Google processes over 8.5 billion searches per day. As a result, businesses all over the world rely on traffic from Google users. Unfortunately, websites that don’t follow Google’s guidelines could end up with a penalty. These penalties can have long-term consequences for a website, so it’s important to learn how to stay in Google’s good graces.
Read on to find out how to avoid the infamous Google penalty and keep your online traffic flowing freely.
Let’s start with some basics:
What is a Google Penalty?
Think of a Google penalty as a traffic ticket for breaking a particular traffic law.
Like those traffic tickets, a Google penalty punishes a website that doesn’t follow Google’s Guidelines and any other practices that Google enforces.
Although many websites have been punished by big algorithm updates, most websites are also penalized by small manual actions that Google takes.
In fact, a Kissmetrics study suggests that only 5% of penalized websites submit a reconsideration request every month to recover their rankings.
Furthermore, when Google updates its ranking algorithm, many websites can be penalized as a result.
With that said, here are a few steps you can take to avoid a Google penalty:
- Remove any backlinks you have that are in violation of Google’s guidelines.
- Remove any duplicate content that is of low quality.
- Remove backlinks from websites that are irrelevant to your topic niche.
- Remove unwanted or spammy comments or forum profiles.
- Consider updating old, outdated posts and replacing them with fresh content.
Additionally, here are a few other shady actions that are in violation of Google’s guidelines:
- Sneaky redirects
- Doorway pages
- Link schemes
What are Some Consequences of a Google Penalty?
Have your rankings on Google suddenly dropped like a stone? Did your website traffic dry up and blow away? If either or both of those situations occurred, there’s a good chance that Google has penalized you.
When they do, the ranking for your most important targeted keywords can drop dramatically.
Even worse, Google will no longer list your website at all in their search results, which can be disastrous.
When Google’s algorithm updates rolled out called Panda and Penguin, Google de-ranked many websites in search results that did not meet their standards in Google’s webmaster guidelines.
Google also has a huge team manually reviewing websites and searching for web pages that use “black hat” SEO tactics that are against their rules and regulations.
Black Hat SEO includes:
- Inadvertently improper website maintenance
- Keyword stuffing or hiding
- Using private link networks
- Blog comment spam
Furthermore, here are some different types of Google penalties:
- Excessive reciprocal linking
- Manual spam links
- Low-quality link
- Unnatural outbound link penalty
- Unnatural links to or from your website
Some of the most basic consequences of a Google penalty include a drop in SEO ranking and an inability to use organic search to reach out to potential customers and clients.
A Google penalty means that not only will your website or important pages drop in rank, but if you are removed from Google’s listings altogether, you may lose your target audience because they can no longer find you in results.
For some companies that rely on their website to bring in business, a Google penalty can cause a severe dent in their financial stream and a concurrent drop in profitability.
With that said, let’s move on to how to avoid Google penalties:
How to Avoid Google Penalties
One great point to make here is that if you optimize your high-quality content, then you aren’t very likely to receive one of Google’s penalties. However, if your pages are lacking with thin content, then your audience will have a bad user experience which tells Google your website isn’t worth ranking.
Recovering from Google penalties isn’t impossible, however, if you think you’ve received a penalty by mistake, you can contact Google by using Google Search Console. You can also use Disavow which is a tool to help you find what’s causing you to lose rank.
Additionally, below are several mistakes you should avoid when marketing via Google so the chance they penalize you remain low and your traffic remains at full flow.
1. Don’t Stuff Keywords
One of the worst mistakes you can make on Google is keyword stuffing. To avoid a penalty for keyword stuffing, use natural language that mimics how humans converse in the real world.
Keep your keywords at about 3% of your total word count, as the risk of a penalty increases significantly over that amount.
Furthermore, here are some ways to avoid keyword stuffing:
- Conduct quality keyword research
- Extend your word count
- Measure your keyword density
- Give each page a separate primary keyword
- Use secondary keywords
- Manage your on-page SEO with tools like SEO Minion
2. Use Well-Written, In-Depth Content
Driving traffic to your website means publishing new content online regularly. That content should be indexed, well-written and useful, at the very least, to avoid a penalty for having shallow content depth.
