How to Respond When Google Penalizes You
Most businesses, brands and websites rely heavily on search engines for large shares of their traffic. Without search engines, many brands would be lost, incapable of driving massive amounts of traffic their way without significant paid investment. Ultimately, many lament how centralized the internet has become; in effect, search engines are the gatekeepers that decide who gets to see what. It can be very easy to run afoul of the algorithms and standards that search engines require of websites, and running afoul of them often means your visibility in search results gets nerfed. Today, we’ll talk about how you need to respond when you discover that Google has penalized you.
The Types of Penalties
There are two main types of ways that you can be hit with a penalty. Both are bad but each have their pros and cons. The great news is that you can recover from both!
The first type of penalty is a manual penalty. This is often generated when you have engaged in some action that Google finds to be indicative of spam or black hat SEO. In many cases, you’ll receive a message from Google that indicates you’re pinging to Google signals that are unacceptable.
The second type of penalty is from a change in algorithms. Google is constantly revamping and revising its algorithms, which can lead to some sudden and unfortunate changes in SEO and traffic for brands. These are less obvious, but can often be detected based on changes in traffic relative to recent changes in Google’s algorithms.
Repairing the Damage (Penguin)
If you have suddenly been found in violation of Penguin’s algorithms, then this means that you have an issue with backlinks and/or keywords usually. In order to fix the problem, you’ll want to generate a backlinks report to determine every link pointing to and from your website. At the same time, you’ll want to analyze your anchor text to determine whether you have a natural distribution of links (for instance, straightforward URLs, branded links, exact matches, and so forth). Once you have collected this information, you can then act by disavowing any unsavory backlinks and/or changing links/structure you have that is causing the problem.
Repairing the Damage (Panda)
Whenever a website is hit with a Panda penalty, this usually means that the website’s content and/or structure is an issue. This can mean you have limited to no content, duplicate material, or a slow website. In order to find the problem and fix it, you’ll want to look at several elements. First, run a site speed check to see if your website’s speed is the issue. If that’s not the issue, use Google Webmaster Tools to analyze the quality of each of your pages: those with little to no content and/or duplicate material need to be fixed (for instance, with no-follow tags) and/or deleted.
Pinging to Google – whether it is content, links or basic site indicators about speed – requires constant vigilance and careful assessments. Your site structure and its content can both cause issues that lead to penalties. Fortunately, fixing them is possible – depending on the problem, it may be a quick fix or it may take time. Ultimately, careful and consistent monitoring of your website coupled with quality content creation will usually prevent any major damage from occurring in the first place.