Search engine filters: why they are imposed and how to detect


Search engine sanctions are one of the main fears of SEO specialists, especially talking about beginners. The Internet is full of menacing and contradictory information on this topic – many optimisers find themselves confused and do not understand how to promote a site in a way to avoid search engine filters or a ban.

Alexander Shestakov, product manager of Links.Sape, shares how to determine whether a resource has been subject to sanctions, why this happens, and what measures need to be taken in these types of situations.

Sanctions types

The first thing you need to know about the penalties to which the search engine can subject your website is that they have different degrees of severity. The site may be imposed with various filters. In this case, certain pages – sometimes all of them, are excluded from being displayed in search results for certain queries. Also, some pages may be excluded from indexing by search robots.

For instance, the search engine may find the page content low quality for users, and overpopulated with keywords. As a result, the search engine will stop indexing it. These sanctions will lead to a decrease in the page’s appearance in searches and a significant traffic drop.

In certain situations, the website may even get banned which is an acute measure, where the site is completely removed from search results. Sanctions of this level lead to the loss of all organic traffic that it gets from the search engine. The ban also leads to the nullification of the site’s quality, which has a negative effect on its monetization through the sale of links or placement of media advertising.

Reasons for imposed sanctions

You should be aware of the reasons that your site may be subject to a search engine filter or ban to avoid it. Each search engine has its own requirements for sites and concepts of acceptable manipulations.

For example, a website may become subject to sanctions by Google in the following instances:

  • The page content is not authentic
  • The site uses other site’s content and is included in affiliate programs
  • The site uses hidden redirects, unrelated content, or links
  • Low-quality content that redirects users to any other pages
  • Improper use of micro markup
  • Content on the site is generated automatically
  • Use of keywords that do not correspond to the subject and content of the pages
  • The site contains pages infected with viruses or offers to download malicious programs

Yandex may also impose various penalties on a website in the following cases:

  • Users who have visited the site are redirected to another resource
  • Pages contain hidden text filled with keywords
  • Different content is used for visitors and for search engine robots
  • The site hosts content belonging to an advertising partner’s website
  • The page content is not authentic and does not contain any useful information for users
  • Content is overpopulated with keywords
  • The site has duplicated structure, content, or design of another site, and is affiliated with third-party sites
  • The site uses algorithms that mimic a user’s visit to the resource

How to spot an imposed filter

It is important to spot sanctions as soon as possible to correct the situation and avoid losing traffic and positions in search engines. There are several ways to determine whether a site is under search engine sanctions or not.

Branded query check

This approach allows to quickly detect the presence of sanctions. In Yandex and Google search a query should be specified about the site of interest. However, instead of a point, a space should be used (for example, if you want to check ‘’, the query would look like ‘site com’). In theory, the fully functioning domain should be on the first line in searches. If the domain did not appear in searches, the site is likely f falling into search engines ban.

Checking the ban in Yandex.Webmaster

You can find out if the ban is imposed on the website from Yandex search engine using the Yandex.Webmaster.  To do this, go to the Add Url section and enter the address of the resource of interest there. When a message is displayed that the domain is included in the search, it can be unequivocally concluded that this search engine did not ban it. Otherwise, the system notifies that the resource is blocked.

Checking page indexing via Google

Checking page indexing in Google search. To find out how many site’s pages have been indexed by Google, on the search page, enter the query ‘site:’ (instead of, specifying the website name). If the search does not bring up any pages, the site is excluded from the search results. If the number of indexed pages has significantly decreased, it can be presumed that there is an error preventing page indexing or sanction filter has been imposed.

Checking via Google Search Console

The Google Search Console (GSC) has a fairly convenient check option, which allows determining immediately whether the site is blocked by a search engine. You need to go to the “Measures taken manually” section, where messages are displayed if the site is blocked.

Site’s traffic analysis

If you notice a drastic decrease in the site’s traffic, or if it has dropped to zero, the reason may be a filter imposed on it by a search engine or a complete exclusion from the searches. Robots.txt file can be checked to make sure that all the necessary pages of the site are qualified for indexing. Perhaps the site is currently unavailable, or there were hosting outages or other technical reasons during the traffic drop.

If the period of traffic decrease coincides with search engine algorithm updates, then the site may have fallen under sanctions because of the updates. Make sure to stay up to date with algorithm updates to check the rankings and take measures accordingly.

Checking domain rating

Ahrefs can be used to check the website’s domain score, the higher the score, the higher Ahrefs ranks the website’s quality. To check the website’s index quality rating in Yandex, you can use Yandex.Webmaster. If the quality parameter has dropped to zero – this is a sure sign that the site is under sanctions, which could lead to its ban.

Using third-party tools

One of the easiest ways to spot sanctions is to use third – party tools. These include Panguin Tool, Google Penalty Checker, Website Penalty Indicator, PR-CY and Xtool. As a rule, each of these tools is designed to work with only one of the search engines, so to get complete information, you will need to use several similar services.



Aleksandra Kelesh
Experienced marketer with a background in supply chain and logistics. Working in SEO, as well as content translations.