What is a Google Penalty?
Top positions in Google are easily withdrawn. A Google penalty is the main reason for this occurrence.
There are two types of Google penalties which can affect individual pages or apply site-wide. They are best described as:
Algorithmic Google Penalties
Penalties of this type arise when Google’s algorithm is changed. The mechanism (which ranks websites according to their quality), is constantly updated to return only the most relevant search results to the user.
Manual Google Penalties
This form of punishment handed out manually by a Google Staffer. An employee of Google’s web-spam team has discovered your website, noticed manipulative tactics and decided to take what they felt to be, appropriate action.
Have You Been Hit With a Google Penalty
Google Penalties can be undetected unless you are constantly monitoring your organic traffic (from search engines) and or Google Webmaster Tools. For many, it only becomes apparent that a penalty has been dealt when sales decrease; 50 enquiries a day sag to 10. A copious 120 phone calls a day reduces to 25.
Manual penalties are straightforward to diagnose, assuming you use Google Search Console.
You will be greeted with an inbox message explaining the penalty and a small amount of advice on how to justify reconsideration.
Algorithmic Penalties are more complex to diagnose. It takes the knowledge of specialists to successfully research and remedy these situations.
Any form of penalty commands the attention of experts. Deep knowledge of SEO is critical to a full recovery.
1. Bad Links
Links are still the base of SEO. Many moons ago, it was true that you could rank a website #1 in Google with sheer volume of keyword-rich inbound links. This is no longer the case. Links must be earned, providing value to the user who may click on them. If a website isn’t worthy of a link, it shouldn’t receive any. (Buying links is out of the question. Steer clear.)
2. Duplicated Content & Content Theft
Copying content across your website is bad practice. It causes complications for Google and leaves your visitors bored – prime penalty material. Scraping content from another website can also trigger penalties.
3. Thin Content
Pages should serve a purpose. A ‘perfectly optimised’ informational page is one which incorporates the use of tick box SEO, good imagery, video, PDF downloads and relevant content and providing practicality. On the other hand put out a couple of lines of text on each page which don’t have any real use and you can certainly expect to be tagged.
4. Spammy Keywords
Keyword spam. Keyword spam. Keyword spam. Keyword spam. Keyword spam. 15 years ago this guide would probably have ranked well for the term ‘keyword spam’ due to multiple mentions. It’s now 2016. Don’t bother. Google is now exceptionally advanced and will pinpoint such manipulation.
5. Technical Manipulation
Hidden text, cloaking, URL masking, unscrupulous META redirects – These tactics will get your website off the face of search engines for a long time, if not for good. Google will sometimes issue a permanent black cross over your domain if techniques like these are discovered.
6. Bad Technical SEO
The people you hire to carry out SEO can make mistakes. In such a fast-paced and dynamic industry, it is essential to stay on top. There is a wealth of highly intricate detail involved in SEO, it is a skill which requires precision and years of familiarity.
7. Malicious Third-Party Activity
Negative SEO can hurt your website. I’ve seen it happen before and we won’t be the last to either. Example: You’re my competition. I’m going to outsource the task of automating 65,000 links of a spammy nature to your website, for a relatively low price. The links go live; you get hit with a penalty and lose all your rankings. Clever? Not really. This not only hurts the whole SEO industry, but could potentially lead to fraud investigation.
How to Recover from Google Penalties
For Google penalties of any type, the initial diagnosis stages are important. The first part of this investigation leads the way for successful attempts at recovery. If the investigation is not carried out to a degree of detail, the overall result is time and money wasted stabbing in the dark. An exhaustive assessment concerning on-site/off-site links, content and technical aspects is necessary. Once the issues have been unearthed, the recovery process can ensue. The investigation process can take anywhere from a single day to a full week, with respect to website size, age and technical complexities.
Once collated, the investigation points are now enforced. This may involve the eradication of duplicated content, link removal requests for external websites and reimplementation of technical attributes within your website. (Extensively more complicated than described in this paragraph, but more detail can be found here). Recovery duration can span weeks or months. Again, the scope of the job depends on the magnitude of the problem. 1,000,000 links from unique domains will take considerably longer to remedy than a few bad links and some replicated content.
Remedial work is complete, any tactics viewed as ‘shady’ have been wiped from your past and the path to regained rankings are in sight. Slowly, performance gains the potential to improve.
Good news; positive carryovers can occur with regards to action and traction phases – rankings may reappear throughout the recovery period as it is in progress.