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Understanding Google Penalties : Prevention and Cure

Guna Nadar

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If you own a website which gets majority of traffic from Google, you are probably nervous whenever Google releases a new algorithm.

Part of this fear over Google Penalty is because of not knowing what causes a penalty. Knowledge of the Google penalties and the various punishments involved will help you avoid the wrath of Google in the future.

Google’s primary Goal is to provide its users with the best quality search experience.  In order to accomplish this, Google penalizes low quality websites. To avoid getting penalized, sites have to use techniques that are truthful, honest and white hat.

Google Penalties Prevention and Cure

 

Like penalties in Sports, Google penalties are designed to punish websites who have used wrong tactics to promote their site.  Wrong tactics can mean anyone trying to manipulate the search results which could harm Google products and its quality.  Google uses highly evolved and ever changing algorithms to crawl and inspect sites to identify if the sites are using wrong techniques. Though well intended by Google, a penalty can greatly impact your website’s reputation as the site will be pushed to the bottom of the search engine. This will result in the site being invisible to the target audience which will create a drop in the traffic and ultimately a loss in revenue.

After getting a penalty, getting back on Google’s good grace can be very tedious. However, by following the whitehat best practices, you can avoid a penalty disaster and continue ranking high in Google. But the questions arise, what are these whitehat tactics that are used to avoid getting a penalty and what to do If I have already been penalized?

Types of Google penalties

It is necessary to know the different types of Google penalties so that you can take steps to reduce the chances of getting one.

Penalties can be widely classified as two types namely:

  1. Algorithmic
  2. Manual Action Penalties

Algorithmic penalty

Algorithmic penalty

 

An algorithmic penalty is automatic punishment to the website by Google’s algorithm.  Google algorithms are many types namely Panda update, Penguin update, Payday Loan, Intrusive Interstitial Penalty etc.

The main objective of Google Panda is to stop low quality content from becoming popular in the search results.  If Google panda identifies your site as providing poor quality, your page will never rank in the search.  Thin pages with little content with no value added, no original texts and duplicate contents can be classified as low quality content. In order to avoid this penalty, keep the panda happy by feeding original contents that will satisfy site visitors.

Google’s Penguin Update

 

Google’s Penguin Update detects spammy links inorder to combat web spam.  When a site has too many unnatural backlinks, Google would suspect that the site is trying to manipulate its search engine ranking.  In order to avoid Penguin Penalty, you have to take responsibility of your link profile. The first step would be to do a backlink audit and remove all the bad links.

The payday Loan penalty specifically addresses the results quality for some heavily spammy queries such as Payday loans, Viagra etc. Sites penalized by Payday Loan update might have involved  in  web spams, link schemes and  other illegal activities. If penalized ,the sites lose their organic search engine rankings.

The latest update by Google is the Intrusive Interstitial Penalty which was launched in January 2017. This affects the mobile search results only. Sites that show intrusive ads, popups to a mobile user will be penalized by Google under this update.

Manual Actions Penalty

 Along with the algorithmic penalties, there exist manual penalties.  It is possible for a Google employee to manually review your site and levy charges or penalties which can affect your ranking. They can even kick you out of Google index.

If the search engine suspects foul play from a site, they would take closer look at the site. Majority of the spammy content are reported by competitors.  Sites can submit a reconsideration requestGoogle Penalty after cleaning up the spammy issues in the site to overcome the penalty.

Manual Actions Penalty

 

Penalty-Level

Google, like any disciplinary body has its own terms of use which enforces a wide range of penalties.  These punishments range from light to severe based on the seriousness of the violation. First time offenders would encounter minor punishments while repeat offenders who have violated serious terms of use will be punished severely.

Google Penalties also vary in duration. Minor penalties may last up to three months, while the most severe penalties which involve banning or delisting from the Google index may be permanent. The penalty levels based on the seriousness of offence are listed below.

  1. Keyword-level
  2. URL- or directory-level
  3. Hostname-level (Subdomain)
  4. Domain-wide (sidewise); entire domain-name
  5. Delisting (De-Indexing)

A keyword level penalty affects one or few keywords of the penalized domain which lose their ranking. Other keywords remain unaffected.

Penalty Level

 

In the image above, the keyword “word game” took a massive hit for the punished domain.

The URL penalty will affect the ranking positions for all related URL links or directory and the Sidewide Penalty  will affect the ranking positions of  many keywords on the entire domain.

Delisting a website means Google decides to punish a website by removing the entire domain from the Google Index. As a result, No content belonging to the punished website will appear in Google’s search results.  The image shows an example of how a site appears in Google search after it is delisted.

URL penalty

 

Avoiding Google Penalties

Now that it is clear that Google algorithm and manual actions penalize a lot of websites and the penalty depends in severity based on the seriousness of foulplay, your fear of the search engine giant can be justified. However, there are ways to avoid facing the wrath of Google. 

Although there are no sure techniques to follow to completely avoid a possible penalty, the following tips are in alignment with Google’s recommendations.

