September 12, 2023

What is a Google Penalty? 5 Things You Should Know

Since search engines are continuously evolving, they can sometimes throw you a curveball. When your business relies on search engines for traffic and income, it can be quite frustrating and difficult to know what the current best practices are. So, if you suspect you’ve been given a Google penalty – what do you do? In this article, we explain what Google penalties are and how to fix them.

So, what is a Google penalty? A Google penalty is essentially a punishment that Google gives to websites that do things it doesn’t like, such as using Black hat SEO tactics to improve their rankings. These penalties can make a website’s ranking in Google SERPs (search engine result pages) drop significantly.

Continue reading to learn more about what a Google penalty is and how you can recover from it.

What Actually is a Google Penalty?

In essence, a Google penalty is a punishment for a website that violates the marketing practices that Google recommends. A Google algorithm update or a manual review may result in this penalty if a website is found to be using unethical SEO tactics such as keyword stuffing or hiding content.  

Check out our blog for more information on unethical SEO tactics, also called ‘Black Hat SEO’.

What is the Purpose of a Google Penalty?

While Google penalties can be annoying if you get one unfairly, they are part of Google’s mission to fight spam or websites that try to manipulate its algorithms. As a result, those who put in the effort and practise the right SEO methods such as publishing high-quality content and optimising your site’s loading speed, will have a better chance of ranking. 

5 Things You Should Know About Google Penalties

If you receive a Google penalty, here are 5 things you need to know.

1. Once You Receive a Google Penalty, Your Site is No Longer Listed on SERPS

A Google penalty means your website is either not showing up in Google SERPs (search engine results pages) anymore or it’s way down the list. When this happens, your target audience cannot find you. This ultimately results in a decrease in organic traffic to your site. Fewer visitors mean fewer conversions.

Keep in mind that this can happen to any website. However, once Google penalises your site, you’ll need to invest significant effort into regaining a favourable position and establishing trust with Google. You can do this by maintaining high-quality content on your website.

SERP for "SEO Agency" with a red cross overlaid

2. There are Several Types of Google Penalties

There are different types of Google penalties for different reasons. Here are the 6 types of penalties and what they mean.

3. A Google Penalty is not the Same as an Algorithm Impact

Not sure if Google update or penalty meme

A Google algorithm update is usually responsible for a sudden decrease in your website’s search ranking. This suggests that your site isn’t meeting Google’s latest quality standards. 

On the other hand, a Google penalty happens when your website breaks Google’s rules for website owners, called Webmaster Guidelines. So, if there hasn’t been any news of an algorithm update, your website may have been penalised.

4. Google Penalties Last Until You Fix Them 

You are responsible for fixing your Google penalty. They don’t just disappear or change overnight. When a certain amount of time passes without a penalty being fixed, the alert will vanish from your search console, but the penalties’ effects will still be felt. 

5. Google Penalty Recovery is Fixable

Good news, if you have a Google penalty, it is fixable! Here are 6 simple ways to fix your google penalty.

How to recover from a Google penalty

Avoid Google Penalties with Wildcat Digital

At Wildcat Digital, we pride ourselves on ethical and high-quality SEO services  – so you don’t have to worry about Google penalties. Get in touch with us today by filling out our contact form, for a free initial consultation.

Or, if you’d like to learn more about SEO and how Google works, check out our Knowledge Base. Our SEO experts have been working hard to answer a wide range of real questions to help you understand what we do. 

Post by

Emily Fletcher

Will Hitchmough


Our founder, Will Hitchmough, worked at a number of high profile Sheffield Digital Agencies before founding Wildcat Digital in 2018. He brings an extensive knowledge of all things related to SEO, PPC and Paid Social, as well as an expert knowledge of digital strategy.

Digital Marketing can be a minefield for many businesses, with many agencies ready to take your money without knowing how to deliver results. I founded Wildcat Digital to deliver digital success to businesses with smaller budgets in a transparent way.

Chloe Robinson

Content Strategist Team Lead

With a degree in Marketing and a background in more traditional, offline marketing, Chloe joined Wildcat in 2021 after deciding to move into the digital marketing industry. She joined us as a Content Specialist and quickly moved up the ranks, becoming a Content Strategist and later an SEO Team Leader.

Outside of work, Chloe is an avid creative. If she’s not knitting, you’ll likely find her behind a sewing machine or in the kitchen trying (and often failing!) to make sourdough.

Paul Pennington

SEO Account Director

Paul has a strong background in SEO, having previously founded and ran a successful eCommerce business, as well as running a personal blog that achieves an average of 17K users per month. Paul’s knowledge of SEO is extensive, with a strong emphasis on client handling and technical SEO.

Outside of work, Paul enjoys spending time with his family and staying active with weight lifting and combat sports.

Nadea van der Merwe

Head of Operations

Nadea joined Wildcat in 2021 and has since overhauled the way we work. She has a background in various administrative, operations and HR roles, which gave her the experience and skills needed to lead and organise a growing business. 

Outside of work, Nadea loves anything that keeps her active, but she especially enjoys hiking, camping and mountain biking.

Molly Sturgeon

SEO Account Manager

With a background in sales, Molly is a natural Account Manager, brilliantly handling any issues that come her way. Having joined us as a Digital Marketing Executive, and working part-time through her final year of University, Molly is a shining example of how hard work pays off. She is now an SEO Account Manager with a particular interest in Content and Client Management. 