A good suggestion is to have a dedicated content staff publishing a blog related to your industry with in-depth, well-written, valuable content.
Some types of content are as follows:
- Stay relevant to your topic
- Answer the “people also ask” section of Google
- Share your content on social media to boost brand awareness
- Begin your intro with a statistic
- Understand your target audience
- Use short paragraphs
- Use simple and easy-to-understand words
3. Never Buy Black-Hat BackLinks
One of the easiest ways to get a penalty from Google is to purchase links. Yes, it’s very tempting, especially if you don’t have a lot of links yet, but Google has a way of catching companies that do.
Rather than buy low-quality links, make it so that others want to link to your content.
For example, become a source for bloggers, and use branded strategies and content formats that have already been proven to generate links.
Before moving forward, let’s go over why it’s okay to buy some backlinks but not others.
Backlinks are a valuable commodity because the weight of backlinks pointing to a website is a major ranking factor.
In simple terms, you can buy white-hat backlinks for your website, which are natural, high-quality links that come from solid sources and help you generate more traffic to your website.
With that said, low-quality backlinks from shady websites are not okay.
4. Don’t Reuse Content
Google hates it when you use duplicate content or infringe on another’s copyright. They don’t even like it when you use your content in multiple places, like when you copy and paste content from your website and use it in a guest blog post.
The easiest way to avoid this penalty is always to use 100% unique content you or your team have created and use it in one location only. And, of course, never plagiarize content from another company’s website.
Here are some tips to avoid this:
- Don’t create duplicate content such as duplicate URLs, slugs, etc.
- Redirect duplicate content to a canonical URL
- Add an HTML link from a duplicate page to the canonical page
5. Don’t Write URLs Solely to Attract Traffic
Writing URLs to rank higher on Google or attract traffic only is a mistake many companies make. Instead, you should write clear and concise URLs that explain to the searcher exactly what they will be getting when they click the link.
An example of this would be titles that are similar to click-baiting. These links or titles don’t explain what the content is about, they are mainly there to get you to click on them.
These shady methods are just a part of black-hat SEO tactics and should be avoided.
6. Never Hide Content
One of the oldest spam techniques in the book is to hide text so that only Google can see it. This hidden text often uses repeated keywords to manipulate Google and increase ranking.
Hidden content can also improve a website’s click-through rate and send a user to a page where they can make a purchase, a 20th-century improvement on the “bait-and-switch” tactics used by car salespeople.
Rather than hiding text, use a “read more” link that, when clicked, will make the content visible to the user.
Furthermore, if you want to hide content from Google, you can use “no-follow” links so that Google won’t index your information. Doing this will tell crawlers not to show your page in search results (SERP).
7. Don’t Make Your Website Top-Heavy
Have you ever visited a website and been completely overwhelmed by the ads on the page, to the point where you couldn’t get any valuable information?
That type of web page is called a “top-heavy” page and is something that Google is adamantly against.
To avoid being penalized, your website should have ads spread out between unique, well-written content. That way, users will see the content they want and be exposed to the ads but won’t be interrupted by them.
Additionally, a big amount of unoptimized images is usually one of the main reasons your website might become slow or heavy. Hi-res images can consume a ton of bandwidth while loading.
A HubSpot study suggests that website conversion rates drop by an average of 4.42% with each additional second of load time.
That’s why keeping your web pages running smoothly is important. You can use tools such as PageSpeed Insights to help you figure out if your website is fast.
Google search console also has the option to check for mobile usability. Make sure to check your metrics to make sure your website won’t be hit with any penalties.
8. Write People-First Content
It is common to experience frustration when landing on a website that isn’t exactly what you’ve searched for. Displaying this type of content can result in feeling like you’ve been penalized.
Bots may fail to index your website, or you may lose domain authority altogether.
