We have seen over the years that SEO has evolved as one of the most used and effective methods to generate online traffic and outreach the target audience through the Google search engine.
Google has defined regulations that it updates continuously to provide users with the best search experience. These regulations have to be followed all the time. If one indulges in black hat SEO practices, Google throws penalties that negatively impact search rankings of specific pages, and sometimes entire websites could be removed from search results.
What exactly is Google Penalty?
This is the most common question and people often get puzzled by the word “penalty”. To simplify, a penalty is like a fine for not following specific rules and regulations, in this case by the search engine giant Google.
Google updates its algorithms frequently and when it detects that a website violates the Webmaster Guidelines, it may impose a penalty by lowering the rankings of pages or the whole website.
Algorithmic VS Manual Google Penalties
Google has robust automated algorithms that identify violations based on the type of harmful activity performed by a website. Here, Google imposes penalties through this highly intellectual algorithm where no manual monitoring is required.
Typical examples are thin content, improper page loading speed, or inconsistent links.
When we talk about manual Google penalty, the scenario is different from algorithmic penalty. Google monitors all website activities under the surveillance of a team that manually checks for any violations and, if required, imposes a penalty to a particular website. They are reviewers who constantly look around for violations within a website regarding Google SEO factors.
Keyword stuffing and user-generated spammy links are the most common instances where Google imposes a manual penalty.
Consequences of a Google penalty
Even if your website is penalized for one or two factors, its results are painful. This is because you have been striving every day to improve the site’s overall ranking, but there is a sudden drop due to violations and penalties.
The effect is sometimes so profound that it takes months or even years to get back to that position where you had a stronghold for many years. And this ultimately affects your business revenue and even customers.
Depending on the penalty issued, the severity of the drop ensues.
Keyword level penalties will result in a drop in ranking for that particular keyword. Ranking will drop for a particular URL in case of a URL level penalty. If the penalty is domain-wide or site-wide, it will result in a drop in rankings for several URLs and keywords across your site. The highest and most extreme is delisting or de-indexing where your domain is removed from the Google index.
Top 7 reasons for Google penalties plus tips to avoid
Every business endeavors to rank on the first page of Google. While most of the businesses follow the lengthy process that requires a lot of patience, some do resort to shortcuts which tend to generally backfire.
If imposed a penalty by Google, it can give you anxiety, stress, and revenue loss because even after the penalty is lifted, your site may take a long time to recover its traffic and rankings.
Prevention is better than cure. So let us try and understand the seven most common sins that lead to Google penalties and how to avoid them.
- Thin content and doorway pages
If you are thinking of focusing on quantity over quality and creating content that has no value for your visitors, then think twice because this could get your website penalized and directly affect the current ranking.
Doorway pages are just like landing pages but created to improve the ranking of a website using specific keywords with text-format content. They are intentionally created with multiple links to redirect users to various pages, but it puts your website on Google’s radar, so never practice it again.
Some of the tips to avoid thin content penalties are:
- Never mass-produce low-quality (shallow) content
- Indulge in proper keyword research
- Instead of doorway pages, create pillar pages that thoroughly address the user’s questions
- Hidden text and links
Many times, you may unintentionally have hidden specific links under the background color or image, which Google interprets as suspicious links, so always cross-check all of the links to avoid penalty.
Also, if you try to hide a keyword keeping the font size as zero or camouflaging it with the background, you may get penalized no matter if you may have a genuine reason for it.
Some tips to avoid are:
- Never hide something intentionally
- Go to the URL inspection tab of your search console, enter the affected pages and check for any hidden links or camouflaged text.
- User-generated spam
For blogs, forums, and discussion platforms, ensure that all of the comments, posts, and guest blogs are closely monitored and should not redirect to irrelevant or spammy websites that put your website under the radar.
So, avoid this if you want to protect your website from getting penalized.
Google’s policy to only flag a particular section of your domain and not the whole website may be a respite for you.
But one needs to take instant action or else there are chances that the whole website may be filled with malicious comments and as a result, Google might deindex your website from its listing to protect the privacy of its users.
- Unnatural Backlink Profile
To quickly rank a website, spammers create artificial links that link your website to a bad neighborhood, which severely affects your website.
In this scenario, Penguin algorithm update came into effect to penalize sites having stuffed keywords into their content, irrelevant or low-quality links, and over-optimized anchor text on a webpage.
When Google tags a website having unnatural links their rankings are severely dropped affecting the whole business operations. They then have to search for quick solutions by over-identifying all the unnatural links and removing them all at once.
Tips to avoid:
- Use white-hat link-building strategies
- Do not build too many links in a short span
- Perform regular backlink audits to disavow spam or irrelevant links
- Stuffing keywords
Assume you have a blog with 500 words and are looking to rank specific keywords using a blog. But if you stuff keywords to such an extent that the whole blog looks spammy and worthless, Google is smart enough to capture this activity and penalize your website.
Tips to avoid this penalty are:
- Just as you would explain something in person, incorporate keywords in your content naturally
- Use natural keyword variations instead of focusing only on one keyword
- Hacked website
If your website is hacked, there are rare chances that you may have control over it. And spammers create unwanted content intending to defame your website. Nothing is in your control here, but Google thinks that everything is done through planning, and hence you get penalized at lightning speed.
Tips you can implement to avoid this situation are:
- Use strong passwords and change regularly
- Ensure quality hosting
- Regularly backup your website
- Use secure digital signatures for digital document sharing
- Misusing structured data markup
When you misinterpret Google guidelines and create incorrect structured data or even violate certain data types mentioned by Google, this ultimately leads to a considerable penalty. Be it intentional or innocent, Google is there to penalize for the wrong action.
Follow these tips to avoid structured data penalties:
- Use only structured data that makes sense for the mark-up content
- Ensure that the mark-up content is visible to readers
- Do not add fake reviews
- Do not add any schema markup that relates to violence, illegal activities, or any prohibited content
Google algorithms are never the same. So, it is always better to keep track of their updates and based on the understanding, follow the process, albeit lengthy.
It is best not to yield to the allure of following shortcuts and indulge in spammy activities for any reason, whether it is ranking, lead generation, or even outreaching a larger audience.
Now you know the seven most common types of Google penalties and tips on how to avoid them. This will help you steer clear of making any mistakes and accelerate your business.