When are penalties lifted?


Today's question comes from Walter Chavez, who asks: "Hi Matt. Is there a thing like a permanent Google penalty for sites, where if the necessary fixes were made according to Google guidelines, the penalties are lifted in all cases?" Great question. And in order to answer it, let me back up a little bit and talk about algorithmic versus manual. So we have confirmed that Google's Webspam team is willing to take action manually. For example, if we get a spam report, off-topic porn, things like that. But, of course, we also take that data and try to use it to improve our algorithms. So the engineers write classifiers for content spam and keyword stuffing and poking and sneaky JavaScript redirects. All that sort of stuff. So if your site is affected by an algorithm, whatever the characteristics are that are flagging or triggering or causing us to think that you might have keyword stuffing or whatever, if you change your site, then after we've re-crawled and re-indexed the page, and some period after that when we've re-processed that in our algorithms, for the most part, your site should be able to pop back up or increase in its rankings. Now on the manual side, as far as I can think of, the vast majority of the time what we try to do is we try to have, essentially, a time out. So if it's hidden text, you might have a penalty for having hidden text, and then after, say, 30 days that would expire. And then if you're doing something more severe, if you're doing some cloaking or some really malicious stuff, that will last for a longer period of time, but eventually that will also expire. So we try to write things such that if you improve your site, if it's affected by an algorithm, or even if you've done something within your site, eventually that would normally time out. Of course, at any time you can do a reconsideration request. And then if you've been affected by a manual penalty, then we'll investigate. And if we think that it's sufficiently within our guidelines, then we can revoke that and your site will immediately be resolved and not have to worry about that particular penalty. Let me just take this opportunity to mention that if you do a reconsideration request, at least right now, we're checking against whether you have a penalty that's in place manually. That is, someone has taken an action to say this is a violation of our guidelines. And so we check against that list. But if something is only affected by our algorithms and not by any manual action that flagged something that violated our guidelines, then normally you wouldn't be able to apply against the algorithm. The algorithm would just continue to run, and what you would do is you would need to change your site such that the algorithms would no longer detect it as spam. So at least if you're doing a reconsideration request, that's something to be aware of. The way that things are set up right now is it's testing against the manual actions that we've taken.

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