Being ranked as high as possible in Google search results is the ultimate goal of every website owner, and sometimes taking a shortcut to get to the top can seem tempting. However, Google has a very strict set of rules and guidelines, and breaking those – even by accident – can be heavily penalized. Worst case scenario, your website will no longer be listed in search results so that it becomes impossible for your target audience to find you.
Reasons for penalties
Google’s algorithms are constantly changing, making it hard for laymen to stay on top and avoid getting in danger. You don’t even have to do anything dodgy to be penalized. Sometimes, it is a well-intended and sincere attempt to improve your ranking and you may not even realize that you have done something wrong.
Unfortunately, Google does not differentiate between accidental and deliberate actions. Once you have been called up, it is extremely difficult to get back into the good books, no matter how well your website is set up. After all, Google prides itself on delivering the most relevant search results for any query and does not accept any kind of manipulation in order for someone trying to get ahead of the competition.
The following points are some examples of what can trigger a Google penalty. The actual list is a lot more extensive. In general, any action that is taken in an attempt to fool the search engine or provide users with a negative experience could lead to punishment.
If your website is infected with a virus, adware or spyware, it ultimately affects the experience users have when visiting. A negative experience falls back onto Google which the search engine wants to avoid at all costs.
Google loves links from other websites as it technically means what you have to say is valid and valuable. However, creating a group of websites that are all interconnected via links simply for the purpose of increasing Google rankings is risky.
Hidden links and text
A common practice to deceive Google is to hide links and text including keywords on your website. They are not visible to the user and solely present to fool the search engine.
Aimed at getting higher rankings in search engine results, cloaking basically means that the user is being presented a different website version than the search engine robots. This is often used by providers delivering pornographic content to unsuspecting users with the search engine result offering an entirely different, harmless description.
Similar to cloaking, this practice fools the search engine by automatically taking visitors to another page which is not being indexed and often covered in spam.
While keywords are an important part of a good SEO strategy, there is much danger in getting it wrong. Keyword stuffing or having irrelevant keywords refers to the practice of overloading your web page with keywords that users may or may not find helpful, but which might increase your ranking when it comes to certain search queries. A common example is stuffing the same keyword in as many sentences as possible, resulting in the text becoming extremely hard to read and understand.
Plagiarizing, or simply copying and pasting content from another website is a fruitless attempt to increase your ranking. Just because it sounds good and works for someone else, does not mean it will give you the same results. On the contrary, Google may punish websites that display identical or duplicate content if it considers the aim of the content “..is to be deceptive and manipulate search engine results”. The best thing you can do for your SEO is provide high quality content with a new and fresh angle, content which is unique for your business and provides your audience with relevant and helpful subject matter.
What happens after a penalty?
Firstly, there are two different kinds of Google penalties. The approach you need to take in order to get you back into listings will highly depend on the reason for being punished and how the penalty was served.
A manual penalty is served directly by a Google employee. Most of the time this will happen if your website has been affected by a virus, if you have been buying links or otherwise breached Google’s Terms of Service. To get rid of a manual penalty you need to appeal to Google and ask to have your website reindexed. Until your appeal has been approved, your website will not be listed in Google search results.
An algorithmic penalty happens automatically. Usually, it is the result of changes in Google’s algorithm with the purpose of ranking websites that have value higher than those with weak content. Affected websites often have little or no relevant content for a user’s search query, plagiarized from other websites, are slow to load or overloaded with keywords.
If you have been penalized due to algorithm changes, your website might still be listed, but definitely won’t show up anywhere near the top or on the first few pages. Getting an automatic penalty removed requires a lot more action and in-depth research into why exactly Google has punished you.
Signs you have been penalized
Sometimes you may receive a warning message in the Google webmaster tools, other times it might require a complete website audit to find out if you have been punished. Signs can be a sudden drop in traffic or the complete lack of website visitors and ultimately, the lack of sales and revenue.
Customers may also be enquiring why they can’t find your website anymore when they are searching for your business, products or services. If you suspect that you have been penalized, you need to act fast if you want to get back in the good books with Google.
Have you received a penalty from Google and would like to find out how to get listed again? Or would you like someone to take a good look at your SEO strategies to ensure you are on the safe side? For more information on how to create a website that attracts users and potential customers without sending you to the sin bin, talk to the friendly team at Energise Web today.