Over the past few years, Google has really been cracking down on their updates.? From the initial “Panda” to the “Penguin,” there have been hundreds of thousands of websites that have been affected by these updates.

Unfortunately, If your website has been hit by one of these updates, there’s probably a good chance that you violate Google’s quality guidelines.? To help you get out of Google’s dog house, here are some things that you can do to fix your website if you violate their guidelines —

How do I know if my website violated their guidelines?

If you have a Google Webmaster Tools account associated with the website in question, you can simply log into your account and look for any webmaster guidelines messages.? 99 percent of the time, Google will leave a message if they suspect you have been violating their policies.? Most of the time, these messages will be on the backlinks that are pointing to your website.

What are bad backlinks?

As mentioned, most websites that are penalized often have really bad, unnatural backlinks pointing their website that are spammy in the eyes of Google.? Even if you don’t have control of these backlinks, Google can still implement a penalty.? However, it doesn’t mean that your website is toast.

To help you understand what Google views as a bad backlink, here are some things you need to look out for:

.   Buying or selling links that will pass PageRank

.   Excessive link exchanges to other websites

.   Large scale guest posting or article marketing on low-quality websites

.   Excessive keyword-rich anchor text

.   Using automated programs

How can I find these bad backlinks?

First of all, you need to honestly analyze your website to make sure that the penalty isn’t coming from somethingyou control.? Here are some things to look out for —

.   Are you linking out to any websites with a keyword-rich anchor text?? Were you paid for it?

.   Do you exchange links for the sole purpose of trying to rank?

.   Do you accept low-quality articles for a payment?

If you honestly have a white hat website and are certain that the culprit is coming from the backlinks, let’s explore how we can find them.

.   Go to Google Webmaster Tools, click “Search Traffic” and then “Links to Your Site”

.   Click on the first table that shows the number of backlinks

.   Click “more”

.   Click “Download more sample links”

When you follow these steps, it’s going to download it as a spreadsheet file.

Analyzing Your Backlinks

Now that you have your spreadsheet file, it’s time to open up the file in Google Docs or Excel to start assessing your problem.

Start Deleting

The first thing that you’re going to want to do is go through every link and get rid of anyspammy links that you can control.? This is going to include forum signatures, article marketing and or any ads.? Basically, it’s up to you to use your judgment.? If you think it’s spammy, it’s best to get rid of the link.

Contact the Owners

Next, if you can’t manually delete the link, it’s time to contact the owner of the website.? While Google does have a disavow tool, it’s best to get the backlink completely removed.? To do this, find the webmaster’s information and send them a simple email.? Let them know that your website was penalized and if they can simply remove your link.? Keep in mind that some people are going to reply and ask for money.? If they do, don’t pay — it isn’t going to be worth it.

After a week or so, be sure to follow up one more time.? If you don’t hear from the owner within two to three weeks, add that link to your “disavow” list.

Use the Disavow Tool

Once you have deleted your manual links and contacted the website owners, it’s time to add any link to Google’s Disavow Tool.? To access this tool, you will want to do the following:

.   Log into Webmaster Tools

.   Click the website you want to work with

.   Click disavow links

.   Upload a spreadsheet file of all the links you want to disavow

By doing this, you’re going to tell Google that you don’t want these backlinks to count as “votes” toward your website.

After you attempt these options, you should be able to send a “reconsideration request” to Google.? However, only do this if you have a manual penalty applied to your website.? Again, you can find out if you have one by visiting your “Manual Action Viewer” in your account.? If your backlinks have been cleaned and Google approves of it, the penalty will be lifted.? However, if they come back and say you still have a penalty applied, you will want to dig deeper into your backlink situation and repeat the steps mentioned above.

As you can see, getting rid of a penalty is going to take a lot of work.? However, if you work hard at it and play by the rules, you should have nothing to worry about.? As long as you don’t try to trick Google and focus on developing unique and compelling content, you shouldn’t have to worry about that dreaded penalty hitting your website.