Google penalties have become increasingly more common over the past couple of years. And if you have noticed that your traffic has been moving in a downward trend lately, it may be time to ask yourself if you have been hit with one. Google penalties can be extremely unpleasant, resulting in a moderate to severe drop in search engine rankings, or in some severe cases being removed from the search index entirely.
If your website is getting a large portion of its traffic from the search engines, then such a drop will cause a significant drop in traffic. To make matters worse, search engines generally drive targeted traffic that converts well, so the impact on your bottom line can be substantial.
If you have been struck with a dreaded Google penalty, it is important to pinpoint the problem and repair the damage as soon as possible.
Here are some useful tips that will help you identify and solve your penalty problem:
In order to take the proper steps to fix the problem, you will need to find out which type of penalty you have. There are basically two kinds of penalties: manual or algorithmic.
The main difference between the two is that if you have been hit with a manual penalty, the Google Search Quality team will notify through your Google Webmaster Tools account and advise you of what general guideline is broken. This gives you a chance to address the issue or dispute it; as you can submit a reconsideration request to Google to have the penalty removed.
In contrast, algorithmic penalties are usually harder to detect because you won’t receive a notification within your Google Webmaster tools account, leaving most of the guest work up to you. However, a sudden or severe drop in search traffic, rankings, and visibility are clear indications that your site has been slapped with a Penguin or Panda update. This is particularly true if you observe that effect is strongly correlated with Google Organic Search traffic and not so much so with other sources.
If you have been hit with an algorithmic penalty, you will need to find out which algorithm has triggered the decrease in your rankings. Using your own analytic data in combination with Moz’s Google Algorithm Change History will help you determine which update you have been whacked with.
Now that you have figured out which penalty is causing you grief, you will have to roll up your sleeves and take the necessary steps to remedy the problem. The work needed to adjust your site or your link profile will definitely depend on the type of penalty and its severity.
A manual or algorithmic penalty caused by a suspicious link profile ( Penguin ) will involve some work outside your website ( see our previous blog post on What to do if your site gets link bombed ). If the penalty is caused by your website’s internal pages ( Panda ), you will have to adjust your content & optimizations.
In either case, you will have to regularly keep monitoring the effects of your changes through your analytics and rankings tools.
There is no quick fix solution when recovering from a penalty. Cleaning up your links is an exasperating, pain-staking process that is going to cost you time and money. Whether it is a manual or algorithmic penalty, it is going to take a while before you see any substantial improvements in your rankings and traffic.
Recovering from your penalty woes is difficult, but not impossible. With some patience and persistence, your rankings will eventually improve. Search engines are getting shrewder, and tactics that used to work in the past are becoming increasingly obsolete, forcing many to re-think popular shortcuts. Having a solid content strategy and a well-planned social media marketing initiative in place will help to keep you penalty-free in the future.
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