So why do Google sometimes behave like a petulant teenager towards our clients? Why do they disallow ads, block accounts and worst of all penalise search results so there's a sudden drop in natural search?
The most likely reason for a drop in ranking is that Google have seen fit to hit a site with a penalty. Such a drop could have a serious impact so the first job is always to quickly determine what kind of penalty was imposed and why? The imperative here is speed as the longer the penalty is attached the progressively worse the relative result will be.
I realise that most marketing professionals will have a good understanding of this process but it's one of those skills I believe we need to keep honed as time in this situation is definitely money - here's a quick 101 on what you can do to minimise the impact.
Why Google issues penalties?
It's important to have a good understanding why penalties are applied. Google’s mission as we all know is to provide internet users with the best, most accurate, relevant and useful information online. As such, the way sites are ranked is continually updated and improved using the super secret algorithm that is Google's biggest secret - apart from what they do with all the taxes they don't pay of course!
While this is undoubtedly fantastic news for users, website owners are faced with a constant battle to meet Google’s guidelines, which currently requires them to invest a great deal of time and effort into the usefulness and quality of their sites’ content, achieving outstanding brand exposure and gaining top-quality external links. Penalties are issued to websites failing to meet these guidelines or considered to be low quality.
Types of Google penalties
There are two distinct types of penalties, algorithmic and manual both seem to be applied at the worst possible time for the website owners (like there's ever a good time?). My beef is the Google become so unapproachable once penalties have been applied, it's just like dealing with an surly adolescent! So what are the penalties...
Algorithmic penalties: These penalties normally occur shortly after updates/changes to ranking algorithms (the two biggest and most significant of which were as you probably know called the Panda and Penguin updates). Website owners are not normally notified of these penalties.
Manual penalties: These penalties are usually issued if the Google police force detect something that breaches their sacrosanct Webmaster Guidelines. Site owners are often notified of manual penalties to be fair to Google - but always after the event! Notifications usually include the reason a penalty was issued.
Signs of penalties
Your site may have been hit by a penalty if your:
- Site stops ranking well
- Site’s page rank unexpectedly drops down to zero
- High positions within search results start dropping away for no apparent reason
- Site cannot be found anywhere within search results
A penalty notification from Google is, of course, an unmistakable sign that your site was hit by a manual penalty.
Top reasons for penalties?
Well depending on who you listen to the official explanation is that the Panda updates were designed to reward sites with high quality content (by ranking them higher) and crack down on low quality sites.
Penalties based on these updates may be issued for a site having:
- Duplicate content (large amounts or passages of content that can be found on other sites)
- Thin or poor quality content (less than 250 to 300 words of valuable, unique content)
Making sure your content is unique, original, informative and at least meets the minimum word count as shown above helps to avoid Panda-related penalties.
Penguin-based penalties are usually issued to crack down on sites utilising spammy techniques in their link building efforts. Such penalties may be issued when a site contains ‘unnatural’ reciprocal links (sites teaming up with reciprocal links for better rankings); links from so-called ‘link farms’ or excessive use of specific keywords within the anchor text of links.
Manual penalties may be issued if your site contains unnatural links, has been hacked or more usually is:
- Stuffed with keywords
- Not mobile friendly
- Not regularly updated
They may also be issued if you over-use H1 tags or use robots.txt to block too many of your pages.
How to recover from penalties?
Well this is where it gets interesting!
As unfair as you probably think it is if you think about it it's the only really effective sanction Google have. Bad links to bad sites stop good businesses appearing in the search results. its what we all want!
No doubt you'll know someone who's a bit handy with SEO and design but frankly unless they do this all day long it's going to take longer than necessary while the situation goes further downhill. My strong recommendation is that you seek the advice of a professional. You see there's always a reason for a penalty - the trick is to deal with the cause (not the symptoms) quickly and effectively so if it happens, make that call!
At Goodman we know all about ensuring our client's sites rank well in Google Search results. Our sister company www.goodmanfox.com have been helping companies with SEO issues since the day they started, so if you need help in resolving a Google penalty, choosing the right marketing, measuring your activity, planning creative as well as working both traditional, Social and digital advertising into your marketing strategy and reaching the right audience at the right cost for your business, we'd love to help you make the most of your options. Call us now on 0845 225 5555