Achieving a good ranking in search is the number one priority for online businesses, and in order to do so, website owners are required to meet a number of criteria set out by Google.
These criteria have come about as a result of Google implementing numerous algorithmic updates that constantly challenge website owners to improve their sites – from source code to content and numerous markers in-between, the search engine giant is increasingly hard to fool…but that doesn’t stop some people trying.
What is a Google Penalty?
Simply put, if your site is negatively affected by a Google algorithm update and drops significantly down in the rankings, or if Google penalises you manually for infringing on their Webmaster Guidelines, that’s a Google Penalty.
How can you begin to figure out what’s gone wrong?
There are a number of sites such as Search Engine Roundtable which can help you figure out the latest Google updates and how they make have affected your site. They may also include ideas on how to fix the problem, but take your time in planning updates to improve the situation – oftentimes it’s a subtle set of changes that are required to amend the situation.
In the case of a manual penalty, you’ll be able to review these in Search Console, and create a plan of action to resolve the issues.
How manual penalties are imposed, and how to fix or avoid them
Manual penalties are usually imposed for a transgression of content criteria or website structure, but can normally fairly easily be fixed.
- Thin content: if your site has too many pages that offer little or no value, with content that is too low in word content and usefulness then you’re running the risk of a penalty. This issue is easily fixable – updating page content regularly to be informative, relevant, and useful is the easiest way to solve the problem.
- Keyword stuffing: content needs to read naturally – if you simply plant as many target keywords in your content as you can to try and improve rankings, Google will flag these pages and paragraphs as unnatural, and penalise you. Use your target keywords wisely, inserting them carefully into sentences that make sense.
- Virus hosts: site security is a major priority for Google – if there’s any chance that your website may be vulnerable or expose a visitor to malware, you need to resolve the issue immediately.
- Duplicate and bad content: copyright remains a major factor for Google’s ranking system. Your content needs to be original, or properly referenced where applicable to avoid falling foul of the search algorithms.
- Bad redirects: if you’re using redirects as a means to drive more traffic from one page to another in a misleading way, you’re likely to get penalised for creating a bad user experience. Avoid this by transitioning visitors from page to page in your website in a natural flow.