Google is constantly changing it’s algorithms for accurate searches, which is great for the end user. Fortunately for those with new websites, they can learn and build around the new methods and algorithms to make their websites up to par. Unfortunately, for existing website owners and search engine optimizing folks, if they had not been doing honest SEO, there may be penalities involved.
Google has been tweaking it’s algorithms for a little over a decade now, since 2000. In the beginning, Google’s toolbar extension and pagerank were the important tools/factors which drove SEO. Overtime, Google continued to refine the quality of search results and began to eliminate poor quality content by establishing penalties.
Google Penalty Checker – Am I being penalized by Google?
Is your website being penalized? Here are some clues that might tell you if you are:
- Your website is no longer ranking well for your brand
- Your page one positions are slipping
- PageRank for your site has dropped to 0-1
- Entire website has been removed from Google’s cache search results
- Running a site search: site:domain.com keyword has no results
- Your website homepage does not appear in search results, but rather a subpage
What penalties are affecting my website?
If you see one or more of the factors mentioned above, it is likely that a penalty or penalties are affecting your website. While Google does publish some clues about algorithm updates, explanations are not all that clear and fixing penalties can be tough. Always keep in mind that any type of manipulation can be a penalty against you. It’s up to you to go through penalty factors and do things the right way, to get on the right track. Here are some factors that might contribute to penalties. They are based on research and 3rd party testing and reports.
- Link Buying: If you must buy links, don’t buy bad or irrelevant links
- Excessive and irrelevant reciprocal links: Swapping links was once innocent; now if you do this excessively, it can be seen as manipulative
- Unnatural, speedy link building: You want your website to rank quickly, but don’t overdo it. This can be seen as a manipulation tactic. Build links gradually overtime.
- Duplicate content: Use tools like Plagiarism Checker, Copyscape and CopyGator to identify if your website abuses duplicate content
- Spun content: Spun content can either get you in trouble that way or via a duplicate content penalty.
- Keyword stuffed content: If Google detects an unusually high number of keywords on a page, it may penalize for manipulation
- Meta tag overuse: Do not use more than five metatags per page
- Scraped content: Scraped content is seen as pointless duplication. Replace with unique scontent.
- Hidden content: Do not try to disguise text on a page to manipulate keyword weighting.
- Anchor text excessive use: Use natural anchor text vs forced unnatural keywords.
- Hreflang: If you have duplicate content, use ‘Hreflang’ tag which notifies Google that you have intentionally published duplicate content for different languages or localities.
- Duplicate metadata: Try making all metadata unique. Duplicate metadata can look like duplicate content.
- Overuse of H1 tags: Structure your pages and use the H1 tag only for titles to help Google understand what the page is about. Excessive H1 tagging could be seen as an attempt to pump your page with keywords
- 404 pages: Google checks to see if you are maintaining your website and weed out errors and problems. 404 pages signals Google that users are not getting information being searched.
- Broken links: Keep links up to date and minimize 404 errors.
- Redirects: 301 redirects to a new location may transfer 404 penalties.
- Error codes: Redirect various error codes if you get them. A common solution can be the 301 redirect. Here is a list of error codes.
- Footer links: Some web companies use footer links as a navigation aid, however so try to get backlinks this way which can be manipulative
- Hidden links: All links on your website should be visible and useful to users. Hidden links might be considered suspicious. Never make a link the same color as it’s background as this is seen as manipulative.
- Links from sites in another language: Users tend to prefer and search for content in one language, and linking from sites in another language tends to not be so useful to them
- Forum linking: If you want to add a forum link, use natural linking techniques and consider using nofollow tag as well
- Smuggled links in website scripts: Avoid putting links in script files
- Don’t hide website sponsors: Don’t hide sponsor links and make things look unnatural; instead ‘nofollow’ tag your sponsor links
- Links to suspicious sites: Do not associate your website with content that is unethical, illegal, etc. like hacking, porn, or malware sites. These sites are usually penalizes and penalties may carry over to your site as well.
- Missing sitemap data: Google uses your xml sitemap to crawl your site. Make sure this information is up to date and complete and submit to Google webmaster tools
- Robots.txt flaws: Do not do excessive blocking on robots.txt as this can penalize you as well
- Website down or timing out: If Google can’t find your site, it may deindex pages.
- Keyword domains: If you use keyword domains, make sure there is plenty of good, useful content, otherwise Google will assume you are trying to fool visitors into clicking
- Rented Links: Some paid links may be useful for SEO; if you must use them, make sure they are relevant
- Blog networks: Any kind of network can be seen as manipulation. Avoid using spam or such networks for SEO.
- Excessive affiliate links: Excessive use of affiliate links might be a red flag that content may not be accurate.
- Site-wide links: A link on every page helps Google determine website structure. A developer credit link on every page is not often part of the website structure.
- Blackhat SEO: Do not use or publish information on how to perform blackhat methods; this will often lead to a penalty.
- Hacked content: If your website has been hacked, Google will remove it from it’s results. Act quickly to clean up your site.
- Comment spam: Monitor comments and don’t let spam build up. If you have no time to moderate, turn off commenting.
- Spam: Avoid spamming at all costs; you can be reported to Google
- Spammy keywords: There are some spammy keywords that may be necessary to your business, but Google is waging war against many of them appearing in spammy sites. If your business operates in one of these industries, expect to be caught in some of the penalties
- Overuse of ads: Advertising is okay as long as it’s not the primary subject of the page.
- Landing pages: Landing pages to manipulate positioning for target keywords are seen as bad practice by Google
- Over-optimization: Over optimization means you have obsessively optimized your website over competitors in your industry; publish natural content before your rank suffers.
- Slow website speed: If your website is slow, user experience is frustrating and might lead in a bounce or less engagement. Use caching or CDN to help site speed.
- Paid link advertorials: A page of content riddled with paid links to be used for aggressive manipulation of search results is controversial and can lead to a penalty.
- Excessive outbound links: When linking to other websites, keep links natural. Too many outbound links is a sign of excessive link exchanges for mutual SEO benefit/manipulation.
- Malicious backlinks: Negative seo done by unethical competitors building bad links to your website is a thing; be aware of this misfortune
- Poor mobile sites: Avoid a poorly designed mobile site for the sake of SEO and conversion
- Reference useful websites: If your website does not share information other than your own, it make be seen as an attempt to target traffic unnaturally
- Bad domain: If your domain has a bad reputation, it may be better to build a new website around it rather than deal with the penalties
- Content theft: If someone steals your content, you may also be penalized for it for duplicate content. You can try asking Google to remove the stolen content.
- Content farm: Avoid content farms and only post rich content written by you or a professional.
- There is no quick fix: The only way to rank well is to have consistency in your SEO work overtime.