7 Traffic-Crushing Google Penalties & How to Prevent They

7 Traffic-Crushing Google Penalties & How to Prevent They

 

Google takes its ranking algorithm seriously and updates it regularly to ensure users have the best possible search experience. Google will penalize sites or pages that violate its Webmaster Guidelines.

Google penalties can be incurred if you intentionally practice black hat SEO. This could happen inadvertently due to poor site maintenance or an algorithm update. Google penalties can have a negative impact on your search rankings and, in certain cases, could result in your entire website being removed from the results.

google logo with black hat and penalty stamp

This post will cover: This is what we’ll be covering:

  • What to expect from Google penalties: Algorithmic or manual?
  • How to fix a Google penalty manually
  • Here are seven Google penalties that you should avoid.

You’ll be able to maintain your rankings and grow your website traffic by the end.

What is a Google Penalty?

Google penalizes websites that violate its Webmaster Guidelines. There are two different types of penalties, but both of them have the same consequence of a drop in ranking and traffic.

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Algorithmic sanctions

Google updates its algorithm every year to ensure that it continues to deliver the best search results for its users. Panda, Penguin and Pigeon are just a few of the most notable Google updates.

Some algorithm updates are designed to lower the rank of guideline-violating pages, like Panda (keyword stuffing, grammatical errors, and low-quality content) and Penguin (black hat linking tactics) while others are designed to favor pages with newly prioritized ranking factors, like Pigeon (solid local signals) and Hummingbird (mobile responsiveness).

timeline of google algorithm updates through 2021

Image source

Do you have any information about mobile-first indexing and page experience?

Websites may experience a decrease in ranking after an algorithm update. This could be due to it not following guidelines or other sites that are more aligned with certain ranking factors. This is an example of traffic data for a site after the BERT update.

 

graph showing traffic drop after BERT algorithm update

How to fix an algorithmic Google penal

Algorithmic penalties can’t be checked for because they aren’t stated explicitly. It is best to check if you have a drop in traffic due to an algorithm update. Also, learn as much about the topic as possible so that you can make any necessary adjustments or make any changes to existing content.

Depending on the update and the extent to which your website misaligned with it, your fixes may or may not lead to a restoration of ranking and traffic.

While algorithmic updates happen frequently, they all serve to reward sites for EAT and optimal technical performance, so those should be your constant points of focus

Manual penalties

Manual penalties are given by actual Google employees for pages with potentially inadvertent issues like content quality and security, or for deliberately manipulating Google’s algorithm using black hat SEO. Manual penalties are easier to spot than algorithm penalties.

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How to fix a Google penalty manually

You can use Google Search Console to check for penalties. There are many Google penalty checking tools.

FindSecurity & Manual ActionsClick on Manual actions in the dashboard tab.

manual actions tab in google search console showing no google penalties

You can view which policy has been violated, which pages have been affected and how to fix it.

Once the page is fixed, you can submit it to Google for review. Google employees will review your request and approve it if the page is properly fixed.

What are the penalties for a Google penalty?

A penalty can result in a reduction of rank. However, the severity of the penalty will depend on what type it is.

  • Keyword-level penalties:A keyword will see a drop in ranking.
  • URL or directory-level penalties:A particular URL will see a drop in ranking
  • Penalties that are site-wide or domain-wideYour site will rank lower for many keywords and URLS.
  • Delisting or de-indexing:This penalty is the most severe Google can impose on your domain. It will cause it to be removed from the Google index. This means that your website’s content won’t be displayed on Google.

What is the average Google penalty duration?

Google penalties are in effect until they are fixed. The penalty’s consequences and alerts will not be removed from your Search Console if a specified time period passes without being fixed. This means that you have lost the chance to correct things with Google.

Your site might not be able to recover its rankings and traffic once the penalty has been lifted. For more information, check out this post on Google penalty recovery timelines.

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Here are the top 7 reasons Google penalizes you and how to avoid them

Every business wants to be on Google’s first page so that they can drive more traffic to their site, and ultimately gain more customers.

The way to achieve that (through SEO) is a lengthy process that requires effort and patience. Many people, especially those who just started a website or blog, are tempted to take shortcuts in order to increase their rank. These tactics can only lead to Google penalties.

These are the most common punishments and what you can do about them.

1. 1.

This is when website owners focus on quantity over quality SEO content, thinking more content means more traffic. They might use content-generating tools, create short-form articles or pull content from other sources.

These SEO mistakes can be detected by Google. Low-quality content will also reflect poorly on your business.

The goal of the 2016 Panda 4.0 algorithm update was to reduce the visibility of low-quality content and doorway pages in search results. This is why eBay lost over 80% of its organic ranking!

 

types of thin content google penalties

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How to avoid the thin content penalty

  • Do not try to outsource your content or mass-produce it. Outsourcing can result in content that is not on-brand or inconsistent.
  • Hire freelancers to help you scale your quality content. They will be familiar with your industry and can produce pages that are valuable to your readers.
  • To ensure that you target the correct keywords and that your content meets the intent of the query, do thorough keyword research.
  • Create pillar pages or cornerstone content instead of doorway pages.
  • Combining short pages that are optimized for similar keywords to create a longer page with more information about one keyword.

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2. Hidden text and linked

Google’s Webmaster guidelines forbid you from hiding any text or linking to SEO purposes. You can hide text and links in many ways.