Additionally, Google’s Helpful Content update is a new signal that is being implemented into Google’s algorithm that evaluates content.
Crawlers search websites and decide if it was made for people to be helpful or otherwise useful information or if it was created just for Google’s crawlers.
Webmasters have not experienced massive hits as was reported from the Penguin algorithm update. However, experts are expecting new-future core rollouts to change the way some content is ranked.
Common Questions and Answers about Google Penalties
It’s one thing to say “do this” or “don’t do that,” but we at The HOTH feel our readers can benefit from knowing a lot about what happens when Google penalizes your content and what it can mean for your long-term sustainability.
Below are several questions we hear and see all the time about Google penalties and our strategies for avoiding them
What is Google’s algorithm, and why does it penalize websites?
At its core, the Google algorithm is a complex system that Google uses to retrieve data from a search index.
Once retrieved, it will instantly deliver that data to a searcher who has made a query, giving them the best results it believes for that particular query.
The Google algorithm uses a wide range of ranking factors so that the relevance of all websites is ranked well, and the results a Searcher gets in the search engine answer their query as best as possible.
What are the types of Google penalties?
There are two types of Google penalties; manual actions and algorithmic changes. Both will cause your rankings to tank and, in most cases, your website to disappear from Google listings.
As the name suggests, manual penalties are done manually by the team at Google. When that happens, they will issue you a message telling you why you were manually penalized. Hence, it’s imperative you log into your Google webmaster tools and check to see if you have notifications from Google.
Algorithmic penalties typically relate to Panda and Penguin and the fact that your SEO went against their specific rules or regulations. If it’s a panda penalty, Google is likely looking at the quality of your website’s content and has deemed it to be poor.
A Penguin penalty looks more at the backlink profile of your website and any poor choices you might have made in their respect.
How do I fix my Google penalty?
Fixing any Google penalties depends on the penalty itself and what caused it. For a manual penalty from Google, you need first to fix the issue they stated as the cause of the penalty and then ask them to 3 index your website.
Algorithm penalties take a little longer because you can’t go directly to Google and ask them what went wrong. You usually have to diagnose the problem yourself, including duplicate content, problems with your backlinks, site security, etc.
Once you do and you fix the problem, you simply need to wait for Google to re-index your website and for your rankings to start improving.
How long does a Google penalty last?
It’s difficult to say how long an algorithmic penalty from Google can last because there’s no way to have Google intervene manually on the problem.
For a manual penalty, however, it will usually last for about 30 days if the transgression is slight, including some ranking manipulation or backlink purchase.
Your search rankings and organic traffic will be affected during that time. You may even notice a large loss of engagement measurements on your Google Analytics.
Additionally, ensure your backlinks are not from spammy or untrustworthy sites when link building.
With a more serious offense, however, it may take longer to expire. There have been cases where website owners have reported a Google penalty to have lasted for up to two years.
Let’s Wrap it Up!
Avoiding Google penalties while performing your SEO duties for your website isn’t terribly difficult.
Most webmasters realize when they are going against Google’s rules and, even if they don’t, can look at historical data to find out what Google has penalized in the past.
You can schedule a 30-minute consultation with The HOTH’s SEO experts and get the best SEO advice, so you never have to worry about Google bringing the hammer down on your website!
Additionally, sign up for free now to take full advantage of our free SEO tools and resources!
Good Read! Thanks guys
Great article. I read a lot of material from so-called “SEO Experts” and you really made me feel good about your company with this single article. I mix with some pretty awesome SEOs and we all agree on the exact 3 topics you’ve dropped to the masses right here. You’re right on the money and this article proves to me that you guys are Pros. Keep up the great work!
In short, add value to the search query and you will be fine. For example, I have PBN’s that are ranking quite regularly on page 1. Why? Because they have great content, don’t look half bad, and people can get their query answered. The fact that they power up money sites make them a win-win for me and the visitor.