In her spare time, Molly loves to get out in nature, hiking and exploring the Peak District. She also loves cooking and likes to unwind with a bit of yoga.

Libby Oldale

Senior PPC Account Manager

Libby joined Wildcat in 2021 as our first PPC hire. With a degree in Digital Media Production, a Master’s in Digital Media Management and previous experience in Social Media Management, Libby hit the ground running and has since climbed the ranks to Senior PPC Account Manager and has a particular interest in the eCommerce sector.

Outside of work, Libby likes gaming, and cooking and likes to keep active by lifting weights.

Jasmine Savery

SEO Team Leader

Jasmine joined Wildcat in 2022 with a strong background in SEO and Account Management. At the time, she was finishing up a Level 4 Apprenticeship in Digital Marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing, and has since worked her way up to SEO Team Leader. Jasmine excels at content writing and promotion, and particularly enjoys finding creative ways to join the dots on multi-channel campaigns.

In her spare time, Jasmine volunteers at a charity, helping combat loneliness & social isolation experienced by older neighbours. Outside of Wildcat, she owns a catering company, Savery Grazing, creating delicious grazing tables & platters for a range of events. She also loves skiing and exploring the Peak District.

Braden Godley

Senior PPC Executive

Prior to joining Wildcat, Braden founded and ran his own Social Media Management agency where he gained valuable skills in growing brands’ online presence, which has since proven invaluable in his role at Wildcat. 

Outside of work, Braden is a big football fan, regularly travelling to Pride Park to support Derby County. He also enjoys watching and playing snooker, hiking in the Peak District, and attending air and car shows.

Jon Herdman

SEO Executive

After spending ten years managing businesses, restaurants, cafes and event spaces across Sheffield, Jon decided to change careers and joined Wildcat as an SEO Executive in 2022. He especially enjoys the client management side of the job, helping them to understand digital marketing and ways in which they can build their business’s presence online. 

Outside of work, Jon likes to keep fit with running, badminton and football, and also loves music. 

Rachel Davies

SEO Executive

Rachel joined us as a graduate, having recently graduated from Sheffield University with a degree in English Literature. Since joining, Rachel has proven herself to be a Content Queen, and particularly enjoys getting stuck into projects that allow her to explore her creative side. 

Outside of work, Rachel enjoys a wide range of hobbies, including rugby, singing, reading, and spending time with her family and three labradors.

Carl Atterbury

PPC Team Leader

Carl joined Wildcat in 2023 with a wealth of experience in PPC. He has experience working with a wide range of clients, industries and budgets, from small local businesses all the way to international e-commerce businesses. Carl has a particular interest in strategic planning and forecasting. He is passionate about data analysis and creating sustainable long-term cross-channel strategies.

In his spare time, Carl enjoys keeping fit by lifting weights, bouldering and running. He’s also a keen musician, having played the double bass and bass guitar for 20 years.

Dariusz Baczyk

Team Lead & Technical SEO Account Manager

With a degree in Computer Science and SEO experience dating back to 2017, Dariusz has a wide range of SEO skills and knowledge. His specialist knowledge of Technical SEO has firmly landed him the title of Wildcat’s Technical Wizard, and he has recently taken on the responsibility of Team Leader for the Panthers Team.

In his spare time, Dariusz loves hiking, experimenting and trying new coffees and loves learning new things. He is currently learning more about CRO and AI and how this could benefit our clients.

Jamie Stowe

SEO Account Manager

With a degree in Film and TV production, and a varied career history, Jamie made the move to marketing with a Masters degree in Digital Media Management. He has since worked in SEO at Agencies across Sheffield, before joining Wildcat and working his way up to SEO Account Manager. Jamie has a particular interest in backlinks and Digital PR and has recently gained a client a valuable backlink from Forbes!

In his spare time, Jamie is an avid foodie and loves trying new restaurants and cuisines. He also loves to travel and spent a year travelling to Australia after university.

Andy Blanchard

SEO Executive

Andy joined Wildcat in 2023 after starting his digital marketing career in-house for a local Sheffield company. Since joining, he has developed a strong interest in Technical SEO and has strong skills in Account Management. 

Outside of work, Andy loves music and plays in a couple of bands. He also enjoys rock climbing, cycling, photography and good food.

Siena Russell

Client Success Coordinator

Siena joined us in 2023 with a background in sales and digital marketing. She leads on client relationships across the company, ensuring that our customers are happy throughout their journey with us, from their initial consultation through to onboarding and beyond. 

Outside of work, Siena enjoys travelling and getting stuck into the local culture. She likes to make the most of her experiences and particularly enjoys watching sunrises and sunsets from beautiful locations around the world.

Thea Chapman

Senior SEO Executive

Thea has a wealth of experience in SEO, having previously worked for other Digital Marketing Agencies in Sheffield. She has a particular interest and skills in Technical SEO, but is more than willing to get stuck in and give anything a go. 

Outside of work, Thea spends most of her time with her children, but also loves reading, photography and gardening. 

Tom Brookes

PPC Executive

Before joining Wildcat, Tom worked across different industries, building skills in sales and customer service. He later developed a passion for digital marketing whilst working on personal marketing projects and freelance ventures, and gained numerous certifications in PPC and Social Media. 

Outside of work, Tom enjoys staying active by going to the gym and hiking. He also loves travelling and motorbiking.

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