Posted by Ajay Chandnani
July 19, 2013
There is no mercy. No compromise. Google is constantly tweaking and improving its algorithms so as to provide the users with the best search experience. Only those websites which have unique content, the finest writers and are high in quality in all terms will deserve the required exposure. This is the other side of the coin of Google. Your website will definitely have to pay a price if it doesn’t comply with the requirements of Google. Do you really hate your website to an extent that it could get penalized by Google? You could certainly do some good for your website to prevent it or rescue it from getting penalized.
Firstly, what is Google Penalty?
For more than a decade now, Google has constantly strived to refine the search results quality. It had begun to lift the good stuff in its SERP’s, bringing down all the poof stuff in terms of content. This is where the penalty comes in!
The Penguin update which was released in 2012, had hit more than 1 search result out of every 10. It simply eliminated some sites from its SERP’s entirely, poor quality content was brought way down and it forced the internet marketers around the globe to think before they came out with an SEO strategy. To date, Google has managed to scare off the daylights of many marketers, who are always concerned about the next update and are keeping on track with Google. Who knows when their website may get struck by a penalty?
How to know if your website has been penalized?
All those penalties, which bring down the website’s ranking manually, will be notified to you. However, even the most seasoned SEO experts will be dumb-struck when they come to know that their website has been hit by an algorithm.
Here is how you could know whether or not your site has been hit by an algorithmic penalty:
• Your website is not even ranking for your brand name. That’s a shame! As your brand name is one keyword on which your website should rank.
• If you were ranking on page 1 in the past, your rankings are slipping to page 2 or 3.
• Your PageRank has dropped massively.
• The whole website has been removed from Google’s search results.
• Running a site search for your domain doesn’t return any results.
• The page listed on Google is just an internal page and not the home page.
If anyone or more of these factors stand true for your website, it only means that you need to take quick actions, as the penalty has struck big time!
Why Is My Website Penalized?
Google is continuously on the prowl on the web to revise the way it indexes content.
While it does give us clues about its upcoming algorithm updates, it rarely tells us the reasons for the changes. It will be a daunting task to fix this problem if it attacks your website.
So, what are we waiting for? Let’s have a look at the 30 most probable reasons, as to why your website is being penalized and why Google is picking up an issue. These are not definite reasons, however, you could check them out and add your own suggestions to the list.
1. Excessive reciprocal links. It would be definitely seen as a manipulative tactic if you are overdoing it. It was once an innocent way of link-building, however, the abuse has really thrown it out.
2. Overusing H1 tags. Yes, you read that right. Even excessive use of an H1 tag in the structure of your content could bring it down in rankings as they would be seen as an attempt to manipulate with Google.
3. Internal 404s. Google wants to see that you keep to your promise and that the visitors get the content for which they clicked on the link. If there are 404’s on your website, it purely means that the users aren’t getting the information as desired by them.
4. Links from sites in another language. What would a user from another country do if they don’t understand your content? NO doubt, you have got a legitimate link from a website of another country. But, it would be relevant to the local visitors as they are looking for content in their own language.
5. Footer links. Footer links are used as aids for navigation. But some web designers try to play with the PageRank by inserting unnatural links into the footers.
6. Missing sitemap data. Make sure that your XML sitemap is up-to-date and submitted to the Webmaster Tools account. This is useful as Google uses the XML sitemap to analyze the site structure and how it is built.
7. Hidden links. Don’t resort to building a link on your website of the same colour as the background or the text or button. A hidden link will always seem to be suspicious. All the links on your site should be useful and visible to the visitors.
8. Broken external links. Keep up-to-date with your links as providing a great user experience is what your motive should be. If not, Google will come to know about the same and it will come in terms with your website. Keep checking your links periodically and pull out the broken ones.
9. Hidden content. Disguising the text on the page to manipulate the theme or keywords weightage is completely unethical.
