How to Handle a Google Penalty – And, an Example from the Field of Real Estate from Rand Fishkin has a nifty little chart explaining how to handle a Google penalty.
The flow chart takes you through several questions, and based on a yes or no answer, different steps are given to follow. Let me attempt to give you the text alternative of his flow chart.
Step One: Is your site indexed in Google? If yes, skip to next step. If no, then you may have some sort of penalty. First thing you should do is login to Google Webmaster Central, validate your site and see if Google responds that your site is penalized. If so, clean up your site and submit a reinclusion request within the Webmaster Central console.
Step Two: Do you rank for your brand name or other very specific branded keywords? If yes, skip to next step. If no, then you may have some sort of penalty.
Penalty? First thing you should do is login to Google Webmaster Central, validate your site and see if Google responds that your site is penalized.
No penalty? Then it may be a “trust thing” (as we like to call it). Review all your links, see if you have bad links pointing to you and get rid of them. Drop paid link campaigns that you feel may be hurting your rankings. Drop link exchanges that you feel may be hurting your trust. Clean up other areas of the site that may seem a bit “gray.”
After you are done, Rand recommends submitting a reinclusion request. I don’t think that is necessary unless you actually receive a message within Webmaster Central that you are penalized. Typically, from what I hear, waiting it out a week or two, should be enough to see if your rankings improve from the changes you made. If that doesn’t work, you can try a reinclusion request.
Step Three: Do you rank in top 20 for some of your title tag phrases? If yes, skip to next step. If no, then you may have some sort of penalty. Rand believes this may be caused by Google “wiping out” a block of links or a style of linking patterns. Now that those links don’t pass any value anymore, you won’t be ranking as well as you once were. Rand recommends going natural and get high quality, purely natural links.
Step Four: You do not have any penalty.
One thing that is important to note is that both Rand and I are not Google engineers. We both do not have inside information from Google where we can state that the above steps are fact. This information is based on experience and our discussions with Google representatives and other industry experts but cannot be considered fact. Now that I cleared that up, you may want to check out the full post at SEOmoz, with real examples.