases severe penalties are imposed accidentally on legitimate sites - with severe consequences.
- There is currently no penalty notification from search engines.
- In most cases, website owners have no means to confirm the penalty status with the search engine.
- Online businesses waste considerable resource optimizing sites which are penalized, or trying to rectify the cause of a suspected penalty without being subjected to one.
- Search engines leave affected online businesses in the dark. This needs to change. More transparency is required.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What is a search penalty?
A search penalty is a ranking restriction imposed by a search engine which causes pages belonging to a website domain to appear in a lower, less advantageous position on the search engine results pages (SERPs). Severe penalties can lead to a website being removed from a search engine index, either partially or entirely. The drop in ranking position resulting from a penalty typically leads to a dramatic loss in visitor traffic from the respective search engine.
Do search penalties actually exist?
Yes, they do. There are numerous documented cases of websites (see for example The Register, The Telegraph, The Register) suffering substantial ranking- and traffic loss as a result of imposed penalties.
You may also view our list of search penalty stories from the media.
What are the symptoms of a search penalty?
A search penalty typically leads to a substantial unexplained drop in search engine ranking and significant loss in visitor traffic from that search engine.
Aren't these symptoms simply a result of regular and ongoing changes to the search engine algorithm?
It is generally known that search engines carry out regular incremental changes to their ranking algorithms, which can lead to fluctuations in ranking position. However, if an unexplained significant drop in rankings coupled with a substantial loss in organic search traffic occurs suddenly and persists for a long period of time, it is almost the result of a penalty. The lack of transparency makes this question an issue of ongoing debate amongst website owners as there are no confirmed facts about penalties released by search engines. Our campaign is to make penalties more transparent and better understood.
How long do penalties last?
Penalties can be in effect for long periods of time - in most cases many months, although cases of longer periods of several years have been documented.
Is there a way to confirm whether my website has been penalized?
No. Currently there is no means to confirm whether a penalty is in place with any of the leading search engines. Typically, penalties are suspected by considering the resultant symptoms of a signficant unexplained ranking drop and traffic loss. We are campaigning for search engines to confirm penalties to website owners.
Do search penalties constitute a risk to my online business and what can I do about it?
Most websites rely heavily on visitor traffic originating from leading search engines. A penalty can cause this traffic to dry up almost overnight. As a result, online businesses are - often unknowingly - exposed to a high level of risk of losing essential website traffic.
An important part of this risk is to do with the non-transparency of search engines which impose such penalties. Our campaign is aimed at abolishing secret search penalties and you can support us by joining our free mailing list now and we'll keep you updated on our campaign progress.