Alexis Ternoy
Alexis Ternoy 29 May 2015

Google Penalties: Is Getting A Pardon Possible?

Nothing that strikes more terror in the hearts of SEOs and webmasters than receiving a manual action notice via Google Webmaster Tools.

Nobody has official data on this, but there may be nothing that strikes more terror in the hearts of SEOs and webmasters than receiving a manual action notice via Google Webmaster Tools.

Forget the dreaded HMRC letter… or IRS for the U.S (the government agency responsible for tax collection and tax law enforcement, the equivalent of our Her Majesty Revenue and Custom in United Kingdom) … these days it’s Google who runs the terror train. Getting stomped in the rankings means instant lost profits, and nothing trumps that for pretty much ruining your life for a while.

What’s worse, sometimes your site gets stomped in the rankings and you don’t even get to know why.  When Google takes issue with something on your site, you can’t always expect to get the benefit of notification.  You must simply deduct, from the sad roll-out of events that follows a Google penalty – a decline in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs for the cool kids) – that you have violated the almighty yet ever-changing algorithms.

Highly sensitive to the slightest of infractions, Google algorithms can strike swiftly and without mercy, very often leaving business owners scrambling to catch up and recover lost profits.  One minute you’re in, riding the profit-driven high of running a Google-blessed site…and the next you’re out.

Identify.  Fix.  Request, and Wait. That’s your mantra.

So, if the algorithm fairy hasn’t been kind to you of late, you might be wondering if there’s anything you can do.  Rescuing a site after it’s taken a hit in the SERPs (cool kid told you) isn’t simple and it isn’t often easy.

Thankfully, however, it’s not altogether impossible.

How to Go About Getting a Pardon From Google?

Identify.  Fix.  Request, and Wait. That’s your mantra. If you’ve received a manual action notice then the first step has been done for you.  Just do what they say and you’ve laid the first brick on the road to pardonsville.

But if you’ve been thrown in jail without a charge, here’s what you can do to try and get yourself out.


Not sure what the problem is?  Take your pick from dozens of things that could have gone wrong because Google algorithms are about as picky and selective as the admissions team at Harvard University.

There are literally over 50 reasons why Google might have penalized your site, but if your rank slippage has occurred more recently, it’s highly likely that it has something to do with your incoming links.  Any of the following could be hurting you right now:

  • bad links you might have bought in the past, during the heyday of the “links-are-king” era
  • too many reciprocal links you set up once, during a similar crazy-for-links era
  • links from blog networks
  • site-wide links, forum links and other bad quality links

Other reasons for rank penalties include duplicate content, thin content and keyword-stuffed content, but since the thorn in almost every webmaster’s side right now concerns links, that’s what we’ll focus on here.


Google won’t give you a pardon unless you remedy your crime by removing the bad links, bad content, or whatever caused your problems.  Bad content?  Easy to fix. But bad links?  How do you get rid of links coming in from other peoples’ websites?

Your first step will be to ask.  

Email webmasters and kindly ask them to remove the links pointing to your site.  Remember: be nice about it and your chances of success will increase by leaps and bounds.

If that doesn’t work, you can use Google’s Disavow Tool, which tells Google to disregard those bad links.


Again, if you received a manual action notice from Google, you can simply respond to it once you’ve fixed the problems.  If you’re more of a free agent and haven’t roped yourself into a relationship with Google by signing up for Webmaster Tools, there’s another way to ask for a pardon: the reconsideration request.

This is really just a written request (“Dear Google, I’m sorry, please forgive me.  Here’s what I’ve done in the way of atonement).  Send it to Google and cross your fingers but please make sure you’ve done everything you can to clean up your site first.


Fixing your website after suffering a Google penalty is not at all like fixing your car after something on it breaks.  This is not a “fix and go” situation.  Rather, it’s more like altering your diet when you have a chronic health issue…you have to wait and see if your attempt at fixing things actually worked.  You may have to wait a while, too.

Not only that, but there are two phases of waiting you’ll have to endure:

  1. You’ll have to wait for Google to receive, acknowledge, and act upon your request for pardon.  How long will that be?  There’s no answer to that: Google will get to it when they’re good and ready, no sooner.
  2. Then, you’ll have to wait for Google to re-crawl your site.  This is done by a different wing of the Google powerhouse and is random…so again, who knows how long this will take.  If your fixes worked, this is when the results will become apparent.

Going back to answer the original question of this blog post (is it possible to get a pardon after you’ve received a Google penalty?), it depends (See Ben … Betteridge’s_law of headlines is just and adage).  You’ll just have to apply these “fixes”, submit your request, and hope for the best.  If, even after all your efforts, your site is still relegated to the SERP (last time promise) hinterlands, then you might have to call it a day on that URL.

Sometimes, the crimes are just too severe for a pardon and you have to start fresh. Either that, or the “judge” just isn’t playing fair.  But we’ll leave that discussion for another time and another day.

More on my blog 


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