How to Protect Your Website from Google Penalties
Google is the largest and most popular search engine that daily entertains billions of queries. The gigantic increase in the internet users over the last few years has convinced Google to introduce smart algorithms to ensure better user experience. Every new algorithm and update is a move towards high-quality, authentic, and user-friendly content. Now, you can’t survive with poor quality content and unethical ways of ranking. Google will throw your website at the end of the search result or absolutely remove it from the search engine. It’s become necessary to follow the Google standards or get ready for facing Google penalties.
What is a Google Penalty?
Google penalty is a manual or automatic action of Google spam team against a website. The severity of the penalty varies and depends on the severity violation. Google has been showing a stern behavior for ranking since December 2000 and many changes in algorithms observed during this time period. The release of toolbar extension came up with massive shakeups in the results and first time the publishers gave serious attention towards PageRank. Since then, smarter and automatic updates are being introduced to refine search results elevate the ranking of quality content. Penguin and Panda updates wiped out millions of low quality contents and in 2014 Google spam team took action against 400,000 websites.
Reasons to Consider Google Penalties
If you think your website is fine and you haven’t violated any rules then it doesn’t mean you’re saying right and Google will not penalize your website just because you’re saying so. You can be the next target of the Google team or algorithm and should take some steps to be at the safe side. Following are the reasons to consider Google penalties seriously:
- Google penalty badly affects organic traffic as ebay lost its 80% organic after Panda 4.0
- Recovering from Google penalty isn’t a child play. It takes months and sometimes years
- Unintentionally you add negative SEO and get penalty without knowing its cause
- Your brand image affects and your potential customers face difficulties in finding your website
- Algorithm penalties are more fatal and for traffic and wipe out 90% at once
- 10% to 20% penalties are capable of destroying your entire online presence
Types of Google Penalties
Google doesn’t take into account all violations at the same level. Manual and algorithmic are the two main types of penalties and Google doesn’t discriminates between small and large companies when it comes to the violation of Google standards. Ebay and Thumbtack are the examples of penalization the two big names despite of the fact that the latter one invested $100 million into Google. Thumbtack took a week to recover Google penalty. The recovery time demonstrates the severity of problem and warns the owners of small websites to don’t neglect Google standards in any way. For the reader’s comprehension, we are going to discuss the major types of Google penalties.
Panda algorithm is the predator of poor quality content. It wipes out the low quality and poorly written content from the websites and known as the first algorithm that actually penalized the websites. The algorithm runs 2-3 times in a year and you have to wait for the next run of algorithm once you get panda penalty. In other words, panda penalty takes months to be lifted and you have to wait for the next iteration. Google provided a list of 20 questions to judge the writers either their content adheres the Google standards or not.
Make sure that your website fulfills the below-mentioned standards:
- Unique content and free from grammar errors
- Unplagiarized and informative content
- High readability and proper use of keywords
- The content should have some value and shouldn’t be too short
Penguin released in 2012 and it flagged thousands of websites. It detects the unnatural and unethical backlinks that SEO experts add to rank their websites higher. Penguin algorithm runs certain times of the year and with the pre-announcement of Google. It can hit certain pages or entire website. You can loss 80% traffic instantly if Google decimates your traffic drawing pages.
Keep the following factors in your mind while making backlinks:
- A website that gets all links naturally has both high and low quality links
- Ethical and natural links take time and you don’t get them within a few days
- You observe a link diversity in genuine websites as they get links from forums, comments, and other websites
Mobilegeddon update is an initiative to improve the experience of mobile users and the update affected the ranking of the mobile offender websites. The update individually inspects the every page and element of the website. The website should be responsive, consumes less time in loading, and data appears properly. Google mobile friendly test tool is also available to check the friendliness of the website.
Google Webmasters Tool and mobile SEO guide are also useful for the SEO experts.
- Make responsive design and set font and text according to the mobile screen
- Avoid softwares that most mobile devices don’t support
- Images and text shouldn’t be deformed
- Good readability
Unnatural links penalty comes under manual type of penalty and you can identify it as well. This penalty implies by the Google employees when they find unnatural links on your website. Google consider backlinks in ranking and many SEO experts get benefit of it and buy fake links from spam websites. After fixing the manual penalty you can request the Google team to check your website and they will lift the penalty after their satisfaction. So, you can say manual penalty is less fatal than algorithmic penalty. These are the three common actions taken by Google against unnatural links:
- Unnatural links to your site in which you don’t have any part will result in a slight decrease in traffic
- Your site will be immediately penalized once google finds any unnatural links being redirected to your site.
