Earning a Google penalty can cause a website’s search rankings to drop. Sometimes the drop is significant, depending on the violation. In fact, some penalties are so severe that a site will get banned from the search engine results. Penalties occur when webmasters violate one (or more) of Google’s policies governing SEO best practices. Unfortunately, many site owners are unaware that they have violated any policies. Therefore, the drop in rankings is a bit of a mystery to them. Luckily, there are ways that site owners can find Google SEO violations, fix the issues and recover from most penalties.
Google issues two types of penalties – algorithmic and manual. Algorithmic penalties occur when the search engine updates its algorithm that determines search rankings. There is a lot of information online about different Google algorithm changes that have hurt webmasters in the past. Researching this information might be beneficial to you. Manual penalties are intentionally handed out to webmasters who violate Google’s SEO best practices.
If you get penalized, the first thing you should do is reference the Webmaster Quality Guidelines published by Google. The guidelines explain the search engine’s SEO best practices for site owners. Read over the guidelines to make sure your site is compliant. Sometimes you can find quick fixes for any potential violations before earning a penalty. Also, most SEO professionals will be very knowledgeable about Google’s policies. Consulting a professional can help your site stay compliant with the best practices.
There are a number of tools available to help webmasters find and fix violations. Google Webmaster Tools will alert site owners of manual penalties. Screaming Frog Web Crawler and Majestic SEO are popular penalty checkers as well. If you suspect an algorithmic update has hurt your rankings, you can check with Moz’s Google Algorithm Change History tool. Google Webmaster Tools is free to site owners. Screaming Frog, Majestic SEO and Moz all offer some basic services for free; however, you will have to pay for more advanced features. All of those SEO tools will help you find and fix penalties, keeping your site in good standing with Google.
One common penalty that occurs is because of bad backlinks from poor-quality sites. Sometimes webmasters use black hat SEO tactics like adding links to other sites with the goal of manipulating Google’s algorithm to end up with higher search results. Unfortunately, if someone adds bad backlinks to your site, you can end up getting penalized. Oftentimes, site owners don’t even realize that they are being penalized due to poor-quality links. Majestic SEO offers a very good backlinks checker that will scan your site and look for bad links. After you find problem backlinks, you can ask that they be removed.
Google will also penalize sites that lack quality content. You are more likely to get hit by an algorithmic penalty for lacking good content. If you struggle with developing strong content, consider hiring a professional to create good material for you. Google’s algorithm places a lot of priority on content-rich sites. For example, many affiliate site owners get punished by Google algorithm updates because their sites lack content. This is because most affiliate sites just want to send visitors to their partners, so they can earn commissions on any sales. Unfortunately, Google has really come down hard on affiliate site owners over the past few years.
In short, there are many penalties that Google can hand out to your website (both manual and algorithmic). Often times, you might not even realize that you have committed any violations. This is why you should create a free Google Webmaster Tools account. Use this account to carefully check the activity on your site. Google will use this tool to tell you of any manual penalties as well. Also, you can research some other popular SEO tools like Screaming Frog, Majestic SEO and Moz, determining which one is right for you. Google penalties can hurt your rankings, so you want to resolve any problems quickly.