Most Notable Penalties Delivered by Google

matt-cutts-penalizing-smGoogle’s update names: Panda, Penguin, Venice and Pigeon. Thanks to Guillaume Bouchard and his 2012 post about How Google names is updates and products we know the origin of Google’s naming of their updates. Though the names may not be intimidating, the results of the penalties and guideline violations can be. We have worked with many clients to help navigate through the process to get back in Google’s graces, but they can take a serious toll on a business. Below I outlined a few of the most notable penalties that have been delivered over the years.

Revenue Loss

Two of the  greatest revenue (or speculated revenue) losses were from eBay and Both very profitable and reputable companies that just got caught up in some of Google’s updates.


ebay-logoEarlier in 2014 Google launched Panda 4.0, for those of you who are familiar panda is mostly a content update.  eBay got caught using many doorway pages with thin content that once ranked and directed buyers to products that they desired. Thanks to Larry Kim of WordStream he breaks down the exact diagnosis a little more thoroughly. Those loses were speculated to have affected 80% of eBay’s organic search rankings and they are projected to take losses of up to $200 million according to Bob Swam, eBay’s CFO.

overstock-logoAnother documented revenue loss came from The Utah based online retailer that sells discount goods reported a 3% fiscal loss in 2011. That may not sound like a large loss but considering their previous year they reported $1.09 billion in revenue it is a considerable loss ($40 million). The tactics that ended up getting the well known retailer penalized by Google was using their discounts for students to leverage links on .EDU websites.  Their tactics were noticed and penalized in February of 2011 and they publicly announced the penalty being revoked in April of 2011, only two months later.

Self Penalization

Google has even penalized two of its own properties: and of all things Google Chrome.

beatthequote-logoOne of Google’s acquisitions of 2011 was a UK website called that gave price comparisons on all sorts of things from credit cards to mortgages and insurance. Google has since used it’s service to help provide their own price comparisons here is an example of a credit card adaptation of their service. Google acquired for £37.7 million. Shortly after the acquisition the site was under penalty, this was for guideline violations that had to do with link buying previous to Google’s acquisition of them.  

Google Chrome

chrome-logoOne of the most notable penalties came in early 2012 Google’s web spam team penalized the homepage of Google chrome for using purchased blog posts to manipulate page rank. It isn’t terribly surprising to see something like this happen but Google Chrome suffered getting knocked off the first page for search queries. This just goes to show that the web spam team has no preferential treatment for their own websites as well as others.

The Culprits

The two biggest culprits for penalties of any website but especially of the ones I mentioned are either link based like or, or are content based like eBay using doorway pages. In some cases content penalties can just be overlooked by web managers or webmasters, but link penalties are rarely administered without substantial evidence towards manipulation. If you have questions on Google’s Quality Guidelines I suggest you go and revisit them. They do change from time to time with updates in web spam prevention.

Closing Remarks

Google penalties can do some damage to revenue and it is apparent Google’s web spam team has no preferential treatment for ANY websites. For many larger brands these penalties are short lived with about 30-60 days being the longest the penalties are active toward their sites. However, normally  for smaller websites the penalties can take longer to rectify. Without the resources of big businesses, the cost to rectify a penalty can prolong the term of penalty beyond 60 days. Be mindful of Google’s quality guidelines when implementing online marketing, Google alike your business needs to protect their product quality for their consumers.

**If anyone has a notable Google penalty they would like added please leave me a comment and I will be happy to do the research and get them added.

Incase you were curious about some other notable brands that have been penalized, here are a few:

  • Rap Genius
  • Mozilla
  • BBC
  • JcPenny
  • Washington Post
  • BMW
  • WordPress
  • Expedia

Thanks to all the Sources of great information on public penalties: