Google blacklists are real. Your website or blog could be wiped off search result pages even if you’ve enjoyed high rankings before. Google’s regular algorithm updates are introducing greater-than-ever scrutiny for relevant pages and SEO practices. Their aim is to help searchers find the right information they’re looking for and you don’t want to get in the way of that by engaging in less-than-stellar activities.
You could be enjoying high traffic due to your high ranking search position and then you continue to ‘optimise’ to knock off other rankers and you find yourself climbing. But then, all of a sudden, in a flash, all your web pages are nowhere to be found on Google. You enter the keywords you’ve been ranking for but your website is gone. Completely. Like it never existed.
This can be a real nightmare.
And it means you’ve fallen on the wrong side of a Google content penalty.
Now you have to go back to your roots, try to discover where you might have gone wrong and start all over. There are certain shoddy practices that could see your website take a huge fall and we’ll let you know how to avoid them and do things right to remain on Google’s good side.
How do you recognise a Google penalty?
Penalties can be handed out automatically or manually by Google. You’ll be warned initially if your website is to be manually penalised, which makes it easy to find your faults and correct your ways. However, penalties that come from algorithm updates can take even the most experienced SEO experts unawares. These are some indicators that your website may be on the wrong side of algorithms:
- Your web pages that were once ranked in the first position are now falling as far back as the second or third pages of search results
- Your website isn’t being positioned at the top for your own brand name
- Search queries for your exact domain name don’t even show you
- Your domain authority that was formerly above 50 has slumped down unnaturally
Whenever you notice any of these issues, you should be on red alert and begin to look into where you may have defaulted.
Mistakes that could earn you a penalty
The following are activities that are now frowned upon by Google which could lead your website to suffer the brunt of a penalty.
PageRank started out by ranking websites with a high number of links regardless of how those links came about; until SEOs started to abuse backlinks by engaging in manipulative link schemes to rank higher.
One of these practices is buying links. Links that are bought are almost always bad links which can pull your site down on their own. But, if Google flags your site, even worse: you run the risk of being wiped off from search rankings entirely.
Google insists that you build your link profile strategically. If you’ve been hit with a penalty, then re-assess your recent SEO activities and find out if you’ve somehow engaged in link buying. If you haven’t been penalised, then you should avoid buying links.
Reciprocating link for link was once a harmless SEO strategy until bloggers and webmasters started to abuse it. If you excessively swap links with certain business websites, friends, or your clients, your website could be seen as manipulative and attract a penalty from Google. This could be the real reason your website’s ranking position is dropping drastically. If you haven’t attracted any penalty and have been swapping a lot of links, try to cut down on this activity or discontinue it entirely. When including outbound links in your content, do them naturally, ensure the links are going to authority web pages, and don’t integrate too many links in your site.
Linking web pages in different languages
This is another link-building practice that can attract a penalty. Although you may legitimately be linking to a relevant website, Google will think otherwise. It feels that users may not get value clicking to a site in a different language from where they came from. So, if you’ve engaged in this before, try to rectify it by removing these links. If your website doesn’t contain links to websites in different languages, then keep it that way.
Duplicate content on your website
If Google crawlers notice duplicate content on your website, then you’re in for a penalty. This could be exact content recurring on different pages on your site including your blogs, product pages, and other category pages. You should ideally follow a policy of publishing only original content and, if you have similar pages, you can simply spin your articles manually. Ensure you refrain from automated article spinning because this can make web content useless and unreadable. If you can’t develop content by yourself or consider it too tasking, then you can hire a professional web content writer to keep your web pages fresh with original copy.
404 errors or bad links
Links that point to pages with error messages are hazardous for your website. They can drag your site down and attract serious penalties. Google does not want to present websites to its searchers that are awash with numerous broken links and error pages so may take you off their results or drastically reduce your search result ranking until you’ve sorted everything out. If you’re presenting users with 404 errors, then this should explain the reason for your search ranking decline. You should carry out an evaluation and fish out the bad links and errors on your site so you can get rid of the pages that are no longer needed and repair the ones that are broken.
Incorporating links in your website for easy navigation is a legitimate practice. However, if you misuse footer links by using them to promote content or links to unrelated pages, then you’ll be on the receiving end of a penalty. If you’ve engaged in footer link manipulation, Google isn’t blind, you could be fished out and made an example of. Remove the links from your website entirely: don’t just unfollow. If your site is still free from atrocious footer links, make sure you remain clean from this practice.
Hiding links in your web pages is an activity that Google will punish you for. This is because most webmasters try to conceal bought links to escape Google’s sight but this won’t save you, as these links can be unearthed by search crawlers and you will be then penalised for it. If your link building strategy is sincere, then you don’t have any reason to hide. Make sure you keep your links visible and coloured differently from other texts. If you have bad links hiding in your website, fish them out and get rid of them.
Manipulating search rankings by hiding content is a bad move. Some people do this to veil content that is rigged with keywords or content that has gone through automated spinning. If your website has recently suffered a drop in search rankings and you have done this in the past, then you should undo it. It’s understandable that content marketing can be quite difficult but so is SEO. Google only rewards sites that are engaging in sincere strategies. If you can’t juggle content creation with your business, then you should consider working with a copywriter to get yourself out of this mess.
Unnatural Anchor Text
If you don’t know what an anchor text is, it’s the phrase and words that host a link in your content. Google also uses anchor texts to look for clues on which page to rank for content. If you use keywords as anchor texts in articles that are in no way connected to these words, then you’re calling out for a Google penalty. This technique has been used in the past to fool PageRank but Google has long figured it out and it’s considered disreputable. So, ensure your website is free from this practice if you want to avoid Google’s ire.
This is one of the older bad practices that has been shunned but has taken down a lot of pages in its wake. However, some websites are still engaged in this ugly activity and chances are, you may be doing it without even knowing. You can seek out content on your website that is packed with too many of the same targeted keywords and remove them or replace them with synonyms to make your content look better and more relevant. This way, you’ll not only be optimising for readers but for search as well.
If you find that you have committed any of the above sins, you can escape Google’s imminent judgement by retracing your steps and reversing your wrongs. You can enjoy high ranking for your web pages if you engage in honest, organic SEO practices or simply mix paid advertising into your efforts. In all your endeavours, ensure you’re always developing great content by putting readers first and you’ll be rewarded with higher search page positions rather than punishment.