Search Engines predominantly run on black box technology! What works today might not work tomorrow, and not to mention with ongoing development with algorithms of all sorts, their goal is to provide you with the most relevant search results. Having said that, any changes to search engine guidelines and algorithms can send you traffic plummeting, following which you’d have to take some steps to regain your rankings and traffic.
Types of Google penalties
These are the easiest to identify because Google would notify you within your webmaster tools. More so, the notifications tell you what is it about your website that has flagged Google’s spam algorithm to impose the penalty. First, fix the issues Google is recommending you to fix, and secondly, once fixed you’d have to submit a reconsideration request manually for the penalty to be revoked.
Google’s Panda & Penguin updates are 2 major algorithmic changes that can cause algorithmic penalties. This could be keyword stuffing, irrelevant content, over optimisation, no optimisation, and so on and so forth. Usually, with each update, you’d be able to find the changes that have taken place, and can easily reverse engineer what the issues might be and fix them for your site. However, it is a good practice to follow guidelines always, so your rankings and subsequent traffic is future proof.
The difference between recovering and avoiding a Google penalty
Algorithmic penalties are severe and can cause a massive decline in both ranking and subsequent traffic. The extent to which you are penalised depends on whether the guidelines were changed drastically and/or whether you personally violated a lot of the guidelines. Recover is very gradual and can take a lot of time. So, the best way to avoid this is to make sure you follow guidelines and also clean up any violations on a regular basis.
Also, read 08 Ways to Get on the 1st Page of Google
Ways of Avoiding Google Penalties
Understand what Google wants
Always always follow search engine guidelines. For the most part, both Google and Bing guidelines are similar, and I am sure like 99% of another webmaster, you are more concerned with Google guidelines and rankings. Do not try to manipulate the rankings or deviate from the guidelines. Doing this will ensure your rankings are future proof and therefore your traffic.
Adhere to “Quality Guidelines” which outline some of the illicit practices that may lead to a site being removed from Google’s index or otherwise impacted by algorithmic or a manual spam action. The design, content and technical guidelines outline the practices recommended by Google and it is best to follow them.
Have a Content Audit in place
Audit your content regularly. Almost every Google penalty now is because of content guidelines, or rather the lack off on your website. Google Analytics’ Behaviour > Site Content > All Pages is a good place to start looking at your content and identifying any issues with your content.
Please note, simply adhering to metadata guidelines is not enough! You have to make sure your content goes through an editorial process, and your content is relevant to your product/services and more so users search queries. Furthermore, doing a content edit will also help you outline your content strategy for the long run and further future proof your site’s rankings and traffic.
- Maintain a clean link profile
Always audit your link profiles. Whilst you might follow every possible guideline there is, there are plenty of bots and spam websites that would index content from another website(s), including your’s and create ghost pages and links, linking back to your site(s). Whilst you have no control over this, an audit will always help you point out the harmful links which you can then submit through your webmaster tools for Google to disavow.
Google webmasters Tools can help you get a list of all the links. Go to Search Traffic > Links to your site.
Keep abreast of Google’s algorithm updates
Keep up to date with Google Algorithm Changes and Updates. Again, whilst you might be following every possible rule there will be updates that would tentatively make your current practices obsolete and/or spam resulting in ranking and traffic plummeting. For example, a decade ago SEO was as good as your metadata, title, keywords, and descriptions. Webmaster started stuffing their website metadata with keywords completely irrelevant to your search query. As a result, today, whilst metadata is important it is merely a fraction of what contributes towards your overall site optimisation.
In our opinion, meta title, description, and keywords merely assist with Click Through Rates rather than actual rankings itself. So always keep yourself up to date with changes and/or upcoming changes.
Work on your content
Content is everything! At the end of the day, your target audience will like, share, follow, subscribe, and eventually, buy from you because of your content! Contentmart helps you understand which content will drive traffic and how you should keep experimenting with different kinds of content. The key is to engage the users with high-quality content which they would want to visit, share, gain valuable information from. Such content will get links and will get linked to. It will have good rankings and will not get penalised.