For webmasters and online businesses, Organic traffic from Search engines is very important because of the quality of the traffic. That’s why every business or webmaster wants to rank higher on Google so they can get more organic traffic and customers. Everyone is doing his best to rank higher.
Some webmasters try to manipulate Google by using spamming techniques. For example, some webmasters have developed bots (code scripts) that are commenting on other websites automatically without any human involvement. Because they want to rank their sites on Google with the help of these spamming techniques.
On the other side, Google wants to provide more accurate and useful content to its users (who are searching on Google). So Google continually improving its technology and the algorithms to provide more useful and genuine content to users as well as to prevent low-quality and spaming sites to rank higher on Google.
Because spamming sites rank higher then ultimately it will negatively affect Google. Google users will stop using Google to search for something & move to its competitors like Bing and Yahoo. That’s why fighting with Spam and provide more quality to its users is the main focus of Google.
“An Ideal (perfect) Search Engine shows only one result.“
But don’t worry there is no ideal search engine because it is almost impossible to build a perfect search engine that shows only one result for a given query.
Google continually changes its algorithms to provide genuine and correct information to users. According to Google, they have released more than 3200 updates in the last year only. Google releases an average 9 updates each day. This is the reason for the fluctuations in your rankings that you may have noticed for your keywords.
In This year (2020), Google also have released various Google Algorithm Updates including major updates like Google January Core Update, Google 4th May Core Updates.
Google keeps its algorithms and changes confidential. Announce only some updates that are major-big updates. These Google Algorithm updates also impact the rankings of websites.
What is a Google Penalty?
A Google Penalty is the negative hit to a website’s ranking because of not following the best practices of Webmaster Guidelines.
When A website noticed a sudden drop in website rankings then SEOs called It a Google Penalty. This means Google Penalized that website for unusual activities.
But in reality, A sudden drop in a website’s traffic and visibility is not a Google penalty. Google Penalty could be one of the reasons for that. There could be many reasons for the sudden traffic drop on a website. And we need to deep dive to know that has Google Penalty impacted your website’s traffic or not? (We’ll discuss later in this Guide)
What are the different kinds of Google Penalties?
Mainly there are two types of penalties;
- Manual action Penalty
- Algorithmic Penalty
These Penalties can be categorized further according the to nature of penalty. and also can be categorized according to the different level of an penalties. Let’s deep dive into these.
Manual Action Penalties
Spammy Free Host
Strusctured Data Issue
UnNatural Links to Your Site
UnNatural Links From Your Site
Thin Content Providing little to No Value
Cloaking and/or sneaky redirects
Hidden Text and or Keyword Stuffing
AMP Content Mismatch
Sneaky Mobile Redirects
Top Heavy Layout
How to know if you’ve been hit by a Google Penalty?
If Google doesn’t like your website for any reason, then the result will be same. You’ll lose your website rankings and traffic.
Your website traffic will be dropped if you have been hit by a Google Update. The Drop could be sudden or regular and can impact your whole site traffic or some part. Here are the some sure shots that Google penalized you:
- Your brand is not ranking well even for your brand name.
- Your top ranking keyword/s slipped from top positions to 2nd, 3rd or lower pages or has been lost.
- The whole site has been indexed and removed suddenly from Google cached search results. Even, you are getting nothing while searching site:yourdomain.com.
Then, probabaly you have been panalized.
You have to check your Google Search Console and Google Analytics to know that has Google penalized your website or not.
If there is a “Manual Action” against your website that has impacted your website then you will get an alert message in your Google Search Console.
Follow these steps to check Google Manual Action penalty:
Login to your Google Search Console Account.
Then go to Security and Manual Action Tab and click on the Manual Actions tab option.
If you are finding “no issues detected” then your website has not hit with any Manual Action Penalty. Then chances are that A Google Algorithm has impacted your website.
How to Figure Out An Google Algorithmic Penalty?
There are two things to ensure while analyzing an algorithmic penalty.
- You need to ensure with your analysis that an algorithmic penalty has impacted your website traffic.
- You have to find the reason of the penalty.
As you will not get any alert or notification from Google that your website penalized by an algorithm penalty. As I told before that impacted by an algorithm is not a Google penalty. It is just a calculation of various factors. That’s why Google doesn’t update you about algorithm hits.
You need to figure out everything yourself. But remember that analyzing an algorithm penalty is a complex work if you don’t have any experience then you can’t get the right answer.
Really A Google Algorithm Has impacted Your Traffic?
If your website traffic dropped suddenly then simply it doesn’t mean that you’ve been penalized. 3There could be many other reasons of your traffic drop. like as:
- Website Migration
- Theme/ Design Change
- Technical Issues
- Backlinks Drop
and many others.
So it could be a penalty or any other issue that is impacting your website rankings.
When you get noticed that your website traffic has been dropped, First of all, make a quick search on your on Google for some of your keywords that got hit or for your important keywords.
If your keywords are at their old positions or little bit change then no need to worry. because it could be the mistake of your keyword position tracking tool that couldn’t track your keyword. But to ensure, you should check on various devices and browsers including Private windows.
but your keywords have lost their rankings then find them to the last page of Google SERP to know their current rankings.
