How to Tell If Your Site is Suffering From Google Penalties
With changes to Panda, Penguin and other Google algorithms hitting the web on a consistent basis, we all worry that our websites will be next on the chopping block when it comes to any changes. It is common – in the wake of a change to algorithms and a subsequent penalty applied – for traffic to decrease or for our rankings in SERPs to dramatically drop. These are not things we want to see happen, and as such, we are willing to do whatever is necessary to reverse the trend. Before you go and blame Google for applying a penalty, however, you’ll first want to diagnose where the problem lies and if it is in fact a penalty. Below, we’ll run through the steps of what you should ask and look for to determine if Google really has hit you, or if there is something else happening.
Analyze Recent Changes
Before you start blaming Google for a sudden shift in the way your site is pinging URLs to Google or how Google is ranking you, ask yourself: have any recent changes to the site been made? A site’s rankings can be completely altered whenever your site is revised or redesigned, so it’s important to consider this element before jumping to conclusions. If you have changed the design of your website or altered a lot of content recently, then your website may be reflecting temporary symptoms of these changes. So long as the changes made were not inherently negative, though, your website’s standing with Google should ultimately rebound.
Learn About Seasonal Shifts
In some cases, our websites may be affected by seasonal shifts in consumer preference or various industry trends that can alter how our websites rank and are viewed by searchers. If your brand does a better job selling products during one particular season, ask first if the recent changes may have something to do with this. Likewise, your niche or industry may be undergoing a massive shift in how shoppers or consumers interact with it: is there anything going on in your industry that might be causing your website to slip or your traffic to decline? If this isn’t the case, then continue eliminating potential causes.
Inspect Your Competitors
What is going on with your competitors? Are they seeing similar shifts in SERPs, or observable drops in traffic? If so, then it is likely that there is something more to the problem than mere algorithm changes and penalties. There are plenty of SEO tools out there that can be used to gauge how your competitors have been and are performing, so be sure to utilize them in order to get the bottom of this. If many of your competitors are doing just as well as they were before you noticed these changes, then you very well may be facing a penalty from Google. Otherwise, there is one more item you’ll want to consider.
Evaluate Index Issues
If you suddenly are having difficulty pinging URLs and ranking well with Google, then there may be some indexing issues to consider. Particularly true if you have recently redesigned your website or altered the link structure, Google may be having trouble when it comes to finding your website easily. The best way to see if this is the issue is to check Webmaster Tools within Google; by going to the Google Index section, you’ll see the number of properly-indexed pages on your site. If there has been a drop, then you’ll know something is up.
If after reviewing all of the potential problems above you find everything is in order, then it is likely that you have been penalized by Google. From here, you’ll need to re-evaluate all of your SEO tactics and carefully investigate to see which ones are causing your current dilemma.