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Google Penalties: Much More than a Digital Slap on the Wrist

Anyone who has ever participated in an organised sporting event is already aware that playing by the rules is essential if penalties are to be avoided. This very same concept holds true in relation to search engine optimisation and overall website management. The only major difference is that while a player might miss out on a handful of games, a website owner could very well jeopardise their long-term efforts as a result of not appreciating modern rules and regulations. Google penalties, therefore, need to be taken very seriously. Still, the exact stipulations and ramifications might not be entirely clear to the average user. This partially arises from the fact that Google tends to update their algorithms on a somewhat regular basis. Let us therefore examine some primary guidelines to keep in mind as well as how you can check to discover whether any Google penalties are present before taking the appropriate actions.

The Automated Danger of Google Penalties

The primary reason why a penalty occurs involves a violation of one of the webmaster guidelines summarised by Google. There are two outcomes associated with a Google Penguin penalty:

  • The website in question experiences a significant drop in keyword-related rankings.
  • The SERP listing is pulled entirely.

It should be obvious that inbound traffic will be impacted in either scenario. If a target audience is unable to find a website within the search engine results page, how can you ever expect to effectively market-specific products and services?

One potentially worrisome issue is that some repercussions are entirely automatic in nature. Known as “algorithmic penalties“, these digital “slaps on the wrist” can occur based off of practices which appear to violate specific metrics or regulations. Such penalties are becoming more commonplace due to the sheer amount of online traffic, as well as the rather frequent Google updates. So, one of the main concerns obviously revolves around your ability to recognise what might cause a “red flag” to be raised within the Google algorithm. Such situations can thereafter be averted.

What Actions Might Trigger a Google Penalty?

There are several scenarios which can lead to a penalty being levied. Seven of the most common mistakes include:

  • The presence of viruses, spyware or malware.
  • Unnatural or unrelated outbound links.
  • Irrelevant inbound links.
  • Unabashed spam.
  • Hidden text within HTML and/or keyword stuffing.
  • Spam generated by users.
  • Content which adds little or no value to the website in question (including duplicate material).

It should be obvious that some violations are considered to be more severe than others. For example, a site which has purposely embedded spyware within its pages will be hit with much stiffer Google penalties when compared to a portal that is associated with poor content creation. Nonetheless, it is not uncommon for 30-day penalties to be incurred for seemingly minor infractions. More serious offences will naturally be given exceedingly lengthy time frames before the penalty automatically expires. The main takeaway point is that any such downtime can cripple your ongoing operations. Furthermore, sites which are hit with penalties may cause visitors to think twice about further interactions even after they have become accessible in the future.

Can These Penalties be Remedied?

The first step is to determine whether or not an infraction has taken place. It is possible to check for Google penalties by logging into your Google Analytics account. If you note a pronounced drop in traffic (particularly during a time when an algorithmic update came into effect), the chances are high that you have suffered a penalty. You can also access your Google Search Console and scroll down to the “Manual Actions” section. This will highlight whether or not a manual penalty has occurred. If so, an explanation of the source of the infraction will be highlighted. This is arguably the most amenable outcome, as you will be made aware of any changes that need to take place.

Assuming that you have violated Google terms and conditions, how can you restore your site listing? Of course, the initial step involves what type of penalisation is present. In regards to algorithmic violations, the process is a bit more challenging when compared to manual infractions. As algorithmic issues normally occur as a result of a recent update, you might be required to take on the role of a digital “sleuth” in order to come across the root problem. Having said this, the experts at SEMrush note that such penalties are generally the result of two scenarios:

  • A great deal of spam or manipulative link profiles (Google Penguin tends to stress these issues).
  • Irrelevant or duplicate Google content (more associated with Panda updates).

Try to discern the exact date that your traffic was adversely affected to see if this correlates with an algorithmic update. Still, keep in mind that the best way to avoid such a lengthy process is to adopt the best practices from an early stage. This brings us to the next point.

Submitting a Reconsideration Request

Let us assume for the sake of argument that you have identified and rectified the problem to the best of your ability. Now that you have paid this form of digital penance, what is the next logical step? You can submit what is known as a reconsideration request to the webmasters at Google. This request is simply an online form which illustrates that you have taken the appropriate actions. Your website will thereafter be examined, and if the issues are no longer present, the penalty itself could very well be lifted. However, keep in mind that it may take some time for such a request to be processed, and there is no guarantee that it will ultimately succeed. This is why it is critical that the discrete problem was adequately addressed before submitting a review request.

How Can You Avoid Google Penalties?

The good news is that Google penalties can normally be avoided with a bit of common sense and a knowledge of so-called black-hat tactics. Google lists the most important recommendations as follows:

  • Design web pages for users as opposed to search engines.
  • Do not deceive your audience with misleading text, blind links or irrelevant material.
  • Ensure that no viruses and similar threats are present.
  • Make certain that your link profile is clean and free of any spam.
  • Create unique, valuable and updated content.

This last point is especially important to emphasise. Quality content is key if you hope to stay under the radar of the Google overlords. This is particularly relevant in terms of avoiding manual penalties. So, what qualifies as superior and engaging content?

Once again, common sense goes a long way here. The bottom line is that copied text, keyword-laden material and outdated content are frowned upon by Google. When we also take into account embedded links to unrelated websites and low-quality writing in general, it becomes clear that a great deal of attention needs to be devoted to content curation. Avoiding Google penalties for duplicate content and poor phrasing can be tricky; especially if you do not possess the necessary skill sets. This is why leveraging the professional services of a Textbroker author is often the most logical solution.

Keeping Things in Perspective

Are Google penalties the end of the world? The answer to this question depends upon the site in question. While websites which generate little traffic to begin with might not be overly affected, the same certainly cannot be said for more successful portals. Still, the best way to stay within Google’s good graces is to appreciate what causes an infraction so that you can adopt a more proactive approach from the beginning. Whether referring to Google penalties for duplicate content or infractions stemming from a willful violation of spam guidelines, the fact of the matter is that the success of your website and online venture could both be placed in jeopardy. So, be sure to refer back to the observations mentioned above and to regularly check for Google algorithmic updates. You can therefore be confident in the knowledge that you are remaining one step ahead of the digital game.

About our author

Ron first arrived in Barcelona, Spain in 2007. Although initially pursuing a career in wealth management and finance, he learned that the content writing community provided the highest level of personal satisfaction while still being able to personally help clients. He has been a full-time professional writer since 2011. Some of his other interests include martial arts and bodybuilding.

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