- If google finds out any outgoing links from your website being unnatural, that specific part of your site will be penalized
Spam is another type of manual penalties and includes malicious cloaking, scraping content, and automatic generating content. The website owner receives message from Google when they penalize the website and he/she has to clean up on-site spam or remove the spammy links to recover the penalty. There are three common messages you receive in the result of spam penalty:
- Pure Spam
- User generated spam
- Spammy freehosts
The term thin content refers to low quality or plagiarized content. Panda and manual both actions are taken by the Google against the thin content. In manual action, Google penalizes the shallow content that gives the obvious meaning or aims to rank a specific keyword. Follow this criterion to avoid penalty:
- Say no to low quality guest blogs
- Avoid copied or plagiarized content
- Thin affiliated pages
How to Recognize a Google Penalty?
You get to know about manual penalties by the message from Google team and they are easy to recognize and fix. However, the detection of algorithmic penalties is quite difficult and sometimes even the most professional SEO experts fail to find the actual cause of penalty. Here are some clues to recognize the penalty:
You can’t see your website in the SERP’s even you use targeted keywords, i.e. brand name. Abrupt bad ranking indicates Google penalty.
Sudden Position Change
A sudden change occur in your position and Google drop it down from page one to page 3 or 4. The change happens even when you don’t take any changes in your SEO strategy.
Removal of Website
In the severe penalties, entire website is removed by the Google and you are unable to find it anywhere as Google removes it from Google’s cached search results. Similarly, yourdomain.com keyword brings no result and shows an error.
Ways to Avoid Google Penalties
Fixing Google penalties isn’t easy as recovery takes months or sometimes years. Avoiding Google penalties is the best way to remain safe and sustain your ranking. I’m going to mention some trustworthy and result promising tips for protecting your ranking in Google.
Keep track of your Backlinks
Backlinks strategy has a major part on ranking and genuine backlinks boost your position and rank you higher. However, it’s a reality that natural and genuine links come from the same niche. If you’re writing about SEO and you’re getting backlinks from a cosmetic website then it indicates that something is wrong. Google penalizes you for such links as they consider them purchased links or the result of link exchange.
Check your all backlinks and inspect their sources. Monitor Backlinks can help you in keeping a track of your backlinks and let you know when you earn new links or get unfollowed by the previous links. Always follow organic ways to get links as quality and informative content always like by others and people love to share it. Stay away from spammy links and read Google’s Webmaster guideline to stay at the safe side.
Fight Negative SEO
Your competitors can hurt your ranking by using negative SEO. Negative SEO includes linking your website with spammy sites, removal the best links of your website, copying your content and publishing it somewhere else, and hacking your website. Disavow spammy links immediately and set email alerts to get report when your website loss or gain links. Use Google Disavow Tool to create disavow list and submit it to Google Webmaster Tool.
Avoid Targeting Anchor Text
Avoid targeting a specific anchor text as black SEO affects a specific keywords that results in Google penalty. It’s always a good idea to set your brand name as anchor text. The strategy will increase your ranking and keep you secure from penalties as well. Read the effective use of anchor text.
Check Duplicate Content
Content duplication is another strategy adopted by the competitors. They copy your website’s content and publish it in different sites. Google takes a strict action against plagiarism and decreases the website’s ranking. You can use Copyscape.com to check the presence of your content on the other sites and get the links of the published sites where your content has used.
Secure Your Website from Hacking
Hacking or the presence of malicious entity affect the authenticity of your website and make it less trustworthy. Google completely wipes out your website when it detects any malicious code. The hackers add a lot of spammy links with your website and reduce its credibility. An online university named Christian Leadership University faced a dramatic change in the ranking after getting penalized even after removing the malicious code.
- Install Google Authentication Plugin if you’re using WordPress as it will get your permission via your smartphone before login
- Create strong password that is a combination of numbers, characters, and special characters
- Don’t forget to create backups your files
- Install antivirus to prevent malicious entities
Watch Your Website Speed
Spammers can put down your server and affect its speed. Don’t ignore this abrupt change and contact to your hosting company to avoid Google penalty. Use Pingdom.com to monitor the speed of the website and loading time or set email alerts to get notification of any sudden change in the speed.
Over-optimization means you are using the keywords too many times in the content. Check your on-page SEO and remove the repeated keywords from the content.
How to Deal with Penalty
Recognition of penalty is the most important factor. You can request for review in the case of manual penalty and wait for the Google reply. Disavow the spam links and remove the unnatural backlinks. Don’t get panic and patiently analyze your website to find out the cause of the penalty. Follow the above-mentioned precautions and avoid making enemies online. Don’t argue with clients and commenter as they can bring a big problem for you as for the sake of fun or revenge. Algorithmic penalties take time and you have to wait for the next update or new iteration of the algorithm to lift the penalty.
Must Read: How To Find Competitors Backlinks
Images Via: Kissmetrics.com
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