Follow norms, avoid search major’s penalty

In May 2009, a year after being in business, founder Marc Pinter Krainer woke up to see internet traffic on his site turning to almost zilch – that too overnight. Krainer, who had raised money a few months back from investors, was not only red-faced but perplexed too about the reason for this drop. Only later did Krainer discover that the dip was because of Google Penalty, whereby your site will show up lower on Google Search.

“It may have been an accidental deletion, or deliberate. May be because it was a competition to Google’s own news website,” Krainer told ETduring an India visit. The reason for the penalty, he says is still unknown. But it hurt him very badly because like thousands of websites, being crawled by a Google Search crawler is a must for to generate traffic. Websites face Google Penalty – also called the Sandbox Effect – where they may be subject to filtering to prevent them having their full impact. It occurs when a website doesn’t conform to its standards in terms of quality, content or is found using subversive optimisation techniques.

“If a site isn’t appearing in Google search results or it’s performing more poorly than it once did, one can check out our help centre article to try to identify and fix potential causes of the problem,” said a Google spokeswoman. .

Subversive optimisation is another reason for such filtering. Historical use of links as a “vote” for ranking web documents can be subject to manipulation. Google has filed patents that seek to qualify or minimise the impact of such manipulation, which Google terms as “link spam”. Link spam is driven by search engine optimisers who manipulate Google’s page ranking by creating lots of inbound links to a new site from other web sites that they own.


The penalties can be both manual – actually demoting a site — or algorithmic, where changes in the search algorithm causes a website to move down. For one, a ‘-30 penalty’, which Google applies when a website fails to use effective search optimisation techniques, lowers the site’s position on down by 30 places. A ‘–60 penalty’ will lower your site down by 60 places on search. A ‘–950 penalty’ will make your site slid on by 95 pages – you are almost not there.

A similar penalty was faced by Adam Raff, CEO and founder of, a UK price comparison site. Like Krainer’s, Raff ’s website also faced a Google Penalty but for three years. Unlike Krainer, Raff went to court following which,the European Union has started investigating Google’s Penalty system last year when Foundem, and Microsoft reportedly said that Google was demoting their sites manually since they competed with the search major.


Defending Google, the company’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt said before a US senate panel in September. “We’ve recently introduced even more transparency efforts including announcing changes to our algorithm, providing more notice when a website is demoted due to spam violations and giving advertisers new information about ads that break our rules. We built search for our users, not websites. No matter what we do there would be some websites unhappy with where they rank, “he said. Google updates its search algorithms every year with more than 300 changes, which causes thousands of sites to move up or down on their rankings. “When I started 16 years ago in the search business, we could get you ranked to the top searchwithin a week,” says 62-year-old Bruce Clay, Search Engine Optimisation expert. “Now it could take months to rank at the top, as search engines change their algorithms every few hours,” he adds.

The recent search alogorithm updates by Google impact 35% of all searches. They are expected to provide more timely than stale results and around 10% searches will have noticeable impact.
“If Google penalises a website, it should be told on what counts and why,” said Navneet Sharma, of CUTS Institute for Regulation & Competition.

Last week, it released a survey conducted in India across 500 respondents, which said that users tend to trust natural search results more than paid results. But the users are not easily able to distingusih between the two adding another dimension to search neutrality debate.

Google Penalty & How to Avoid it

The Google Penalty Box is the practice of filtering websites by Google’s web ranking algorithms. This is the result of the violations of Web Master Guidelines. There are two types of penalties
Algorithmic: If you improve your site, then the penalty will be removed after recrawling and reindexing the page. Manual: If it is hidden text, the penalty will eventually expire after 30 days. Moreover, for cloaking and malicious activities, the penalty will be for a longer period


  • Use a text browser such as Lynx, because most search engine spiders see your site much as Lynx would. Allow search bots to crawl your sites without session IDs.
  • Make sure your web server tells Google whether your content has changed since we last crawled your site. Monitor your site’s performance and optimise load times
  • Write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content.
  • Think about the words users would type to find your pages. Make sure that your site actually includes those words
  • Try to use text instead of images to display important names, content, or links. Google crawler doesn’t recognize text contained in images.