Google has the power to penalize your website if they believe you’re manipulating their search engine or just plain spamming their index. If this happens you will see a huge decrease in organic traffic, rankings, and/or indexed pages.
There are two primary penalty categories and they include on-site and off-site penalties. When your penalty is caused due to the technical setup of your website, this would be considered on-site. When your website contains dangerous or manipulative backlinks, this would be considered off-site. This is the first thing to look for when you receive a penalty. Is it due to on-site issues, off-site issues, or both?
Now that you understand the primary penalty categories, you need to know that there are two primary penalty types. An algorithmic penalty or a manual penalty.
You’re probably wondering: What’s the difference? What causes each one to occur? Let’s get into it.
These types of penalties occur naturally as Google updates their algorithms.
These can be hard to detect as usually there’s not any notification from Google Webmaster Tools letting you know your website has been targeted. The way you will know is a huge loss in organic traffic. Another way to determine an algorithmic penalty is if your keyword positions have dropped tremendously. For example, your website was ranking #1-10 for a number of keywords and all the keywords dropped to #100 or lower. Also, you should always look to see if there has been a recent algorithm update that might have caused the major change.
What Causes Algorithmic Penalties
Two of the primary committers of algorithmic penalties are known as Google Penguin and Panda. Each algorithm targeting different manipulative practices.
Panda – First released in 2011, primarily targeting low quality content sites. If your website contains duplicate content, little to no content (thin content), high bounce rates, or content that has little to no meaning to anyone besides search engines, you could be targeted for this.
Penguin – First released in 2012, primarily targeting websites that are spamming Google’s search results. Over-optimization is a main factor of how Google determines if it’s “spammy” or not. If you’re guilty of having low quality or spammy backlinks, your website could be a target with this update.
Of course any algorithm update can cause fluctuation and changes in your rankings, but that doesn’t mean you’ve been targeted for a penalty. It simply means that other websites are higher in quality or their backlinks are higher in quality. It could also mean that Google has changed their ranking factor determination and now favors other websites over yours.
Manual penalties occur when someone from Google has physically reviewed your website and determined it does not meet their quality guidelines. There are two types of manual penalties that can occur:
Site-Wide Manual Action – Also known as a domain penalty where your entire website has been penalized. Google will notify you in Webmaster Tools if your website has been affected entirely and why.
Partial Manual Action – This happens when specific parts of your website or specific backlinks have been penalized – not your website as a whole.
When you see a Partial Manual Action in your Webmaster Tools, it’s worth noting that your website may not be negatively impacted in terms of traffic and rankings. Google is identifying the fact that some your backlinks have been targeted and de-valued.
What Causes Manual Penalties
There’s a list of reasons why Google has reviewed your website and slapped on a manual action. The first thing you need to do is figure out which of their quality guidelines you’ve violated. You can view which Reason (why Google decided to apply the penalty) and the Affects (which parts of your site were affected) in your Google Webmaster Tools under Search Traffic à Manual Actions. Here are the different causes of a Manual Action:
- Unnatural Links to Your Site – Impacts Links: When Google detects there are unnatural or artificial backlinks. This affects those specific links only.
- Unnatural Links to Your Site: Google detected there are a large amount of unnatural or deceptive links pointing to your website. This affects your website entirely.
- Hacked Site: Google has detected that your website has been hacked by a 3rd party and the content is considered malicious.
- Thin Content with Little or No Value: Google has detected that some or all of your web pages have little to no quality content. Examples of this include: auto-generated content, doorway pages, or duplicate content.
- Pure Spam: When Google detects that your website is using spammy techniques such as: cloaking, scraping content, or auto-generated gibberish.
- User-Generated Spam: This type of spam occurs on mostly forum sites. Google will detect that users of your site are generating spam and it’s not being controlled. This usually affects the entire site.
- Cloaking and/or Sneaky Redirects: When Google detects that your website is serving up different URLs to users and search engines.
- Hidden Text and/or Keyword Stuffing: When your site has placed hidden text or links to manipulate the search engines including writing in white text on a white background with keywords stuffed in the content that users can’t see. Keyword stuffing can be an example of when there are blocks of text listing cities or keywords that add no value to the user, specifically trying to manipulate the search engines into ranking for those terms. Often times the keywords are completely irrelevant.
When a Google penalty arises, it’s best you take care of it as soon as possible. You don’t want your website to suffer from little to no search engine visibility for too long as your business is on the line.
If your website has been targeted with one of these penalties, the next steps would be to:
- Fix the problem that Google is penalizing you for
- Submit a reconsideration request
In our next blog post, we will discuss the steps on how you can bounce back from one a Google penalty in more detail. If you’re struggling with one of these penalties, seek a professional to help you get this lifted. Good news is we’re good at this stuff and we’ve helped a large number of websites get their penalties removed.
Call us today to speak with one of our specialists and get back your rankings: 800.871.4130