Also, find that if Google has rolled a new update (correlate the time when your traffic dropped). If yes then probably that Google Algorithm update could be the reason for the dying traffic of your website. Here are some ways to know about the latest Google Update.
- SEMrush Sensor
- Google Search Liaison
- Google Blog
- Our Facebook Group
Why You have been Penalized?
The short answer is that you are not following the Google Webmaster Guidelines, directly or indirectly. If you got a Google Manual Action Penalty then it means you are doing something shady.
As I told you before that the real penalty is Manual actions. Google Algorithm update hit is not a google penalty.
But if your website rankings impacted by an algorithmic update then there could be many reasons. Because algorithms are programming scripts that works on the basis of mathematical calculations. if you score higher then you will get the top positions. So that’s why there could be many reasons that you saw traffic drop for your website. like as
- Search Intent
- Content Quality
- Website Quality
- Competitors Quality
But the best thing about these algorithms is you can recover your dropped website traffic or boost your rankings if you improve your website for the users. When Google algorithms re-calculate and re-score the sites then you can improve your website score.
How to recover from a Google Penalty?
Google doesn’t penalize a site for a single bad-backlink or for a duplicate/thin content page. Google penalizes a website when a website tries to manipulate Google Search by using black-hat spamming techniques to rank higher in a short time.
Google uses some difficult ranking factors like Backlinks and some easier like Keyword in Title Tag. But Spammers always find new ways to manipulate Google, They buy links, repeat keywords many times, etc. Google finds and penalize them.
Some years ago, Google did an experiment to stop counting backlinks as a ranking factor. But it dilutes the quality of SERP results. Most of the SERP results were spam, low-quality sites that just want to rank higher on Google, and don’t care about the user and the value when Google un-weighted the backlink factor. So Google re-add the Backlinks as a ranking factor.
But Now Google is smarter than before. Google is using the latest technology like AI (artificial intelligence) that can understand things like the human brain. Google RankBrain, Google BERT are examples of AI technology that Google uses.
Now Google determines the EAT; Expertise, Authority, and Trust before ranking a site with many other factors. Also, Google has its own team of humans along with robots that regularly examines SERP results and review sites manually.
Google always advises webmasters that they should care about their users not about ranking factors. These days Google is releasing more Broad Core Updates than other targeted updates. This means Google is improving itself more than hitting sites.
So you can’t remove a penalty & recover your website traffic just by disavowing few backlinks. But if you want a permanent solution of the penalty that will not only remove Google Penalty but boost your website growth then you need to analyze your website.
You need to perform a deep-detailed Audit of your website to find issues that are impacting your website. I have divided this SEO Audit in four parts.
*It requires expertise and experience to perform a successful and professional SEO audit of a website. So, you can hire a professional SEO company that can help you.
*First of all, Create a list of all the issues.
*Don’t make too many changes at once. after fixing an issue give it a few days to see what happen. Many changes at once can increase your trouble and efforts.
*Note Down everything. You should need to keep a record of everything like:
– What changes you have made? (For example, improved Website Speed)
– When you have made the changes on your site? (22 July 2020)
– Where you have made changes? (mention If there is a specific URL)
– And Anything else that you need to note down.
*Always start with small changes. You should start with small changes first that you can easily solve.
Website’s loading time is a ranking factor to on Google. But it is not a major factor. and there is almost no or very rare chance that Google can penalize your website because of the higher load time.
But there is another thing, an un-optimized website can have difficulties to rank higher. And the competition can beat you. That’s why I’ve mention it here.
I saw many times that optimizing a website properly can boost the rankings without doing many other efforts. Some of our clients’ websites get a huge regular boost in rankings in their rankings.
You should ensure that your website’s sitemap is live, working properly, Up to date without any issues.
AMP pages are accelerated-pages designed for Mobile devices. AMP pages load much faster than a normal web page. But AMP pages could be the reason of a Google Penalty.
If Your website pages have some serious issues then your website can be penalized. Here are some main reasons:
- Partial Teaser Content on AMP Pages
- Mismatched Content
- Un-specified Canonical Links
- Too-Many Ads on AMP Pages
Un-optimized or uncleaned coded website theme can reward you with a Google Penalty. A As some webmasters don’t care to select right themes, templates, plugins for their websites. Sometimes that kind of stuff has malicious code scripts that can hack your website and can offer you a Google Penalty.
if your website theme has some major coding related issues then it could also impact your website visibility.
Structure Data Issues
Implementing structured data can help you to grow your website rankings. But implementing a wrong structured data could be the cause of a Google Manual Action penalty and you can loss your website traffic due to a normal issue.
Here are the some structured data mistakes that can penalize you:
- Using a wrong, inappropriate Structured data type.
- It doesn’t match with the page content.
- It is not following Google’s Guidelines for a specific data type.
- Not following Google’s general guidelines for structured data.