Love this post and good to know about the pbn. The problem is how can I tell if a link is from PBN? By the way I enjoy the newsletter and always click the link to read more. Hoth rocks!
Great to know the Hoth is here to keep us up-to-date with all things SEO .. thanks guys
Makes a lot of sense. Is it also important to make sure you are building something of value to your customers to stay safe long term?
I am not a techno. I have worked on a website creating content without knowing anything about this important stuff or how to do it. I am beginning to understand the importance of keywords and the need for links because the language of Hoth is understandable – not technical terms that mean something simple. More power to your arm Hoth. Thanks
Personly I love this post and other post int this blog, so much articles that open my mind what’s really to do in SEO specially for 2017.
I can implement this strategy for my own blog and my clients.
Thank for all of your posts.
I’m new to blogging and this might be a stupid question, but what is “PBN?”
It stands for Private Blog Network, a network of blogs owned by someone.
Hi. Great post and great web site. Can I ask. Would a multi page directory be considered as a PBN.
Thanks and looking forward to your next email.
Thanks for putting the info out there. I feel like the top organic ecommerce rankers are the top advertisers in google. Could this be true? And if my ad budget is not in the millions will I never rank for ecommerce products? I currently bottom feed on ad strategies. Would love to hear more on this as it relates to product SEO. How do you get products to rank?
Running Adwords doesn’t influence Google organic rankings.
Its a competitive age of blogging and in which you are just superb. Keep going. Also we are the Men’s Clothing Manufacturer. Our Online Store name is Zobello. Please visit once. Thanks…
We still use some guest blogging. I realize that some guest posting sites are not good, but does anyone have thought on guest posting in general? Good or Bad?
We use guest posting all the time and it works great.
My blog is 8 months old with over 90 unique, quality articles of 1500+ words each. For the last 3 months, I’ve had 0 growth and been stuck at 4k unique visitors per month. What the heck is going on?
Hi Dave, there are a handful of different variables that could be causing the stagnant growth. Best thing to do is to schedule a meeting with one of our SEO account managers and they might be able to point you in the right direction.
Well said Hoth, Thanks for the tips.. How can i start using your services?
Glad your excited for our services! Simply sign up for a HOTH account. Once your in your member portal you’ll be able to purchase any product you’d like.
What percentage of exact anchors do you guys use? Or do you leave that up to your client to decide?
If we get the opportunity we do mostly benign or branded to keep the diversity high. The best thing to do is look at what the anchor text ratios of your top competitors look like per that keyword and model it.
Thank you for the clean, concise list. TL;DR for longterm success – Create natural, user-friendly content and promote it in a natural way 🙂
Great post guys!
I am a small business owner and have become disillusioned with SEO companies that claim to get you results and never deliver. I have tried 6 companies and have been happy to take my hard earned money but none have delivered results.So i gave up and giving it a crack myself even though its all still way over my head. I find your articles insightful and helpful..thanks!
Thanks for the on site & off site 3 SEO tips , really helpful for my website .
Now I got real things about SEO. Thank You guys you provide latest SEO strategies. All other site write that repeat your main keywords over and over for ranking and Hoth write that avoid this. I think Hoth is right. Thanks again.
Absolutely. Keyword stuffing may have worked in the past but today it’s a way to get penalized. Too many people still do it though.
I agree that this is definitely the best time to be in SEO as Google has weeded out the companies that don’t really know what they’re doing just buying Fiverr gigs and getting sites deindexed with foreign spammy links that have nothing to do with the intended site. See what the big boys are doing and model it, good advice…good article.
Fantastic, thanks a lot for your comment Levi!
Waooo… It was a great article. Yes, I know previously one used to stuff keywords in meta details as well as in content. But now this practice doesn’t work.
It was done by most people once upon a time…but now we all have way better content to read 😉
I get so much spam from vendors and other companies in the business. The HOTH emails are the only ones I actually read, and I don’t even mind multiple emails from you guys on the daily. Thanks for good info on a consistent basis.
