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Search engine optimization is a burgeoning industry that continues to experience a fast rise in popularity—due, in large part, to an enthusiastic effort by Google engineers to create more relevant and organic search results for users.

With constant updates and tweaks to its algorithms, Google is attempting to improve how websites are created, developed, and experienced. One way Google attempts to improve the user experience is to penalize sites that knowingly or unknowingly break Google's rules. The usual result is the devastation of the penalized company's Web presence.

Being the recipient of Google's algorithmic wrath can often result in a penalty that makes your site virtually invisible to searchers, undermining your ability to reach your audience or customer base, and effectively eliminating your potential to establish a digital presence.

Luckily, some effective SEO practices can help repair the damage done to a site by a Google penalty, eventually restoring its ranking prominence and visibility.

What types of penalties does Google dish out?

Penalties from Google, according to Dexmedia.com, "can range from moving all or most of a website's pages from the main index at Google to the Supplemental Results, or completely removing a URL from the results," either of which can be extremely detrimental to your site's online visibility. Many of these penalties "simply result in a page not showing up in the first 50 or 100 search results," amounting to virtual online invisibility, Dexmedia explains.

In its never-ending quest to improve site relevance and quality, Google hands down two forms of penalty:

  1. Manual. Generally the consequence of artificial or unnatural links that lead visitors to a site, Google's manual penalties occur because of a site's not meeting certain quality standards established in Google's Webmaster Guidelines. A manual penalty results from a Google team review of your site, and it usually comes with a notification sent directly from Google.
  2. Algorithmic. Google's algorithmic penalties are automated, resulting from Google's algorithm updates (such as Panda and Penguin). These "more natural" penalties tend to punish sites for poor quality and often occur with little to no warning, pushing a site's ranking down into the depths of obscurity. The good news, at least according to Google's Matt Cutts, is that algorithmic penalties make it possible "for a site owner to change and modify their site so that it can be re-scored by Google," and it can then be "re-indexed for a better ranking."

So... why does a site receive a penalty?

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image of Joe Chierotti

Joe Chierotti is an online marketing executive with Denver-based online reputation company InternetReputation.com.

LinkedIn: Joe Chierotti