What is a Google Penalty?
Every legitimate SEO fears getting a Google penalty. Imagine finding out your organic search traffic has been completely wiped out. This would be devastating if you have a business website you depend on for revenue.
Google has webmaster guidelines in place that must be followed if you want your website to rank well in its search engine result pages or SERPs. If Google discovers you’ve violated its guidelines, it will penalise your site which means it will drop your ranking in the search results.
Several years ago, BMW received a Google penalty for breaching the search engine’s guidelines. The car manufacturer was found to be using a black hat SEO tactic.
To make a long story short, Google said that BMW was using doorway pages stuffed with keywords to direct people to their German website. As a result, Google reduced BMW’s page rank to a zero to ensure the company would no longer appear at the top.
Two Types of Google Penalties
Google issues two types of penalties to sites that violate their guidelines: Manual penalties and algorithmic penalties.
Manual penalties: These are penalties issued by a person working at Google. They are typically issued when a website is found to be violating Google’s terms of service. This may include buying links, cloaking, or redirecting.
If you receive a manual penalty, you will have to make an appeal called a reconsideration request to Google to have your site reindexed. When Google reindexes a site, it places it back into the search engine results so it can be found again by online searchers.
Algorithm penalties: These penalties happen automatically without any human intervention on the part of Google. These are often the result of algorithm changes. An algorithm penalty happens when your site violates Google’s quality guidelines in some way and you lose rank. How far down your site falls in the rankings is typically equivalent to how badly you violated the guidelines.
An algorithm penalty cannot be lifted by a Google employee during a manual review. Recovery from an algorithm penalty is gradual but possible.
The tricky thing about algorithm penalties is that Google doesn’t announce all minor updates to its ranking algorithm. However, it does publicly announce algorithm updates that are expected to have a big impact on a variety of websites. This is why so many SEOs keep a close eye on big news coming out of Google.
To see if your site was hit with an automatic algorithm update, log into your Google Analytics account and review your organic traffic. If there’s been a dramatic drop in traffic during the time of an algorithmic change, you were most likely penalised.
Tips for Avoiding a Google Penalty
Nobody who is serious about their web presence and brand reputation wants to get a Google penalty. To ensure that your website isn’t slapped with a Google penalty, play by Google’s rules.
Read their Webmaster Guidelines and keep abreast of all the company’s major algorithm changes. When you stay on the good side of Google, you’ll be rewarded with a good ranking and website traffic.