Do you know that there are over a hundred reasons why your website or blog should be hit by one of Google's algorithmic penalties? Definitely.
Even if you have everything under control or you are a search optimization wizard or you have one by your side, your odds of being a victim of the panda or penguin or even the page layout algorithm increases by the minute.
Just in case you have never heard of these terms and words used above, here's a brief story to enlighten you:
A Google penalty is a reward to erring and manipulative websites, but only a bad one that leaves the site with little or no quality and odds to rank well than it had before.
A Google penalty is something you don't want your blog to experience in this lifetime.
There's only three major factors that can lead to Google, penalizing a website:
- Link factors: Link factor or link flaws concerns the inappropriate usage, structure or attempts and acquisition of links which might cause a penalty.
- Content factors : Like the link factor, content factor involves the production, acquisition or formation of content. Especially poor content.
- Onsite factors: Onsite factor can be associated with flaws resulting from On-page over optimization or under optimization (which means poor On-page and manipulative SEO). You've been hearing about the penalty ever since, right? but what's responsible for penalizing illicit websites, is it Google team themselves?.
This means if you play along with the rules, you're sure as hell on the right side.
Like I said before, there are over 200 rules to play along with and you're already playing along with over 100 of them of which you probably didn't know of.
Before the beginning of 2011, manipulation of Google and it's non-sophisticated methods of ranking was competition for marketers because it was too, too easy.
A penalty for those manipulative marketers didn't matter because it really didn't exist.
On February 2011 Google made life a little more interesting for licit marketers and frustrated the illicit ones by rolling out it's Panda SEO algorithm and Penguin in 2012, April.
Google panda and penguin algorithm will further be discussed, but just after i show you the reasons why your website should be penalized.
- Duplicate meta information: Meta data information generators make it too easy for you to get penalized by distributing same information to you and many other of your competitors and resulting to content duplication on your site. They really are of no use since it's giving one to all.
- Meta keywords overuse: I bet you already know about keywords meta tag and how useful it was back in 2008?. The keywords meta tag is not used by Google anymore to determine the rank of a website today, but it is a sure determinant of Google penalty. It was so obvious to Google that people manipulate the keyword tag to get traffic. For instance, black hat marketers and webmasters would use keywords like "sex, money, coffee" on a bakery niche site just to get traffic. Don't over use it, especially if you run a blog. Use at most 2 or 3 to avoid getting hit. See more about keywords usage on Moz blog.
- Reciprocal links: I know this is a good way to create relationship that'll pay off in the long run, but, Google doesn't understand this and will penalize your website when done in excess.
- Hidden affiliate links: Having affiliate links all over the place is bad enough, but hiding them will cause a definite penalty. Google isn't totally against affiliate links, but don't hide them.
- Auto generated content: Auto generated content refers to content that contains some keyword search terms, generated programmatically without human review before publishing. This automatically generated content usually makes some sense to search engines and non-sense to readers. The name sums it up - Auto + generated . Some example includes: • Content generated from scrapping atom/RSS feeds. • Content generated through automated processes. • Content generated using tools, alongside obfuscation techniques.
- Unnatural internal linking: I guess you already know what internal links are. Internal linking is a good way to increase user time on site and crawl ability but don't go overboard with it.
- Poor link profile: If you have thousands of backlinks or even hundreds pointing to your domain URL, make sure above 70% of them are high quality links. Google frowns at websites with malicious and low quality links dominating their link profile.
- Links from unrelated niche sites: Links from unrelated niche sites will definitely hurt your website ranking, especially from low quality unrelated niche sites. Don't go around placing links or engaging in crosslinking with unrelated niche sites, even if they tend to have higher Google page rank, it's not still quality.
- Unnatural links from same sever IP: If you have too many links coming from sites on the same server IP, Google will see this as blog network link building, which is kind of a bad thing.
- Links from hacked sites: What Google is trying to do is bring the most useful and safest results to users. Hacked sites are usually thrown down the SERPs, and all the links pointing to your URL from the hacked site will hurt your rankings for sure. To Google, hacked sites are handicapped and may cause harm to the systems and devices used by the users.
