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Levels of Distrust

Google has several levels of distrust that it can apply to websites: sandboxing, a penalty, de-indexing, and blacklisting (see Table 4.1). Except for sandboxing, you can avoid all these acts of distrust by being discerning about the sites from which you receive links and the manner in which you acquire them. In the hierarchy of Google distrust, penalty status is less severe than deindexing and much less severe than blacklisting.

Table 4.1 The Guide to Google Distrust

Act of Google Distrust



Road to Recovery


A site is new or has never built links before.

Google will not allow your site to rank in its top 100 results for any competitive keyword until the site has built some inbound links and at least 2 months have passed from the start of the link building.

Build links. Wait.

Link Penalty (The Penguin Penalty)

Building unnatural-looking links (for example, links that all say “converter cables” in their link text) or having a substantial percentage of your links removed at one time.

Google moves your website off the first few pages, sometimes even out of the top 100, for your main keywords.

Remove the offending situation if there is one, and wait. Google may inform you that your site is being penalized in your Webmaster Tools panel. Once you make your linking pattern more natural, it will take a few months for your rankings to return. If you have paid or otherwise unnatural links pointing to your site, you can also use the Disavow Links tool, also located in your Webmaster Tools panel, to divorce your site from those links.

Content Penalty (The Panda Penalty)

Your site contains poor-quality content (content that is meant to siphon traffic from Google more than to serve visitors).

Google levels your site’s TrustRank score, lowering your site’s rankings across the board; pages on your site containing poor quality content may also be excluded from Google’s index.

Remove all low-quality content and wait. Building high-quality links also helps your site to heal from a Panda penalty.


Your site contains links to “bad neighborhoods” such as gambling, pills, or adult websites; or your site engages in offensive SEO tricks such as link farming or keyword stuffing.

Your site does not appear in the search results for any searches. It does not even show up when you type your domain name into Google. If your site is de-indexed, you might be notified by Google in your Google Webmaster Tools panel.

Visit your Google Webmaster Tools panel and fill out the form that allows you to submit your site for reconsideration. Giving a good reason, such as your site having been hacked or your being the hapless victim of a sketchy SEO firm, may result in reinstatement.


Your site has engaged in black hat SEO tactics such as writing code that shows search engines different content than your site’s visitors see; or your site is considered spammy or scammy.

Your site does not appear in the search results for any searches. You might be notified by Google in your Webmaster Tools panel.

You can try submitting your site for reconsideration in the Webmaster Tools panel, but Google probably will not allow your site back into the index. It is best to buy a new domain name and disassociate with the offending practices if you care about receiving traffic from Google.

Of course, I hope that Table 4.1 serves as a casual point of reference rather than a necessity. Cutting corners with links and content is a short-term fix, but leads to a long-term problem. And while there’s nothing more effective at raising your rankings than a systematic link-outreach campaign, there is one way to bypass a lot of that work: buying an old website. I recommend this approach because I have personally experienced the benefits of owning a site to which someone has already attracted links and which has already aged. However, buying sites is an art and should not be undertaken until you have read the next section.

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