  • Set the font size at 0
  • Use white text and linking in the background
  • Hidden text behind an image
  • Use CSS to place text off-screen
  • Make links that are the same color as your background

How to avoid the Hidden Content Penalty

First, don’t do it in your own interest. You shouldn’t post anything if you need to conceal it.

If you didn’t intentionally do this, Go to the URL inspection tab of your Search Console, enter the affected pages into the search box, and then “view crawled page.” There you can check for any hidden links or CSS.

search console report revealing hidden text or links

3. 3.

Spam bots and bad actors could overwhelm forums that allow guest postings. Spam links may link out to poor quality or inappropriate pages, which compromises the T in EAT.

Or, actual humans will make a comment on your blog with one or more irrelevant links just for the purpose of getting a backlink from your site to increase their domain authority.

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How to avoid user-generated spam penalties

Here are some ways to prevent spammers from posting on your forum or website.

Moderation tools for comments

We use Disqus to filter, delete, and ban spammy comments. You can also view approved comments before they are published on your site. You can also review approved comments before they go public.

spam comments in blog posts

Anti-spam software

Spammers use automated scripts to flood your comments section. To prevent spam comments, integrate Google reCAPTCHA into your website.

Nofollow and UGC attributes

You can add tags to make no-follow links to any link posted by a commenter or guest poster. This will stop Google from following the links from your page and passing any link juice to the linked site.

These attributes include rel=”nofollow”, and rel=”ugc”. Take this example:

Original link: My Website
No-follow version: My Website
UGC version: My Website

Noindex meta tag

You can add a noindex tag to pages that allow users to submit articles to your site. The page will still be available through your site, but it won’t appear in search results or be considered in Google’s ranking algorithm.

Add after the Tag

4. Poor or unnatural links to your website

Google’s Penguin algorithm update for 2016 was created to detect link building that is not natural.

Backlink building is a highly effective SEO strategy that helps increase your page authority–but only if they come organically from high-quality websites.

How to avoid the penalty for unnatural links

Of course, use an appropriate link-building strategy that does NOT include:

  • Selling or buying links
  • Link exchanges: Link my website to me and I’ll link to yours
  • Forum profile/Signature links
  • Blog comment links
  • Article directory links
  • Too many links built in a short time
  • PBN links

Perform regular backlink audits

Unintentionally, spammy links can be added to your website. You can use Google Analytics, Search Console or an SEO tool such as SEMrush or Ahrefs to examine your backlink profile.

Here’s an example of just one part of a backlink profile from an ahrefs backlinking report.

ahrefs backlink report showing junk referral domains

Image source

5. Keyword stuffing

On-page SEO, like adding keywords to the title, headings, body, meta description, and alt text helps Googlebot to understand what your page is about. However, intentionally keyword stuffing is a black hat SEO tactic that incurs a Google penalty.

You should now be able to see what keyword stuffing is in body. However, keyword stuffing can result in you being penalized in alt text.

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example of keyword stuffing in alt text

Image source

How to avoid the keyword stuffing penalty

  • Use keywords in your content naturally, just as you would in person.
  • Long-tail keywords or LSI keywords are better than focusing on one keyword. You can use keyword research tools for help.
wordstream free keyword tool results

WordStream’s Free Keyword Tool

6. Hack website

Hackers can gain access to your website and compromise confidentiality. They can also inject malicious code, add inappropriate content or redirect you to spammy or harmful pages.

Your site will see severe ranking drops on all search queries, and Google may delist your whole website from search results for this penalty.

How to avoid the penalty for hacking a website

There are many ways to increase the security of your website.

  • Keep your content management system up to date
  • Strong passwords are important and should be changed regularly
  • Install SSL certificate
  • Invest in high-quality hosting
  • Use a malware scanner tool to detect hacks
  • Regularly back up your website
  • To stop brute force attacks, hide the login URL and limit login attempts

7. Missing structured data markup

The structured data markup is a type of code that helps Google to display your site more attractively in Google search results, such as by showing star ratings and quantity of reviews.

Here is an example of event schema markup

example of event schema markup

Here is the recipe schema markup

example of recipe schema markup

Google may also penalize you if you use structured data that is not relevant to users and content.

the schema markup abuse google penalty

Image source

How to avoid the structured data penalty

Another penalty for black hat SEO is this one. Here’s how it worksto do:

  • To increase CTR, don’t add fake reviews. Follow these appropriate ways of getting real Google reviews.
  • Use only structured data that is relevant to the content you are marking.
  • Your mark-up content should be visible to the readers.
  • Do not add schema markup to illicit activities, violence or other prohibited content.

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To avoid ranking drops, be sure to stay on top of Google penalties

Google penalties can hurt your traffic and ranking, whether they are algorithmic or not. While you can make fixes to the penalty, it may not be possible to recover traffic or rank. It is important to avoid them from happening in the first place. We have covered seven Google penalties that you can avoid in this article:

  1. Spam generated by users
  2. The content is thin
  3. Keyword stuffing
  4. Hidden text
  5. Unnatural links to your website
  6. Hack website
  7. Abuse of structured data

You can avoid Google penalties by avoiding black-hat SEO techniques, using security and moderation tools on the site, and focusing only on quality content. This will help you improve your rank and traffic and protect your site against hackers.