- Selling links: Selling links will hurt your rankings, especially when the links are frequently changed and when they are unrelated to your niche. I know you want to make more money, there's only two ways to stay clean and cool with this: • Include the no follow tag. • Or just sell links related to your niche.
- Hidden texts: Even if you weren't trying to play smart, Google will dress a file against you for hidden text. Never make your text color same as that of the background (that's hiding text).
- Hidden links: Same as hidden text. Google cannot be fooled (at least, not anymore). Hidden links on your site should be placed in places where it won't be difficulty to find, links should play along with Google rules by being useful and non-malicious to users. Making a link invisible by giving it a transparent color with the page background may raise suspicion in the minds of readers who notice and Google.
- Sneaky redirects: Sneaky redirects might just be another name for internal cloaking, users aren't getting what they want exactly.
- Website timeout: How will you feel when you try to access a website and it's timing out consistently, frustrated right. That's exactly how users feel when your website goes down. Google cannot be frustrated, so it will either shove your website down the SERPs, where no one will find it while it's timing out (and you're timing out traffic too). Google will try not to frustrate it's users by either de-indexing your site or pushing it to pages other than the first and second page of the SERPs.
- Cloaking: This is (was) a smart tactic commonly used by spammers to get users to click through to their site from the SERPs. This involves showing users a different and compelling content just to make them click to a page with a different content. I've fallen victim of this before but i didn't know SEO at that time, neither did i know of cloaking. Google frowns at website that practices this tactic.
- Scrapped content: If Scrapped content from RSS feeds and other websites if found on your site, it will definitely call for a penalty. Try to remove them, especially when one copy is all over the net.
- Spun content: With the increasing number of lazy bloggers, it's pretty easy for a guest blogger to submit spun content to your site, which will hurt your rankings. Avoid spun content on your site and by no means try to rephrase and publish a bought content or content (especially low quality ones) from other places on the web.
- Content farms: Content farms are websites with poor content for sale. Better spend your time in writing original and quality content that people will love to share and link to than buying one that will land a penalty.
- Link schemes: You'd probably want to ask "what's this", right?. Link scheme is anything that not right about links. Link scheme involves: • Passing PageRank through linking to unrelated niche sites. • Excessive reciprocal linking. • Optimized forum signature links. • Widely distributed links in footers of various sites. • Distributed links in template of various sites. • Low quality links from low quality bookmarking sites and directories. • Optimized anchor text links in articles distributed on various sites. • Low quality or hidden links embedded in widgets distributed on other sites (Unnatural link baiting).
- Rich snippets markup abuse: Rich snippets help Google understand and interpret your website better. Overuse of rich snippets markup might be seen as an attempt to manipulate rankings, so don't over hype it's usage.
- Negative SEO effect: Negative SEO is something you don't want to experience, pray not to have enemies. The negative SEO effect can range from getting your website hacked and damaged to getting it reported to Google as spam site by your enemies. The slowest and most harmful part is when wicked competitors or your loyal skeptical readers engage in building low quality and harmful Backlinks to your site, which will call for a Google slap in both the long and short run.
- Comment spam links: All links from forum comments are of little relevance and of no quality if it's from a low quality website. Too many low quality links from comment signature can be a very good reason for Google to penalize your site. This is gonna be for you especially if you've spent the last half decade of your life building hundreds of low quality comment links.
- Link churn: Here's what link churn means: frequent placement and replacement of links within already an published content. This makes Google see your site as a potential link scheme site. Try to leave links the way they are, even if you have no intention of selling links Google will count it against you.
- Little or no external links: Linking to other sites will encourage others to link to you, give users explicit information, increase your site trust (especially when you link to the most popular sites in your field) and crawl ability. Not linking out will do otherwise. Google won't want to play Mr nice guy with a stingy blogger, in fact it will hurt your rankings for trying to get traffic unnaturally (even if you weren't trying to do such).
- Exact match anchor and URL: Many legit site got hit by penguin and panda update, mostly because they fell victim of this vulnerability, which was too obvious to be true.
