Starting and successfully growing a business today requires a strong online presence, most importantly a website that attracts new customers and keeps existing ones coming back. But if Google doesn’t find value in your website or discovers a violation of its Webmaster Guidelines, your website can be removed from the view of customers by the dreaded Google penalty.

Related: How to Recover From Any Google Penalty

Manual action penalties can be found by visiting Google Webmaster Tools. Any violations of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines must be corrected, followed by a request for reconsideration.

Algorithmic penalties are an unfortunate result of Google updating its search algorithm. Fruition’s Google Penalty Checker can discover major and minor Google updates affecting your website and pinpoint the one causing the problem.

Once you’ve identified it, it’s important not to fly into a panic. Breathe deep, relax and take note of what you shouldn’t do.

1. Don’t kill the site unless necessary. First attempt to clean up the existing site, either with new content or removing bad links. If, after a reconsideration request, the site still fails to recapture its ranking, it may be time to move. Keep in mind, however, a new site will have to start fresh in the rankings and a penalty from Google can follow a site to its new domain if no effort was made to correct the violations.

Sometimes starting fresh is the best option when it comes to recovering from a penalty, as removing bad links can take more time than just designing a new site but both options can be costly. It’s important to examine the consequences of each decision.

2. Don’t ignore the penalty if it magically goes away. Chances are the manual penalty expired. Some manual penalties can last years and some just months, but they all have expiration dates that correlate to the violation’s severity.

In a video about the subject, Google’s webspam head, Matt Cutts, called these penalties a sort of “time out.” However, these expirations are not a free pass. Even if the penalty goes away in Webmaster Tools, it doesn’t mean it went away from the domain.

If you don’t correct whatever caused the issue, your site could receive a second manual penalty that causes Google to lose trust in your site, ultimately punishing it more severely and requesting more proof of recovery efforts.

Related: How to Recover from a Google Penguin Penalty

3. Don’t rush. Be patient. A site with unnatural links, for example, will take a substantial amount of time to clean up. Take the time you need to correcting the issues before seeking approval from Google.

Those who file a reconsideration request before doing enough will receive a notification from Google refusing the request and delaying the review of a second. Avoid this by carefully correcting all violations.

Google receives countless requests. A review takes time to complete. Likewise, weeks can pass before you see any improvement after recovering from a manual or algorithmic penalty.

4. Don’t file a reconsideration request incorrectly or incompletely. The reconsideration request form is pretty straightforward. However, many people make mistakes that can cause Google to refuse the request.

Use Google Docs or spreadsheets to include evidence. Don’t include links to external sites, as Cutts said that they are generally “leery” of opening up those links for fear of malware.

Properly share those Google Docs and spreadsheets. Remember to remove the setting from “private” so Google can actually read the files.

If disavowing links, upload a .txt file and do not include anything but the links you’d like Google to ignore in said file. This file is processed automatically. No one will read comments even though, according to Google guidelines, you can include them.

5. Don’t revert to SEO tactics that caused the problem. Google will penalize your site again, more harshly, if you fall back into bad habits. If you had hired an outside SEO company to manage your site, it’s time to review their strategy. Either hire a new company or revamp the existing SEO process.

Receiving a Google penalty can severely hurt your expanding business. It’s important take sufficient time to fix the issues, whether that requires sending a reconsideration request to Google or not. Take the proper steps, avoid the missteps, and your website will grow as successfully as your business.

Related: Is Your SEO Strategy Ready for Google's New Algorithm?