- Fixing a Google Penalty
If you own or manage a website, then you know that your site’s rank on search engine results pages (SERPs) is critical to your success. What you may not know is the damage a Google penalty can wreck on your site. Not familiar with Google penalty? You may have already been the victim of a penalty and not even know it.
Was your website previously on the first or second pages during a search of keywords associated with your site and now it doesn’t appear at all? Do you have obviously less traffic to your site? Answering yes to these questions probably means your revenue has taken a substantial hit.
Before you panic, check a few things to make sure this is not the result of a natural cause such as an increase in competition with regards to your keywords. Updates to the search engine algorithm can also impact your ranking. If there has been a recent update, such as Google Panda, you want to give it a bit of time to see if your site’s rank is reestablished.
Once you have ruled out all other possibilities, you can assume you have been slapped with a Google penalty. Your entire website will be penalized even if only one page has problems. By taking the following steps you can fix your site to address the penalty. And if you do not have a penalty, you can take the same measures to make sure your site is protected from a future Google penalty.
1. Review Google Guidelines
Go back to the beginning – Google’s guidelines. Make sure you have a thorough understanding of what is and is not permitted by Google if you want your site to be indexed. If there is something you are unsure about, you can contact Google or research the issue online. Forums are an excellent source of information for technical issues related to Google and its ranking process. If you have a penalty, try to figure out why without contacting Google directly.
2. Check Your Content
Make sure all of your content is original and unique. This means there is nothing copied from another site and there are no duplications throughout your own. You may wonder why you need to do this if your site has been up awhile. If you had your content written by someone else before sites like Copyscape were available, you may not even be aware that you have posted “stolen” or plagiarized content on your site. This is an ongoing problem with websites.
3. Clean Up Your Back Links
Any back links that are not related to your site can be interpreted by Google to be spam. And one of the biggest offenders that Google looks for when indexing is spam-like activity. Google can mistake your back links and other content as spam. But even if the error is theirs, it is not a quick fix. It is better to prevent a possible misinterpretation in the first place. Well-established web sites can be hit the hardest in this regard because owners may not actively monitor back links. You can easily check to see of all links work and are relevant to your site content.
4. Remove Hidden Text and Links
Another major offender that Google seeks to penalize is hidden text on your site that is used for the sole purpose of tricking search engines into ranking your site higher. This is content that cannot be seen by visitors so it is determined to be deceptive to Google indexing robots. One way this is accomplished is by using the same color text as the background color. Font sizes that may not be easily seen by visitors are still read by the robots. And if any of this text has links, you will trigger a penalty even faster.
5. Eliminate Duplicate Sites
It is no longer viable to use additional sites with the same content to market your primary site. This will only result in penalties for all of your sites. You may also want to be careful with site re-directs. It is okay to have the same domain names with different extensions directed to the same site. But you want to be careful using substantially different domain names and redirecting them to a primary domain. These sub-domains can trigger a Google penalty on your main site.
6. Reconsider Affiliate Programs
We all know that affiliate programs are great sources of passive income that can supplement your main revenue stream. But if your site is comprised primarily of affiliate site links, be prepared for a penalty. Remember that Google is ranking sites based on quality and relevant content that is available to visitors. This means that the affiliate programs on your site should be related to your purpose or business mission. If you have affiliates on your site that are not performing, it is best to simply remove them. Add relevant content in the space to improve the overall quality of your site.
7. Watch Keyword Usage
You do need to be aware of the keywords that will optimize your site. However, using the same keywords over and over does not improve your ranking. In fact, it could very well cause Google to penalize you for spamming. Keyword density is important for all of your site’s content, including attachments. If you go overboard with keywords, not only will your content become irrelevant to users, it increases your chances of a penalty. If you are not sure on the proper density of keywords, you can checkout best practices online.
8. Authenticate Blog Postings
If you have a blog that allows visitors postings, it is important to monitor these to remove spam and other irrelevant content. Although it may be challenging, you also want to make sure the postings are authentic rather than cut and paste submissions. As long as you have your blog use rules posted, you can clean up postings so they do not inadvertently trigger a penalty. Blog administrators and monitors need to stay on top of their blogs and know what content is being posted so they can immediately address inappropriate content.
9. Scan for Malware
This may not seem obvious when talking about websites. But it is possible that a virus or malware has become embedded in or attached to your site. It could be part of a downloadable attachment that is available to visitors. Or it could be hacked into your site. It is unlikely you will be aware of malware on your website unless you specifically look for or is designed to disrupt your site. Whatever the source of the malware, it will cause your site to be tagged by Google, penalized and removed from the rankings.
10. Monitor Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is the basic process used to get your web site included in SERPs. Unless you are an expert yourself, you probably have relied on SEO firms to help improve your site’s ranking in Google. But do you really know what they did to move you up the ranks? Are you 100% confident that your site’s SEO process complies with Google’s guidelines? You need to have a full understanding on SEO is being apply to your site. If you are unsure how to do this, you might want to check with a second consultant who can analyze your site.
11. Verify Consultant Credentials
As with any type of “outsourcing”, it is all about verification. You want a firm that is experienced with website design, content management, and is up-to-date on SEO guidelines, including ways to avoid a penalty from Google. Get references and check them. You may even be able to do a Google search to find out if there have been complaints about a particular SEO firm. Be sure they are willing to be transparent in their practices and provide a detailed summary of what they do that affects your site. The point is to do as much homework as possible on the front end so you do not waste time and money in the long run.
12. Resubmit Site to Google
You do not need to resubmit your site if you have not received a penalty and having simply fixed your site to prevent one. But if you have a penalty, you will need to resubmit your site to Google after fixing it. Understand that Google will require you to acknowledge and accept responsibility for the penalty even if you did nothing wrong. It can take time to get your site back up in ranking so the faster you address issues, the sooner you can get back to business.
The primary reason Google penalizes poorly run sites is to reward those sites that follow the rules. As long as you focus on your customer and implement a clean and ethical SEO process, your site should not attract a Google penalty. Sites that violate Google guidelines will eventually get caught. You can prevent that from happening to your site by being proactive and beginning your website review today!