- Domain has bad reputation: Before you purchase a domain, ensure that the domain is free of any past vulnerability that may result in future flaws. It's pretty difficult to clean up an already messed up domain. You won't know about it's bad rep, not until you've spent so much. Bad rep might include past penalties, poor link profile, hacked content, malicious links pointing to its URL, bad name around the web (maybe something that readers don't want to hear), spam history.
- Too long domain name: Avoid usage of domain name that exceeds 25 characters, this may be seen as keyword stuffing in domain name. And Avoid keyword overuse in URL.
- Buying followers and likes: I get request everyday to buy 8000 followers for $5 on Twitter, I mean everyday. But, from the little knowledge I garnered from social media experts, I know nothing bought will last long. Google uses these social medias as audits to rank a site and trust one.
- Little or no social media engagement: If you have a site with thousands of followers and no tweets nor shares, be prepared to get hit. Even with bought followers, you can kick start up by engaging fulltime. There are ways to increase your twitter engagement and Facebook participation which will result in boost in traffic and gaining trust instead of a supposed penalty.
- No recent update for about 3 months: Google wants to provide it's users with the most recent and up-to-date information. A site that's not updated weekly should be updated monthly, else it will go down the SERPs, where no one will find it.
- Domain has added content: Added content refers to text added to your website by hackers. This cannot possibly be seen by you nor your visitors but it passes a message to the search engines (mostly to manipulate rankings).
- Volatile whois.com account: Be sure to have a valid whois.com ownership details account. A site with volatile or missing ownership info may pass a reset message to Google for it to clean recent history of the domain and all useful links pointing to it become lost.
- 0 page rank for over 2 years: A website with 0 PageRank for over 2 years is a sign that the site has be abandoned and can do no good, which calls for content de-indexing.
- No specific update frequency: It's important to stick with a posting frequency so as to give spiders specific return intervals.
- Illicit content on website: Website containing illegal content deserves to be penalized for such content, especially sites that distribute hacking and cracking tutorials, porn and other low quality content to the public.
- Hacked content: Hacked content is content placed on your site without your permission due to flaws or vulnerabilities in your website's security. Google tries it's best to prevent hacked content from appearing on search results because they feel it will harm the devices of users and pass across malicious content to them.
- Guest posting: Guest posting is becoming more and more popular, which makes it easier for malicious links to be used within submitted posts. Apart from guest posting, overuse of rich anchor text links within content can be a potential cause of penalty, so avoid it.
- Spam server IP: If your server IP address is seen as spam due, it may scrutinize all the sites on the same server.
- Penalized whois.com account: If a your whois.com account is flagged for spam, all sites owned by you will also be penalized. A spammer is a spammer.
- Content catchment: Content catchment means displaying a few paragraph of content published on another site. Combination of content paragraphs produced in other places of the web. While this might seem like a good way to display the hottest topics from other sites to your audience, it's not in accordance to Google's guidelines.
- Automated links: Automated links can be harmful to a site's health. Using automated processes to produce inbound links seems a little tricky and smart but Google is pretty swift to detecting and penalizing such links.
- Unnatural internal linking: Internal linking is often one of the most ignored tactics for increasing page rank. While this is a good way to increase dwell time and reduce bounce rate, over doing it can also kill your efforts. Link to at most 7 internal pages, the longer your content, the more chances you'll have to utilize the power of internal linking. Don't just go overboard like Wikipedia, it's not worth the risk.
- Ads in content ads: Your Ads should be well placed in places that won't distract the visibility of main content. Ads should be useful to your visitors.
- Content theft: This one's pretty obvious right?. Content theft can cause a lot of troubles apart from landing a penalty. If you happen to find your content being published some place, else from your site, ask the author to remove it, or if it's a giant site that can throe in thousands of visitors, ask them to use the rel='canonical' and link back to you.
- Low quality web directories and bookmarking site links: Submitting your site to low quality web directories won't do any good, instead it will hurt. Before submission to any web directories, check their page rank and trust rank. After submission, check the page rank of the particular page where your link is placed, if it has a high page rank the it's worth the submission.
