If you violate Google’s best practices and get caught, you will be hit by a Google penalty resulting in a dramatic drop in your rankings. Here’s everything you can do to recover:
As a business owner, you are busy doing everything possible to improve your online presence. You’ve read the books, attended the live webinars and even reached out to experts on LinkedIn. So why, you may ask, is Google punishing me for learning the art of search engine optimisation? The answer is, annoyingly, it’s complicated. The SEO industry is volatile, unpredictable and filled with mixed opinions. You need to follow search engine guidelines carefully – it’s always better to check before you chance it.
A Google penalty will not just take away your site’s organic reach, but your online traffic and leads will drop as a result. It can be a significant setback for a business looking to grow their business and reputation online. There are many reasons why a site can get penalised, including thin content, unnatural backlinks, duplicate content and other spammy SEO tactics. You need to ensure that your marketing strategy complies with Google’s best practices.
Remember, there are key differences between a site penalty and a core Google algorithm update. An algorithm update can wipe out thousands of websites in one simple change to the system. Do your research on Google algorithm updates to ensure you are doing everything possible to grow your business online. A penalty, on the other hand, is targeted specifically at sites that are using black hat SEO to move up the search engine results.
Stay on top of these changes to ensure that your business is forever moving forwards. Don’t have the time? As an SEO company that has personally helped many business owners improve their online presence and reach the top of Google using only ethical practices, we understand the industry more than most. Here are some things we recommend you do to recover from a Google penalty:
Understand the Google penalty types
There are two different types of penalties:
- A manual update is used by a member of Google’s specialised team. They will have noticed holes in your SEO strategy – possible broken links, duplicate or spun content, bought links, etc. To see your penalty, you will need to visit Google Webmaster Tools and check your notifications.
- An algorithmic update is far harder to recover from as it’s an automated penalty. This can be identified as a sharp decline in website traffic using Google Analytics. If you notice results like this, it could well be the result of a Google penalty:
How to recover from a Google penalty
The good news is that a penalty doesn’t have to be the end of your online business. In most cases, you can get your website back on track by following the best SEO practices, and not getting drawn into quick wins. The majority of Google penalties occur because of an unnatural backlink profile, which is hardly surprising as link building is the number one ranking factor. There’s going to be some risk attached – it’s about quality over quantity. You should analyse your backlinks to find which ones may have caused a problem. From there, it’s a process of removing them manually.
Step 1) Identify bad/ broken links
Open up Google Webmaster Tools to download your entire list of backlinks. You’ll have to go through every backlink manually, but the results are worth it. You’re looking for sites that are no longer in Google’s index. This usually means they have been hit by a penalty. That poor trust score is then transferred to your website. The second thing to look for is a low domain authority score (lower than 10). Other signs of bad links include blogs with auto-approved comments, sites not relevant to your business, and links created by competitors to knock you off the search results – we call this negative SEO.
Step 2) Manually remove any bad links
Find the contact details of every site owner with a poor quality link pointing at your website. If you have done your research in the first place, you should have a bank of contact details already saved. It can be as simple as looking for an “About Us” or “Contact Page.” But if you are struggling, LinkedIn is an effective alternative. With this platform, you can be sure that every message sent is opened. You can expect either one of the following responses: The owner will oblige with the removal of your link (that was easy!), your email is removed, or they request payment in exchange for removal.
Step 3) Contact Big G!
The alternative is to submit a disavow file. When you do this, you are telling Google that you no longer want to be associated with these links and don’t want them to be considered when your website is crawled. Once you have taken these recovery actions, it’s time to file a request with Google. It often happens that you are rejected several times before getting a positive result. The best advice is to be honest in your actions. Suspect you are a victim of negative SEO? Trusted the wrong SEO provider? Tell them; it may help your case.
Other reasons for a Google penalty
- Too many reciprocal links. Trading links with other websites sounds like a great deal – win, win, right? Google recognises this as a manipulative tactic, especially if they are from sites that are not relevant in your industry.
- Duplicate content. The golden SEO rule is to publish only useful, quality content. If your site features the same content across multiple pages, you may receive a penalty.
- Hidden links. All links on a webpage should be visible to the user. If you are using hidden links that are the same colour as the background, this will arouse suspicion with Google.
- Over optimisation. So many websites use keywords in every other sentence in an attempt to land that top spot in the rankings. This has long been manipulative and will be penalised.
Despite the countless number of algorithm updates issued over the years, our clients continue to earn impressive results with most of them retaining that top spot. As Google certified professionals, we know exactly how to optimise a website for the best results. Got a question about search engine optimised, or are you struggling to recover from a penalty yourself? Speak to one of our friendly SEO experts on 01226 720 755.
This article was contributed by Senior Marketing Strategist, Emily Cocker, of Bigfoot Digital. She specialises in influencer marketing, link building and outreach campaigns. The company are known for their ethical SEO tactics that have earned clients a position at the top of Google for popular industry terms.