How to Improve Rankings and Avoid Google’s Penalties
SEO is still viable activity for any business, being the most cost-efficient inbound marketing strategy. However, there are also challenges you will face when developing and executing SEO strategies.
One of the biggest challenges is Google’s own algorithm and constant change of policies. If you are not careful, you can get a Google penalty, which can demote your page rank or de-index your website altogether.
While we have stressed the importance of patience in SEO, many business owners often rush their SEO efforts. Taking shortcuts on SEO strategies, especially with paid links, can result in a Google Penalty. Google penalties can last for years, rendering all your past SEO efforts. Be prepared to commit at least 6-12 months for a website to reach the top Google ranking.
So, how to improve website ranking while avoiding penalties? Let us first understand the root of the problem.
What Causes Google’s Penalty?
Generally, we define Google penalty as any negative impact on Google SERP (Search Engine Ranking Pages). Sometimes, it can be caused by an update to Google’s Search Algorithms. On most of the cases, the website is penalized for engaging in practices that obstruct Google’s webmaster guidelines. On ‘lighter’ cases, your website’s Google ranking will drop. Worst case? The site can be totally deindexed.
Here are some common practices that can cause penalties:
1) Buying Links and/or Building Links Too Fast
Never buy any links, even from sources you deem ‘trustworthy.’ Bad links are the most common cause for a Google penalty. Besides, you need to be patient with your link building efforts, as Google can also penalize ‘unnatural’ links. Only focus on making two or three high-quality backlinks per week. Think long-term and don’t rush.
2) Links from Sites with Different Languages
This one is admittedly a little unfair. Even if you have a legitimate backlink from a high-quality website, it can be counted against you when the site uses a different language. Google reason is that users generally prefer one language, so the link won’t be useful. So, focus on links with the same language as your site.
3) Duplicate Contents and Bad Quality Contents
Any duplicate content can result in a penalty, so CopyGator and Copyscape is your friend, among other similar sites. Also, avoid content that is not well-researched and light in details. Consider hiring a professional writer to help with producing high-quality original content.
Yes, bad hosting speed can affect your ranking. Make sure your site is optimized for caching plugin or CDN. If you are big enough, consider moving your site to a data center closer to your main demographic.
5) Comment Spam
Make sure you have a spam detection system. If you simply don’t have enough time to moderate comments on your site, consider turning the commenting feature off entirely.
6) Over-the-Top Ads
Advertising is obviously a great income source. However, if you are too greedy, it can get your site penalized. Avoid ads that dominate the page or blocks the content.
There are many more practices that can cause a Google Penalty. This is a very nice guide from Kissmetrics listing 50 of such practices.
The Different Types of Google Penalties
There are generally two different types of Google Penalties, each covering different malicious practices. They are:
1) Manual Action
As the name suggests, you are penalized after the Google Search Quality Team manually reviews and penalizes your site. Here, you will get a notification on your Google Webmaster Tools, and you can submit your site for reconsideration after you have addressed the problem.
Here are some of the common causes of manual penalties:
Bought links and rushing link building can cause manual penalty. Again, make sure to focus on high-quality backlinks and do it as natural as possible.
Thin or Duplicate Contents
We have also discussed this above. In this world where content is king, always focus on high-quality, well-researched content.
Cloaking and Sneaky Redirects
Here, your site is showing different pages to users than what it is shown to Google. For example, you can target an ‘easier’ keyword with lower competition, but redirect your users to a different website. Obviously, sneaking redirects is a dishonest practice, avoid this at all costs.
Yes, this one might seems unfair. If your site is hacked or contains malicious content, your Google ranking can be penalized. So, website security is also an important factor.
2) Algorithmic Penalty
As we have mentioned, you can also get penalized when there is a new algorithmic update. To find out what’s causing the penalty, check Google’s Algorithm Change History regularly, especially when you experience a traffic drop. Correlate the time period when you lose traffic with an algorithm update, and you will most likely find the culprit.
There are two most popular (and problematic) algorithm updates that might just be the one causing you a penalty: Panda and Penguin.
Since 2011, Google has applied the Panda algorithm update. The Panda algorithm is mainly focused on content quality.
So, poor quality content with keyword stuffing can now cause penalties. The Panda algorithm itself is updated from time-to-time so you will always need to focus on consistent content quality.
While the Panda update is focused on content quality, the Penguin algorithm is focused on backlinks and anchor text distributions. So, the Penguin will affect bought links, links obtained through link networks, or any unnatural links.
As with Panda, Penguin algorithm is also constantly updated from time-to-time. So, make sure to always have healthy, high-quality backlinks when improving your Google ranking.
How to Improve Website Ranking
After we have learned about the Google Penalty and its causes, we can focus on ways to improve your website ranking while avoiding the penalties.
Here are some ideas you can try:
Analyze Your Competitors
At the very least, you should analyze all your first-page competitors. Note their keyword usage and analyze their approach to content management. How long is their content? How often do they post? How is the overall quality of the contents?
This is a very nice guide from MOZ on how to do an SEO competitive analysis.
Use Keywords Wisely in Creating Great Content
Yes, focusing on keywords is important for your content. However, with the Penguin algorithm, we have discussed above, the quality of your content is much more important.
When we speak about quality, it means that your content should appeal to readers. Many times, we are too focused on pleasing Google’s algorithms and crawler bots. Focus on writing useful, engaging content for people, while being wise in using your keywords.
Also, make sure the quality and quantity of your content is consistent. Stick to a schedule and use your best practices. Keep yourself updated on trending topics and plan accordingly.
Build Your Backlinks Slow and Steady
Backlinks are the backbone of Google rankings. Yet, as we have stressed over and over again, don’t rush your link building!
Slowly build your backlinks from websites with great organic search rankings. As we have mentioned, 2 or 3 backlinks per week are enough. Focus on quality and consistency rather than speed.
Google Penalty is one of the reasons many business practitioners avoid SEO. However, that shouldn’t be the case, as there are many proactive ways to improve your Google Ranking without tricking Google or doing deceiving practices.
The secret of successful SEO is to treat it as a long-term project. 6 to 12 months is a healthy time period to target before your site can achieve the top Google ranking, depending on keyword difficulty and competition.
Also, remember that Google’s algorithms are always improving. Work with seasoned SEO experts like Mike, keep learning, stay up-to-date with trends and working methods, and keep adjusting your strategy.
We hope you found the above-promoted content as enjoyable and helpful as we did!