What Are Algorithmic Penalties and How to Recognise Them


Algorithmic penalties are one of the many types of penalties that search engines use to punish websites and businesses that don’t abide by their guidelines. They can cause massive damage to a website’s search rankings and traffic, so you should try your best to avoid these penalties if you want to increase your site traffic.

What are Algorithmic Penalties?

Awarded by the algorithms that search engines use to provide useful, relevant results for users search queries, algorithmic penalties punish sites that don’t follow the rules. This may be for a variety of reasons – from thin content to spammy links – but they can destroy a site’s rankings and traffic, so it’s always wide to abide by the search engine’s guidelines.

How to Tell If You Have an Algorithmic Penalty

Unlike manual penalties, algorithmic penalties won’t come with a notification, so your first hint that you’ve been penalised might just be your organic traffic dropping. Organic traffic is defined as traffic that comes from a search engine rather than adverts, social media or elsewhere, so it’s a great indication of your standing with search engines.


In order to check if your organic traffic has taken a dip – indicating an algorithmic penalty – you should visit a search engines’ analytics page. While search engines differ in the help they offer webmasters, Google offers a variety of useful tools for tracking performance and more in it’s Google Analytics page.

What to Do If You have An Algorithmic Penalty

In order for your site to receive an algorithmic penalty, one of two things must happen; either the search engines change their algorithms and your site no longer meets their criteria, or you change your site in such a way that it no longer meets the criteria.


In order to determine which caused the penalty, you need to analyse the period when organic traffic began to seriously decline on your site. If you suffered a drop in traffic the same day an algorithm update rolled out, then an algorithm update is probably to blame. Similarly, if you were making changes to your website around the time you suffered a drop in traffic, these changes likely brought on an algorithmic penalty.


However, algorithmic penalties aren’t always to blame for traffic drops – instead, a technical issue like accidentally preventing search engines accessing your site may be the cause. Make sure to double-check other factors before assuming an algorithmic penalty is to blame and investigating what caused your site to be flagged.


In order to narrow down the cause of your penalty, you need to see what changes were made around the time you saw a drop in traffic. Because specific algorithms tend to track specific issues, you can narrow down the problem and tackle the problem area later.



Common problems

As search engines update their algorithms regularly to provide high-quality search results, you should keep an eye out for points that they are likely to penalise, including:

  1. Spammy Links – If too many links to or from your site are deemed to by spammy, then your site will be penalised. Make sure to remove or disavow any questionable links and you should be able to get these penalties removed in good time.
  2. Poor Content – Search engines strive to point users at helpful and relevant content, so make sure you can offer a valuable user experience by proof-reading your content.
  3. Duplicate Content – Much like in school, you don’t want to be caught plagiarising, so make sure to use only original content on your site to avoid penalties.


Hopefully this article has helped you to understand what algorithmic penalties are, why you might have received one and how to try and get rid of them. By focussing on the problematic areas described, you can improve your website and work towards the high rankings you desire without being setback by penalties.


If you have any further questions or would like some detailed advice on how best to detect and reverse an algorithmic penalty on your site, please contact a member of our team today.

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