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- Consider updating old, outdated posts and replacing them with fresh content.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!