Often Google penalties can be tricky to identify and recovering from them even more so! It can be hugely beneficial to have a trained and experienced eye give your site a once over to find out for sure if you are suffering from a penalty (and which one if you are). An SEO specialist can check a number of things such as how your site dropped in traffic, if the whole site was effected or only a few pages and even audit your site for ideas on what could have caused any sudden drop in rankings.
Over the years Google has released numerous updates which have meant that websites who attempt to manipulate their search results are penalised accordingly. Often given strange names (such as Panda or Penguin), these updates focused on making various tactics less effective in the hopes to discourage spammy results from ranking and putting searchers at risk.
Generally speaking, a penalty will cause a sudden, sharp drop in organic visibility (and traffic coming to your site as a result). More often than not, effects are severe. Sometimes in the case of a manual penalty, Google will even send a message to your Search Console account offering more details why you have received a penalty. This offers an insight into the way Google views your website and can be used to decide how to recover from your penalty.
Even though manual penalties can sometimes be simple (that doesn’t mean easy to find or recover from!), algorithmic ones can be a nightmare to diagnose and fix. This is where a SEO company with experience recovering client sites from various penalties can really make a difference. They can identify why your traffic may have plummeted and start working with you to implement fixes, submit a reconsideration request and eventually recover your organic traffic.