10. Website timing out or down. If a website goes down, it affects the behaviour of the webmaster, the visitor and search engines alike. If Google is unable to find your site, it’s going to re-index your site rather than sending the visitors to a dead-end.
11. Rented links. Some so-called experts believe that rented links are still valid. They pay for links on a monthly basis and keep on changing them. They could still be considered as paid links.
12. Overusing meta keywords. Make sure not to use more than five per page. As manipulating with the meta keyword is quite easy, it may seem as overstuffing to Google resulting in penalization.
13. Slow speeds. There are all chances that the users will get frustrated if the speed of the site is too slow. This is quite a complex problem to sort out as there are many factors affecting the speed of a site. Using a CDN or a caching plugin may help.
14. Comment spam. There are many commenting systems that have an automated spam detection system, still, some comments could breakthrough. Keep a close watch on the comments that you are getting. Don’t let in spam, switch off the system entirely if you don’t have time to look after it.
15. Hacked content. Google will instantaneously remove your website from the SERPs if your website has been hacked. Act fast to recover from the hack attack. Also, keep a backup ready in case of the worst scenario.
16. Speedy link building. Don’t let your links seem artificial as lots of links of a similar type pointing to one single place would seem like automation.
17. Spam reports. Someone might have reported your website as a potential source of spam, either honestly or falsely as Google has an online form to report spam sites.
18. Forum linking. Let’s admit it, we all have used signature links. Sometimes, a lot of them. If you are adding a forum link, make sure that you are using natural linking techniques and also make it a nofollow.
19. Robots.txt flaws. Excessively blocking your website could also cause penalties for your site. Do the robots.txt legitimately only for those pages which shouldn’t be crawled by Google.
20. Links to suspicious sites. Don’t associate yourself with an unethical website or some website that is dubious. Also, remove your links from those websites which have been penalized in the past.
21. Landing pages. Creating multiple landing pages to improve in the SERP’s and also creating lots of one-page websites and then driving the visitors to the main website through the same is not a good practice according to Google.
22. Over-optimization. Try to create natural content before your rank goes down dramatically. Over-optimization only means that you are obsessed with the rankings and that is what Google doesn’t like.
23. Advertorials. It was a much controversial topic before the strike of the Penguin 2 debates. It is basically a content page jumbled up with paid links, for excessive manipulation of search results. Beware of this, as your site will definitely get penalized through this aggressive tactic.
24. Too many outbound links. A high volume of outbound links signifies that you have been swapping links with other sites. Keep it natural and only link to relevant websites.
25. Redirection. If your website has already been penalized, doing a 301 would again transfer the same penalty to a new location where you have shifted your site. It would keep on lingering if you remove the redirect in the future. Avoid doing this and focus on the content.
26. Malicious backlinks. This is what your shrewd competitor would do if they don’t like your position on SERP’s. They could resort to malicious backlinking to sweep your website out of the top page and get it penalized.
27. Targeted keywords. Google is on a rage against some majorly targeted keywords appearing most frequently on spam sites.
28. Bad reputation Domain. You may have unknowingly bought a domain with a very bad history, and that could be the reason for the majority of your problems when you are trying to build a new site. Rather than throwing all your money into this website, you could actually try to get a new domain and cut down on the losses.
29. Content theft. Although you haven’t stolen the content, someone else may have stolen yours. This could cause trouble since getting others to remove the content from their site could involve filing DMCA notices and other formalities. You could go to Google Webmasters tools and request for the content page to be removed.
30. Prominent ads. Advertising is fine but only to a certain extent. Your content page should never be dominated by an advertisement or play as a cover-up for an article or a blog.
In addition to what has been mentioned here, there are a lot of reasons why your website has been or could be penalized. The list is, as far as I believe, very exhaustive. The main thing that an internet marketer needs to understand, is that real success lies in efficient and effective content marketing. After which, all the other major factors come in. Also, always keep in mind that the only way to avoid the penalty is being pre-emptive. Stay updated with all the happenings of the industry and work accordingly. Give true value to your target audience.