- Link farms: There's content farm and there's link farm, funny right?… Link farms are usually webpages with over 100 unrelated external links on a page. Links from link farms are usually devalued by search engines and can't improve your rankings. Check out for web directories that display links in alphabetical order and avoid them. As their link database expands, links beginning with end part alphabets will be moved to low quality pages (yours included).
- Keyword stuffed content: Keyword stuffing refers to the overuse of keywords or numbers on a webpage, so as to manipulate a site's ranking in the search engine results page. Keyword stuffing can get your website penalized. Don't overuse keywords in content that it looks so unnatural. Maintain a balance use of keywords in content. While Google uses keyword density to determine a site's ranking, it also uses it as a penalty determinant when overused.
- Broken links: Consistently check for broken inks on your site and fix them. I had my first two blogs penalized for broken links existence within content. Make your content unique for both spiders and readers.
Google's reckoning period
A reckoning period is the time Google uses to reprocess the information and updates of a website before putting it in the deserved position.
For an already hit site, a reckoning period is also the space of time at which Google updates its algorithm and releases previously hit, but now amended sites.
Don't just expect to see changes in rankings, especially after you've made several changes to your website, you have to wait for it.
I used to rank #8 for the "Uncommon blogging tips". About 2 days after I made several changes to that post, I flew back to #20… which is on second page.
I had to wait it out for Google to reset it's database and push me up again, before I finally deleted the post.
And if you run a Google search on "Uncommon blogging tips", you'll see some snippet of the post on the web, ranking on 3rd to 7th spot.
Every downslope changes on the SERPs is not always a penalty, wait it out if you know you've done nothing wrong to deserve it.
Google panda algorithm was released to hype the hopes of original content producers and frustrate the efforts of marketers who jam-pack their sites white low quality and unoriginal content.
Google Panda was officially rolled out in 2011, February and was last updated this year, 2014, on September 23.
Marketers, webmasters and bloggers who used content farms and published automatically generated and spun content on their websites and blogs benefited very well from it before Panda rollout.
Till date, Panda algorithm makes content marketing more fun for original content producers and more pain for lazy bloggers by fishing out poor content around the web.
When a Panda penalty catches up with your website, it's the entire website we're talking about and not some low quality pages.
It doesn't take much to fall victim of a Panda penalty.
While low quality materials on a website can be a determinant for Panda penalty, over optimization stands as another reason to earn it.
Your website doesn't need to be optimized to the teeth to earn traffic and revenue.
Don't try to out-SEO everyone in your field because Google frowns at websites that engage in this practice.
You should worry less about panda algorithm yet, Google penguin algorithm is much complicated.
Google penguin algorithm was officially rolled out on April 24, 2012… before then, poor quality sites succeeded in getting high rankings and traffic.
With bought links and so many other black hat SEO tactics (like cloaking, doorway pages, paid links), low quality websites seemed to gain more traffic and higher rankings over quality sites that didn't endorse the use of these methods to obtain high rankings.
Marketers saw changes in rankings after the penguin rollout as it favoured some smart marketers in the field.
Penguin's aim is to hit on sites that practice both black hat SEO and link building techniques. Penguin was last updated on October 17, 2014.
Legitimate sites suffered the wroth of penguin… why? …because they had little to no marketing experience and no knowledge of anchor text placement.
Most of the sites that were affected seemed to have issues with link scheming and anchor text violation.
- Create interesting and relevant content.
- Bought links will do no Google unless it's bought the right way.
- Offer quality material that will help your audience.
- Link quantity isn't as important anymore. What matters now is link quality. And so is content.
- Links from a high page rank unrelated niche site to yours is of no importance (in fact, it's harmful).
- Spend more time producing your own content.
- Spun content or content theft won't help you achieve higher ranking, it will kill your site.
- Keep your site clean of hacked content and verify your whois.com account.
And the good news is, you're probably getting it right with over 10 of the 49 penalty determinants outlined in this post.
While some rules tend to be mostly ignored by you and I (as marketers), we are more prone to becoming casualties from recent and future updates of Penguin and Panda algorithm.
So, what other reason did i leave out? Did Google penalize your website?