A Comprehensive Guide on Google Penalties and How to Recover
Have you ever been in a situation where your website isn’t getting the traffic it deserves despite the myriads of marketing and advertising efforts employed by your digital marketing agency?
As nightmarish as this scenario may seem, your website may be experiencing from the impacts of Google penalties.
Google considers itself the internet police in a lot of ways. It tries to enforce a specific set of standards. Websites that fail to meet these standards are usually banished and blacklisted from appearing on its search results page. Hence, the reason your SEO agency has to do all it can to abide by Google’s policies and guidelines.
In this post, we will cover all you need to know about Google penalties to ensure you and your SEO company keep from violating any policies and rules.
Let’s begin by defining what a Google penalty is.
What is a Google Penalty
A penalty from Google means your website ranking for specific keywords has reduced drastically, or it may also imply that your website is no longer part of Google search results. A Google penalty can make it impossible for your target audience to find you through organic means. Such a situation can mean the doom of any business online.
Punishments from Google can take effect at the directory, keyword, or URL level, depending on which Webmaster Guidelines you violate. However, the severity of your penalty can also determine if the punishment will affect the entire domain. The various levels of Google penalty include:
- Hostname-level (Subdomain)
- Domain-wide (sitewide or the whole domain)
- URL-or directory -level
- Delisting (De-Indexing from Google)
Any website can receive a Google penalty due to reasons like poor digital marketing strategy and any misunderstanding. However, the moment you’re at the receiving end of a Google penalty, getting back into the good books of Google and restoring your rankings is no walk in the park. Even more so if you get the harshest form of penalty, which is the complete removal from the Google index, also called “Delisting.”
Type of Google Penalties
There are two main ways Google penalizes sites. These are filter or algorithmic changes and manual actions. Irrespective of which penalty your site receives, it will negatively affect your rankings. But you need to differentiate them to troubleshoot each one effectively.
1. Manual Google Penalties
Generally speaking, this is the collective name for all penalties given by Google employees after the detection of any violations. It encompasses the following forms of punishments:
Sitewide-Penalty – This implies that the majority of the entire domain’s keywords will lose their ranking positions.
Keyword-Level Penalty – This type of punishment occurs when any keyword on a domain is flagged. All other keywords not violating any policies will rank as usual.
Delisting – This is the worst-case scenario where Google penalizes a website by excluding the entire domain from its index and search results. Consequently, no website content will show up in search results.
2. Algorithmic Penalties
Websites breaking Google’s rules can trigger some automatic penalties. Usually, this means your website’s setup or SEO strategy is not following the latest algorithms from Google. Primarily, most algorithm penalties are associated with Penguin and Panda.
Penguin penalties are based on the quality of your website’s backlinks, whereas panda penalties are centered on the website’s content quality.
Differences Between Manual And Algorithmic Penalties
Although some people consider these two penalties as one, they do have major differences. Google’s algorithms recognize and specify the content that’s breaking Google’s standards and guidelines. The resulting punishments are provisional limitations or manual restrictions implemented by Google to check each violation.
Hence, though algorithms like Panda and Penguin are not meant to be penalties, they lead to indirect penalties. They operate based on predetermined rules that bring about specific consequences. These algorithms are Google’s attempt to improve search result quality.
Therefore, they will work to the advantage of any digital marketing agency, individual, business, or entrepreneur that meets the standard set by Google. On the other hand, real humans at Google manually assess and rate websites to ensure any web pages that get past algorithms without meeting the standards will receive the appropriate penalties.
Reasons Behind Google Penalties
Below are some of the common reasons Google sites for penalizing websites:
I. Spam or Hacked Website
It doesn’t matter who’s to blame for a hacked or spammy website. Google only concerns itself with the highest quality, and it will prefer your hacked website doesn’t show up in search results. It also frowns on spammy content.
Therefore, if your website suffers any security breach or hack and the perpetrators publish spam on your web pages, you will quickly get penalized. As regrettable as this may sound, your best bet is to use the most sophisticated site security to secure your website from the attacks of hackers and other mischievous people.
II. Thin Content
If you speak to any SEO agency, you will quickly understand why quality content is essential for SEO. Just because ‘Content is king’ doesn’t mean all content is the same. You may have a lot of content on your website, but if it is of a poor-quality or even insufficient, you could trigger a Google penalty. Some of the typical factors that give rise to the penalty related to thin content are as follows:
- Low-quality content
- Auto-generated content
- Duplicate content
- Content that insufficiently answers the search queries
- Spun content
As you might have guessed, working with your SEO Company to create and publish the best possible content in your industry pays, and the algorithms will reward you for your effort.
III. Unnatural Links
2012 was an exciting year for digital marketers and web admins because it was the year Google started to target websites that have link spam. The release of the Penguin algorithm update enabled Google to target these websites. Prior to this update, websites with lots of spammy links were able to increase their rankings quickly. The current Penguin era issues penalties for the following:
- When you have unnatural links directed to your website
- If you use your website to host unnatural outbound links
The opposite of unnatural links is what Google favors. Natural and authoritative links pointing to your website will help increase website ranking.
IV. Clocking And Sneaky Redirects
If your links redirect users to pages that do not reflect the initial description and intent shown on Google’s search result page, you can look forward to a penalty. Questionable links and redirects don’t fulfill Google’s desire to match the user with the most relevant search results.
V. User-Generated Spam
At this point, it’s clear that Google frowns on spam. If your site allows user content such as guest posts, comments, and forums, you must monitor and prevent spam. Any content that fails to add value to the user experience, Google will consider as spam, resulting in a manual penalty.
VI. Keyword Stuffing And Hidden Text
As you might have heard from your SEO Company, keywords are crucial for SEO. However, they can also be the cause of your downfall if you “stuff” them on each webpage. Some website owners try to “hide” keywords by manipulating font size. This can also result in a penalty.
Recovering From Google Penalties
Removing and recovering from the effect of Google penalties is no easy task. However, the steps you take will depend on the type of penalty you received. For manual penalties, you’ll receive a penalty report from Google.
● What is a Google Penalty report?
It’s a document sent from Google that specifies the policies a website owner overstepped. The penalty report also explains the necessary changes you should make to reverse the penalty.
All you have to do is rectify the problems and resend a formal appeal to Google for them to reindex your web pages or site. Once you’re back in the index, your site and its contents should begin appearing in search results again, and your web traffic will start picking up.
On the other hand, you may continue to rank in Google even with an algorithmic penalty, although at a lower level than usual. Like all other problems, the first course of action is diagnosing the root cause of the penalty. Why did your website receive a Google penalty?
You need to check if you have duplicate content, plagiarized information, poor site security, slow site speed, or any other problem.
You can either get a credible digital marketing agency or an SEO agency to audit your website and troubleshoot any problem found. Upon fixing the issue, Google will reindex your site, and your rankings should gradually increase with time.
It’s not every time that loss of traffic means you’re at the receiving end of a Google penalty. Several other factors may account for the traffic loss on your site. It could be reasons like poor user experience, low-quality content, and outdated content.
Therefore, it’s necessary to work hand-in-hand with your digital marketing agency to determine the root cause each time your site traffic reduces. On the other hand, you can proceed with the tips stated above if you don’t use the services of an SEO agency. Remember, you can leave us a comment in case of any questions, concerns, or doubts about Google’s penalties or the loss of traffic on your website.