The main objective of Google has always been to give its users a complete access to all the information available at its disposal. This is also one of the primary reasons why Google emphasizes more on regular modifications and improvements of its algorithms so that each website gets the exposure it deserves.
However, this is where things get tricky. Sometimes in our haste to get maximum exposure for our site, we knowingly or unknowingly practice certain techniques that either does not meet Google’s requirements or are downright illegal in the eyes of Google, hence the penalty.
A Google penalty, therefore, is the negative impact your website suffers in the form of permanent bans or rank demotion because of the little stunts that you pulled. There are two ways Google can penalize your website if it smells something fishy.
It is basically the automatic sanctioning of your website by one of Google algorithms such as Panda or Penguin. Since there is no manual processing involved, it cannot be simply lifted up by a Google employee. What you can do is search for a recent algorithm update on sites such as Search Engine Land and Search Engine Journal and fix your site accordingly.
A manual penalty is something that is manually imposed by a Google employee for strict violations of Google rules. Usually, you receive an alert in your Webmaster’s dashboard such as unnatural or low-quality links detected followed by an automated drop in rankings or removing web pages or websites as a whole. Let’s see how we can fix this.
In order to recover from a Google manual penalty, you need to identify the actual issue that has got you in trouble with Google in the first place. To help you out, I have mentioned below a few of the major ones and how to resolve them.
Thin content is often the result of haste we make to complete an article or a web page without thorough research and end up either duplicating others or sometimes your own content which in the eyes of Google is just plagiarism.
Now, this issue can easily be fixed by deleting the plagiarized content and updating it with a fresh one. You can also update your product description to remove unwanted affiliate links. And in case you are unable to remove any thin content, you can simply add a noindex meta tag to prevent Google from crawling over that particular page.
Websites get hacked all the time but unlike earlier days, now you can rely on Google to alert you to a hack. But even then, if Google discovers your site is hacked and you haven’t redeemed the situation, you can easily get penalized and lose your hard-earned search engine traffic.
For fixing this, you need to shut down your website before changing all the passwords that provide direct access to your website. Then you can use search console to identify whether its a spam, malware or phishing. Now, all that’s left is to identify and close the hacker’s entry point which can be anything from an outdated CMS to a plugin, software etc.
Links are generally of two types, unnatural outbound links (which Google suspects you are selling directly to other websites or offering dofollow links for paid reviews) and unnatural incoming links that point towards your website.
Start with outbound links, go to Google’s webmaster tool and compare all your existing backlinks against the webmaster’s guidelines to see if they fit. You can also consider tools like SEM Rush, Moz Link Explorer, Majestic SEO and other tools as well to pull all the backlinks of your website. Identify those that don’t comply with google guidelines and simply remove them or set them as “nofollow”. For incoming links, follow the same procedure and identify the culprits, then its just a matter of emailing the concerned webmaster to remove those backlinks or disavowing them using Google’s Disavow tool.
Nowadays, many websites are interactive with their readers and allow them to comment on their blog pages. Unfortunately, not all your users are sharing innocent thoughts, some are also using it under fictional usernames for advertising or other unrelated purposes. But Google sees all.
To fix this issue, look out for user accounts with no pics or names that seem auto-generated or the ones posting off-topic comments, identify them and simply block them from your site. You can also set “nofollow” links to the comments you cannot remove. Lastly, you can opt for an anti-spam software or hire a moderator for analyzing comments before publishing.
Wrapping Up: Though there are many more ways Google can penalize your website, I have listed above a few of the most common ones. So, whether you are recovering from Penguin, Panda or Hummingbird algorithm update, or any other manual issue, applying these practicing can easily help you recover from your Google penalty. Who knows, you can even return to a higher search engine ranking than before.
Andrew Hoffman is a freelance copywriter at Octopus Tech, which is a leading web design company in India. He has written on behalf of a range of clients including the Demand Media & Livestrong Network and published several articles on topics related to SEO, SEM, Social Media Marketing and web development.