Disavow bad backlinks

Google Panda and Penguin algorithms were specifically rolled out to target sites with spammy or low quality backlinks which is also called as link-farming.

These backlinks may be used to increase websites rank, but as they are not potential links, they don’t have value in the eyes of Google. Link-farming tricks are a black-hat SEO techniques which has been prohibited by Google.

Disavow bad backlinks

 

Use Keywords Sparingly

The best white-hat SEO technique is to utilize relevant and appropriate keywords sparingly and strategically in your web content, header tags, and descriptions. This is to help Google determine easily what your site is all about. If you excessively stuff or hide keywords into the content and title tags, it is a black hat technique and will lead you to get a Google penalty.

Don’t buy Links

Link-building is an amazing technique used to get more brand exposure to your website as long as it is organic.  

If you purchase or sell links, this will result in your site getting instant penalty from Google.

Avoid Using Interstitial App Pages on Your Mobile Site

You have a mobile app which you want to promote and you are too aggressive in your promotion. If someone is clicking your site in his mobile phone but a pop up appears requesting the person to install your app, then you have bad news. Your site will be pushed down in Google ranking.

Don’t Offer Pirated Content

If your  website offers pirated content, you could risk getting penalized. Google identifies with companies that are always trying to protect their intellectual property from getting stolen.

So think again before posting pirated contents as Google might punish you for that.

Don’t Use Hidden Text

If you are already know about CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), then you might be knowing that text can be presented in any color and text might look like it has disappeared when presented in the same color of the background.

You can trick humans using this method but not Google, this is considered a violation and you may be penalized.

Clean Up Your Act

Conduct link audits proactively and remove all unnatural links that are not relevant to your website. In order to remove unnatural and spammy links from external sites, you can contact the websites that you don't want to be associated with and request them to remove the link.

Google Penalty recovery

If your website ranking and traffic dropped all of a sudden, it is probably due to your site being penalized. If you have been penalized  and you are wondering ' Now what?', the first step would be to make a recovery plan. The recovery plan should include diagnosis and cure for the penalty identified.

Algorithm update penalties are harder to detect because they are not notified in the webmaster tools. However, manual penalties can be identified in the webmaster tool.

Log into your webmaster tools account and check if you have received any manual penalties against your site. On clicking 'Manual Actions' under 'Search Traffic', If you get a notification similar to the one below, your site has been penalized.

Google Penalty Recovery

 

In order to check if your website ranking and traffic drop correlates with any algorithm updates a tool called Moz’s Google Algorithm Change History can be used.

Moz’s Google Algorithm Change History

 

Moz’s Google Algorithm Change History keeps track of smaller updates as well as big updates. It  is a valuable tool for finding out what might have gone wrong with your website after an unexpected  turbulence in traffic and ranking due to algorithmic updates.

Once you have identified the penalty affecting your website, you can analyze the cause of the problem. If your websites rankings/traffic drop coincides with a Penguin update it is likely that your site has unnatural anchor text distribution and many low quality backlinks. In order To recover from this penalty, an analysis of your website’s anchor text distribution is required.

Go to Ahrefs and create a free account. Enter your website domain on the backlinks report tab. As you click the overview tab that appears, you can see your websites anchor text distribution.

A natural distribution of anchor text with brand name keywords, targeted keyword variations, naked URLs and other variations will not be subjected to Penguin. Another area of concern is the presence of bad backlinks; low quality links can trigger a penguin penalty. In order to remove these links, contact the site owners and request them to remove these links. You can also submit the links to Google’s disavow tool. Over optimization of your webpage can also trigger the Penguin Penalty as it may look unnatural to Google.

Google’s Panda Algorithm targets poor quality contents and other on page issues such as duplicate content, too many ads , poor site speed etc.

Final Thoughts

Understanding Penalty triggers and preventing a penalty hit by following Google’s guidelines would help your ranking and increase traffic. Being hit by a penalty can take months or years to recover based on the severeness. Hence It is better to avoid a penalty than look for a cure after being hit. However, if you have been unfortunate enough to be hit by a penalty update, you can formulate a recovery plan. First of all you have to analyze the type of penalty your site has been hit with and then remove all bad links and optimize your on page content and site structure problems. After you have completed your recovery plan file a request for reconsideration to Google.

As a word of advice, always build links with a natural back link profile and avoid manipulative link building strategies at all costs. Write a strong On Page content that uses a mix of anchor text and generic keywords.

Source: Google Webmasters

Has your website been hit by a Penalty?  If so, contact SubmitinMe today without further delay so that we can find out why you have been penalized and try to fix the problem asap.

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SEO News

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Google Penalty

About Guna Nadar

Guna Nadar

Brief Info about Guna Nadar +

I mostly write technical aspects and not much into creative writing. For the past decade I worked along with top notch SEO & Internet Marketing professionals which naturally lured me into the world of Search Engines. When I am not writing I read from comics to philosophy.Antiques, Fishing, hunting are my passions. Currently I am working on Google Penalty protection and .... more info


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