If you have noticed your website is no longer showing in Google’s search results pages or seen a drastic drop in your rankings and a significant decrease in your traffic, your site may have been penalized by Google. This may have affected a particular keyword term or a large number of terms – either way, your site has done something to encourage Google to suppress your previously good rankings.
Two Kinds of Google Penalties
Google routinely makes algorithm changes to improve the results they provide. In the past, these changes have been used to weed out sites that are involved in unnatural linking, sites that feature duplicate content or content that is perceived to be of low quality. etc. If your site is hit with an algorithm penalty, this is an automatic penalty that is not “fixed” after filling out Google’s reconsideration request. Unfortunately, you have to make the right changes and then play the waiting game until the Google algorithm is updated to see if the penalty goes away – and this only happens every few months.
Or your site could be issued a manual penalty by Google’s spam team at any time. This may be due to Google finding your site in violation of its terms of service or because someone reported your website. Once you have made the right changes to your site, you need to compile information and make your case to Google (through a reconsideration request) to have them remove the penalty, which can take a good amount of time and energy.
How will you know which kind of penalty you have? Generally speaking, a manual penalty is accompanied by the following alert in Webmaster Tools:
If you haven’t received such a message, your site is most likely under an algorithmic penalty.
How We Can Help
We start by determining if your site has been penalized and then what type of penalty it is. From there we develop a custom plan to help your site recover. Our process includes multiple steps, based on our diagnosis of the problem(s).
These effort will most likely include:
- Making changes on your site.
- Manually reviewing hundreds or thousands of third-party sites linking to your site
- Classifying all found backlinks as safe or targeted for removal
- Cataloging all sites and contact information
- Contacting site owners at least 3 times to request link removal. And documenting this information
- Creating a link disavow document detailing all sites that did not remove the link as your requested and submitting to Google.
- Submitting a documented case with all vital information about your link removal efforts and submitting a reinclusion request to Google
- In rare cases, creating a new domain and starting fresh.
Our team keeps current on the changes to Google’s algorithm, both recent and historical. We apply white-hat SEO techniques, based on Google’s current terms of service, to getting your site’s penalty removed.
Of course, the final decision to remove a penalty rests with Google. Depending on how pervasive the issue(s), the road back may be a long one. However, correctly identifying the problem at the outset and then doing the right things to bring your site in line with Google’s guidelines increase the likelihood the penalty will be lifted
If your website has been penalized, give us a call to discuss how we can help it recover. Call 804-741-6776.
Here are just a few of the things that can get you banned in Google.
Cloaking (A Big Google No-No)
Straight from Google’s website: “The term “cloaking” is used to describe a website that returns altered web pages to search engines crawling the site. In other words, the web server is programmed to return different content to Google than it returns to regular users, usually in an attempt to distort search engine rankings. This can mislead users about what they’ll find when they click on a search result. To preserve the accuracy and quality of our search results, Google may permanently ban from our index any sites or site authors that engage in cloaking to distort their search rankings.”
If your website or web pages are set up to display different information for a search engine spider versus a real person, then you are cloaking. Cloaking delivers one version of a page to an Internet user and a different version to a search engine. The cloaked page is packed with keyword and terms that the site wants to be highly rank for so, in essence, they are cheating. There are good reasons for cloaking as well, such as targeted advertising, but if you are trying to manipulate your rankings you should put an end to this immediately.
Duplicate Content or Websites
If Google finds multiple web pages have the same content they may penalize each website for this. Of course, someone may have copied your content and Google banned you even though it was your original content that was taken. Make sure no other site is using your content. You can do this by performing a Google search using some of your text with quotation marks (“) around it. If you do find someone is using your original copy visit here to learn more about copyright infringement: http://www.google.com/dmca.html.
You can check here to see if your site has been duplicated unbeknowst to you: http://www.copyscape.com
Hidden Text and or Links
How can text been hidden? Well, there are a variety of ways – some are more sneaky than others. But is boils down to this: it is considered hidden if the text or link is invisible to the website visitor but can be seen by search engine spiders. This used to be done quite often, such as making your text white on a white background or using cascading style sheets (CSS) to hide your text, but search engines can easily spot this today so it is best to avoid it altogether.
Keyword Spam and Keyword Stuffing
Ever seen a web page with a very awkwardly written first paragraph where a certain word is repeated ad nauseam? Here’s an example:
“We sell the best father’s day gifts for father’s day. If you like to celebrate father’s day we can help with the best father’s day gifts for father’s day.”
Care to guess which keywords are being targeted? This is keyword spamming or stuffing but it is just the tip of the SEO iceberg. This is just the content on the page, there is probably keyword stuffing happening in the code: in the meta tags, invisible text, alt tags, title tags and comment tags. etc. If the word or phrase is repeated too often Google can place a filter to reduce the site’s rankings or simply ban the site. Ultimately you must write for the reader not the search engine. Be sure the keywords flow naturally.
Defining a doorway page can be difficult so here is our definition that could potentially ban your site in Google: pages that are created in order to attract search engine spiders and be ranked highly for their targeted keywords. Real visitors find this page and then continue to the “real” website from there. Hence the name “doorway page”. These pages aren’t in the navigation most of the time. If you come across a page where much of the information is duplicated from other pages on the site but it is different in terms of keywords only, this is most likely a doorway page.
As you can see this can be a gray area. Some pages on a website may focus on a particular subject and be innocent of trying to lure search engine spiders only for high rankings. Err on the side of caution and make sure the page is useful and part of the your site’s navigation.
While buying links may not get you banned, they can certainly hurt your page rank. Many sites that sell links are being devalued by Google, making an investment in this strategy a waste of money and time. Ultimately, stay away from buying links to increase your ranking.
What does Google say?
“Don’t deceive your users, or present different content to search engines than you display to users,” Google says, and they list some bullet points on avoiding being banned.
- Avoid hidden text or hidden links.
- Don’t employ cloaking or sneaky redirects.
- Don’t send automated queries to Google.
- Don’t load pages with irrelevant words.
- Don’t create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.
- Avoid “doorway” pages created just for search engines, or other “cookie cutter” approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content.
Google also states:
“Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website that competes with you. Another useful test is to ask, ‘Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?’”
While creating a page without a thought to search engines is probably going a little too far, optimizing your site for an organic search, as long as it conforms to their standards, is perfectly acceptable.