Google is the most-used search engine in the world. About 40,000 searches are done on Google every second, and around 3 to 5 billion Google searches are performed every day. It is unthinkable, in the modern Internet-driven world, to get by without Google.

But can you actually get banned from the world’s most-used search engine?

The answer depends on what you mean by “banned.” Can Google literally stop you from using its search engine by blocking you every time you try to access it? No. It would be very easy to circumvent such a ban, and Google doesn’t ban people in that sense.

However, there are many other ways in which you can get banned from Google.

Banned from your Google accounts

The first, and most obvious, is that you can be banned from your Google accounts. If you violate Google’s Terms of Service, they reserve the right to do this. Engaging in spamming, distributing or displaying illegal, obscene, or harassing material, or illegally sharing copyrighted material online are just a few grounds for Google to lock you out of your accounts. Sometimes these bans can be permanent, and you can lose access to your important information forever.

A ban of your account could extend to all of Google’s services, including Gmail, Google Drive, and YouTube. The simple way to avoid this: Know Google’s Terms of Service and abide by them.

Banned from ranking in Google’s search results

If you run a business or any kind of website, you can be “banned” from Google in a different sense: You can be restricted or removed from search results. The retailer J.C. Penney found this out the hard way in 2011 when it was revealed that they were using numerous shady schemes to drive up traffic to their website.

For example, the more other websites link to your site, the higher your site will rank in the Google search engine. Most people who operate websites know this, and they covet links from other sites to their own. In J.C. Penney’s case, however, it was discovered that there were numerous websites, unrelated to J.C. Penney, that were full of links to the retailer’s website. Some of these websites, indeed, seemed to contain only links. Of course, this drove up J.C. Penney’s traffic considerably. When the scheme was discovered, Google heavily penalized J.C. Penney. Technically, they weren’t outright banned, but their ranking in Google’s search results was dramatically lowered. For example, their website went from ranking #1 in a search for “living room furniture” to #68. After several months, their ranking was restored, but undoubtedly Google’s actions struck a heavy blow to J.C. Penney’s business.

Google also keeps an eye out for other spammy, shady schemes that people might use to get their page ranked higher in search results, Trying to deceive Google’s search engines in any way (such as posting a misleading description of your website) is a great way to flirt with being banned and/or restricted from appearing in Google’s search results. And it’s very likely you are not as famous as J.C. Penney to be able to recover those rankings.

How to avoid being banned from Google

Is it possible to get banned from Google? In certain ways, yes. But the way to be sure this doesn’t happen to you is pretty simple: Abide by Google’s Terms of Service. Don’t exploit their services to conduct illegal, fraudulent, obscene, harassing, or deceptive activity. Use their services for what they were designed for. If you abide by this simple rule, you are almost certain not to be one of the few people in the world banned from Google.