The internet is critical to the success or failure of businesses nowadays. If you do not show up in search engines like Google, it’s like you don’t exist to potential customers.
That’s why you can not risk suffering a Google penalty and simply not showing up in search results. This is the punishment imposed by Google when a website violates some of its guidelines. Not all reasons are easy to identify.
So if you notice a sudden drop in the number of visitors to your website, or a decline in search engine rankings, you may have been penalized by Google for one reason or another.
This is what you need to know to avoid site penalties and remedy the situation.
Different Types of Site Penalties
Getting a Google penalty and losing traffic might be all your competitor is waiting for. There are at least two dozen penalties, but the most common are these:
- Cloaking– As the name says, this is a technique to manipulate search results by showing Google a different version of your website that visitors see. For example, the version that the search engine “sees” is free of spam and paid links, but the one the user accesses has all of that.
- Keyword Stuffing– There is no limit to how many keywords you can add to your site. But some people just throw the most popular keywords without any criteria so that their websites appear prominently in search engines. A tool like Ahrefs Tool Guide: Keyword Explorer for e-Commerce can help you use keywords more naturally.
- Hacked Website– Has your website been hacked and is displaying malicious content? Even if it’s not your fault, Google will hold you responsible for not investing enough in security measures. You will need to identify vulnerabilities and fix them to avoid severe penalties.
- Unnatural Links– If your website is littered with spammy backlinks directing to low-quality material or toxic sites, this will lower your position in search engines. Google will require you to clear these unnatural links whenever it identifies them.
- Thin Content– Many businesses try to appear better in Google searches by creating low-quality, superficial pages. These sites are full of automatically generated/translated content (which doesn’t always make sense) or articles plagiarized from other sites.
How to Know if Your Website Was Penalized
Traffic loss is the most obvious sign of being penalized by Google, but it’s always good to be sure. Other frequent causes for changes in your organic traffic are:
- Recent website redesign
- Platform change
- A radical change in your content
- Backlinks that helped drive traffic have been removed
If none of this could have caused the loss of traffic, use a web penalty indicator tool to check if your website has been penalized.
Steps to Take if Your Website is Penalized
You confirmed that your website has been penalized– what now?
If you adopt any of the practices listed above, like buying backlinks or using an overdose of keywords, you will need to fix these issues as soon as possible. After all, you will now have to prove to Google that you have a serious and reliable business.
But if you couldn’t identify the reason for the penalty, you might need to hire an SEO agency to help you out. Experts will investigate your website looking for things like internal 404-page errors, duplicate content, poor site structure, keyword stuffing, etc.
Here are some basic tips to avoid Google penalties and return to the top spot in search results:
- Select and use URLs with human users in mind, not search engines.
- Keep your keyword usage around 2-3% so it doesn’t look like keyword stuffing.
- Avoid buying backlinks.
- Transform duplicate material into a unique content.
- Avoid excessive ads that can make navigation difficult.
- Look for spam in your site’s comment boxes (advertisements can be disguised as comments).
If you choose not to fix the problem, the punishment can be even more extreme than losing your organic traffic. Depending on the reason that caused the penalty, you may be permanently blocked from Google Search.
Keep Your Web Visitors Close
A sudden drop in your search engine ranking is like slamming the door in a potential customer’s face. This can be potentially disastrous when your website is a tool to advertise services or do business. Users no longer find you because of Google penalties, but they will continue to reach your competitor’s page.
If your traffic loss is the result of a Google penalty, identify the cause and fix it as soon as possible. Keeping your site ranked well is critical to be found faster by your customers.