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How to Come Back From an SEO Penalty Get to know what 'spam,' 'cloaking' and 'value' are and why ignoring the warnings against them can cost you.

By AJ Agrawal

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Photographer is my life | Getty Images

We live in a digital world, where the difference between landing on the first page of a prominent search engine vs. the second could cost you millions in revenue; this is what makes a company's SEO ranking more important now than ever before. But if you're the head of that company and you want to play the game, then you need to understand the rules.

Related: How to Recover From Any Google Penalty

And one of those rules is that when you receive an SEO penalty from Google, your page rank is dropped; this means that your website becomes harder to find on Google, which ultimately translates into a significant decrease in site visitation.

Here are several different SEO penalties and how to bounce back from them.


"Cloaking" is a technique used to show search engines a version of your website which differs from what visitors will actually see when they visit the site. Cloaking can take numerous forms, because different types of content on your website, like photos and text, can potentially be cloaked. Even if this problem occurs because of an accident that you, as the site owner, make, cloaking for any reason is a serious offense, and one that can get you banned on sites like Google.

Cloaking also has several nuances, as can be seen in Google's First Click Free policy. In short, the policy states that websites which show information to Google but fail to show that same information to visitors who don't have a subscription, can and will be penalized.

Luckily, cloaking can be fixed. The first step is to identify what portions of your website are cloaked. There are tons of free tools out there to help you identify this issue. After identifying the page that is cloaked, you can go to Google and fetch the pages from the cloaked portion of your website, compare the content on your web page to the content fetched by Google and then remove any discrepancies or variations. While doing this, make sure to remove any strange links or incorrect redirects.


"Spam" means irrelevant or inappropriate messages being sent to a large number of recipients on the internet. Spam is widely viewed as a huge nuisance on the internet, and search engines make sure it is treated as such. Spam comes in many different forms, but the most heavily penalized form is "pure spam."

Pure spam is created by organizations that aggressively engage in spam-based techniques, like the use of poor automated commenting systems and messaging systems, and scraped content and cloaking.

The quickest and easiest way to solve spamming issues is to identify the source and remove it. Make sure that your organization isn't blurring the lines between outreach and flat-out spam; sometimes, this distinction can be accomplished through your choosing the right mass-communication system. When choosing an automated messaging system, make sure to choose one with anti-spam functionality.


One of the most important things that a website can do is it to add value to what its visitors see. Similar to cloaking and spamming, the effort to add value can take multiple forms. Every website should have a particular narrative, of course -- a story which lets visitors know what the site has to offer and why they should stay.

But much of this "story" depends on there being valuable content on the website. If your website is valuable, you'll be rewarded with higher SEO rankings; if not, there's a good chance you may drop a couple of pages in the ranking system.

In fact, Google has a due-diligence process of automated web-crawling software and real-life employees; by combining technical and human expertise, the site can identify whether or not your website is truly valuable.

Even if you find a way to miraculously trick the software, a human reviewer will likely catch you. So, instead of using tricks or gimmicks, augment your website's value by improving your site's content.

Related: 4 Dumb SEO Tactics That Will Get Your Site Penalized

Certainly there are some things which are out of your control, like page visits and the length of time that any given user stays on your site's various pages. However, one thing that is in your control is the content. To increase your website's value:

Provide relevant content. If your website is for dogfood, it shouldn't include information about candy or fashion.

Remove any irrelevant or unnatural reference links from the site. Such links on your site are reasons for one of the most common penalties seen in SEO.

Make sure your content has substance, and never plagiarize. Both actions are problematic, and such content should be removed immediately.

Related: How to Recover from a Google Penguin Penalty

SEO ranking is now more significant than ever before, and it can also be complicated. If you're new or starting out, remember that everyone makes mistakes; even the largest websites in the world receive SEO penalties.

In response, the real injustice you might commit is to fail to rectify the problems that caused those penalities. So, be sure to do routine check-ups and optimize your website whenever possible.

AJ Agrawal

Founder of Verma Media

AJ Agrawal is the founder of Verma Media, a marketing agency that focuses on emerging tech, like blockchain and AI, and on cannabis companies.

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