That’s so awesome to hear Heath, thanks a ton for reading our posts and giving us your feedback! We love knowing that the info that we put out is helping.
Nicely summarized, guys! Well Done!
Yeah, that was a great concise and to the point article, thanks loved it!
Good article. One question though – in a “Non-Seo” world, or according to how Google would say things should be – all of your links would be coming from other websites – NOT link building. If that were the case, you would have no control over the anchor text of those links – you would be at the mercy of every person who linked to your site – and what anchor text they used.
Why does anchor text matter so much if theoretically you would have no control over what anchor text was in those links? Thanks for any insight!
Great question. The anchor text guidelines that exist are based in 1. What actually works for ranking and 2. What is seen as a “natural” anchor text profile by Google.
So what can we do? We can ask, “How do people naturally select anchor text?” The answer is: a wide variety of text will be used, but a portion of anchors will likely contain one or more of the words in the target keyword.
So, we advise that anchor text from authority sites to yours contain the target keyword, while anchor text from lower authority sites contain a variety of less optimized text. That way, you avoid being over-optimized, and you indicate to Google that the authority sites are linking to you because your site’s topic matches the target keyword in the anchor text.
Hope that answers your question! Cheers.
I’m glad you guys stay on top of things and actually test things out. I try to stay current on Google updates, but it can be hard to keep up sometimes.
Hey Steve, thanks for the kind words. We are always here to help!
Just follow their rules and do the best you can for your audience. In long run you never get headache or penalize by Google. For short plan, get traffic from social networks which work best for your niche like Facebook, Instagram, Quora, Reddit, Youtube.
Great article Steve, thanks for the concise insight. Question, do you use the disavow tool at all anymore?
Thank you for the concise insight Clayton… Question, do you use the disavow tool at all anymore?
Thanks for sharing what actually IS STILL POSSIBLE.
While many german online marketers are declaring SEO as dead and constantly pronouncing what is NOT working, i am honestly smiling at what every USA based SEO like you guys have to say. This luckily is the truth. Thanks for your spirit and sharing how to crush the game nowadays and in the future. Cheers from Munich, Timo
I completly agree with Timo above. Iam from Germany aswell and its nice to read what still works and how you can crush every competitor, especially in Germany. Doing SEO myself for local companies i always find great success in ranking their websites by following some of the strategies you mentioned above.
Thanks for that great article! I am doing seo for many customers so i also check to stay safe and looking in the future and the next possible google updates. I have some projects in which i got negative spam links from outside. So anyone built spam links on some customers site and the rankings dropped down. What can i do against it if i got bad links from someone else?
Thank you very much!
It was good that the update punished the blog networks. The update has forced a big change for many SEOs. But I think white-hat-seo is the better and longer-term method.
Thanks for that great insides! I am doing seo for many customers so i also check to stay safe and looking in the future and the next possible google updates. I have some projects in which i got negative spam links from outside. So anyone built spam links on some customers site and the rankings dropped down. What can i do against it if i got bad links from someone else?
White-hat SEO is simply the more sustainable SEO. With some black-hat tactics, you may be able to boost your ranking quickly, but the chance of being penalised is definitely much higher. That’s why it’s also good that the blog networks were punished. Thanks for the good contribution.
I regularly work a lot with SEO and for this reason I read this interesting technical article. I read this article with enthusiasm. Thanks to https://www.thehoth.com/. Keep up the good work.
Espespecially over-optimization Turns Out to be a Problem as what worked Last year now seems to hurt. Like Keywords in headings and Alt-tags. Has someone Else also Problems after inserting too much Images with Keywords alt Tags?
As a SEO Freelancer I’ve worked an mire than 200 projects. And luckily non of them got penalized. I hope it will stay that way… Anyway. Superb article 🙂 Have a nice weekend.
Thank you for sharing this information with us…keep write more
Thank you for your great article on the topic seo. I was able to take a lot of tricks with me, which I will implement directly. Thanks for your good work, keep it up.
Thanks for the article.