- Using structured data with manipulative behavior, to manipulate Google search
If your website has any above mentioned or other issues related to structured data then you must fix them. You can find Structured data issues in your Google Search Console. Or can check on structured Data Testing Tool.
Issues related to content have huge impact on website rankings. That’s why you need to analyze your content very carefully. Here are the some main issues related to content.
The intent is one of the biggest factors to rank higher on Google and for a longer period. If your content is not satisfying the intent then you will not rank on Google. If you do then it will be for a short time or temporary. There is no penalty for the wrong Intent, But when Google chooses other pages having the right intent then you’ll definitely drop. It could look you as a penalty drop.
The Simple meaning of Intent is “Intention” or “Purpose”
In SEO, Intent means is the intentions of your content and the searched phrase by a user. How much they are relevant and the same to each other, the more they have the same intent the higher you will rank.
You need to understand the intent of a keyword before targeting that. If a user is looking for a solution to solve his problem But you are providing something else then it means you haven’t undertand the search intent of that Keyword that is what is user wants to get by searching that phrase on Google.
Let me give you an example of it.
If someone searches for “Best Sedan Budget-Friendly Sedan Cars in 2020” But you are talking about “How to drive a Sedan Car?” Then it means you didn’t get the purpose of the user to search that keyword. The user wants to buy a sedan car and is looking for suggestions. But you are teaching how to drive a car. You need to create a list of Sedan Cars that are budget-friendly and could be useful for the searcher. Then you will satisfy the intent.
You need to ensure that your content is unique that is providing a unique value to the users.
Your content is original.
Your content is providing unique value to your users. You should know why your content is better than others, so users will read that. As if you are writing the same thing as others then why they read your content to read the same stuff again? You should have something unique and valuable to share with your audience. It could be anything like your mistake, a case study, research, and experience.
Your content must be Infortaining (Informative + Entertaining). A rich-quality has two qualities:
- It solves the problem or share something.
- To engage the audience as well.
So ensure that your content has these qualities.
Ensure that your website don’t have thin content. Thin content can penalize your website and also can remove from the google Indexing.
But to remove that issue you need to know what is thin content in actual. You will have find many SEOs and Gurus to say that you should write longer content. According to them if your webpage has little to know content then that is thin content that could harm you.
But in actual, Word-count has no relation with thin content. In reality, Thin Content is that content that is not offering any value to your audience. Even if there are no words on a page, still it could be a high-quality page. Or A 10,000 words content could be the thin content.
There is nothing specific rules that describe a page have thin content. The thin content depends on the intent of the page. Is your content is valuable there, means proving any value? if not then it will be thin content.
On my own blogs and sites many pages have little to know content but they are still ranking higher and even during the Google updates (including major updates like Google Medic Update or recently rolled Google May 2020 Update) why because those pages have different intent. Users visit them for a specific puprose and i’m offering that there.
Not yet agree?
Let’s take an example of Google. You can check on Google.com how much content they have on Google.com page. nothing!
Google just put a search box there so you want to find something by searching there. There is no other content. Google understands the intent of that page what users want to do by visiting Google.com so they provide that.
Keyword stuffed content can penalized you but can’t help you. You should write your content naturally. Don’t think about repeating and adding keywords in your content forcefully.
Forget what your SEO guru has taught you about how to add keywords in your content. because Google will Penalize your site not your guru’s.
Repeating a keyword, again and again, can boost your rankings for a few days but then you will drop and can’t rank until you don’t solve the issues.
All the content related activites with the intentions to manipulate Google search, is called spammed content. Here are the some of them;
- Scraped content
- Hidden content
- Spun content
- Hacked content
Ensure that your website doesn’t have any kind of spam content. There is only well-written High-Quality content.
There are various penalties related to Links. Link penalties are one of the major reasons for Google Manual Action penalties. Links are the major ranking factor in Google Search. But it is hard for the webmasters to earn high-quality links. Also, there are many shady techniques to build links that just can give you a google penalty at the end rather than higher rankings.
For low-quality links, Google can penalize you in both way; with a Manual Action Penalty or an Algorithmic hit like Google Penguin. Here are the some major shady link building techniques;
Link-building with the intentions to manipulate Google by getting too-many links in short term with shady techniques. like as getting too-many links in short-term, Getting links from adult sites, directories, link-injecting, PBNs, site-wide links, and many others.
Google penalizes sites that are buying links with manual action penalties. If you buying links, or getting links in exchange of links or other goods then you need to stop it.
Rich Anchor Texts
Anchor texts also impact the rankings of a site. Google uses anchor text as a signal to know more about the linked page. But SEOs try to manipulate Google rankings by using keyword-rich anchor texts.
Google knows that and that’s why taking it seriously and penalizing sites that have over-optimized anchor texts. In my analysis of Google 3 June Update, I found that the sites with more branded anchor texts are ranking well than that have higher percentage of keyword rich anchor texts.
You should also take care of anchor texts of your websites. Branded anchor texts are more safe and one of the best ways. But I recommend you to don’t much care about the anchor texts. Use natural terms or a mix up of each type of anchor texts.
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