Recently, Google penalized Mozilla and BBC at the Granular Level, on charges of having user-generated spam (read more about it here), and accidentally penalized Digg as well, while removing a spammy link. These facts indicate that Google is going granular, and this makes lots of sense as it is disheartening to penalize the whole site because of having only one or two spammy pages.

Let us try to understand what Granular Penalty is all about.

What is Google Granular Penalty?

Granular Penalty is applied to specific pages which have spam content, spam links or user-generated spam (like comments). It does not affect the rest of your website.

Do Google Granular Penalties imply a sneak towards Negative SEO?

There has been a lot of talk about Negative SEO; some argue in favor of it while some oppose it. Google has often said that you need not worry about Negative SEO, but has also never declined or said that it is not possible. Most SEO’s and webmasters were relieved after Google launched the Disavow Link Tool.

We all know Mozilla should have taken care of its website, but sometimes it’s extremely hard to review each page, especially if you have millions of pages.

Mozilla did not do anything wrong from their end; all the comments were “nofollowed”  (exactly what Google recommends here) In this case, the actual users (or say spammers) created a lot of spam comments, that resulted in the Granular Penalty.

How can you protect yourself from such penalties?

Google will keep coming up with penalties like this, but you need to defend yourself; it’s as simple as that.

  • Review your comments and user-generated content on a regular basis.
  • Allow moderation of comments by vote-down or flag.
  • Use CAPTCHA and other spam protecting tools.
  • Do not approve comments blindly. Always moderate them first.

Let us get back to Mozilla. Mozilla has not reviewed its entire site. Take a look at this page, where there is a lot of comment spamming, particularly DO-FOLLOW.

Major Issue with Granular Penalty

The major problem with Google Granular Penalty is Transparency. No doubt it has improved drastically in recent years in terms of sending notification to webmasters, but sometimes it is extremely hard to tell which page was penalized. But in case of Mozilla, Google did respond on which page had spam or unnatural links. But normally, Google sends sample URLs in the notification (not in every spam notification email). So what if Google does not mention which page has been penalized? It will definitely be a rigorous task for the webmaster to figure out the spammy page!

One Good Thing about Granular Penalties

Yes I know that no one likes Google Penalties but it’s better to have a re-exam in one subject rather than failing in all your subjects. Granular penalties are completely different from the other penalties, as only specific pages or single pages are affected, which means your overall site performance is unlikely to be affected.


We have no control over such types of penalties, but we DO have control of our websites. So take charge of your website, especially for those pages that have user-generated content.