By: Kristin Vick – Bayshore Solutions Digital Account Manager

It seems that one search engine or another is constantly making updates to their algorithm, usually the most notable of them all, Google. These updates usually only affect less than 1% of websites, but when there are almost 1 billion websites on the internet, that means these updates affect almost 10 million sites! When Google and other search engines do this, your website (no matter how successful it has been in the past) is subject to a penalty. For example, in 2012 Google introduced its Penguin update, overnight websites that had been popular in Google, organically, were blocked from search results and lost almost all of their organic traffic.

First thing’s first. How do you know if you have been hit with a Google penalty?

If it is a manual penalty, Google will tell you. This type of message will be sent to your webmaster tools account. From this message you can request a review of the alleged penalty and address the issue with direct action.

If the penalty is algorithmic, you may not know. Below are some examples on how you can assess if you have been hit with an algorithmic penalty:

  • You are not ranking for your brand name anymore. Even if you are in a competitive industry with highly sought after keywords, in most cases, you should rank at the top for your brand name.
  • You website has been removed from Google’s cashed results, overnight.
  • Your website PageRank has dropped from a respectable four or three to a one, or worse a zero.
  • Your keywords that were showing with page-one positions are losing rank with no action from you.
  • After performing a site search in Google (site:yourdomain.com keyword) and there are no results being provided
  • If you do eventually find a listing for your website, it is not your home page.

There are other indicators, however, if you have experienced one or more of these indicators, you can be pretty sure you have been hit with a penalty.
Secondly, you will need to find out why you have been issued a penalty. Do you:

  • Use too many keywords, or use the same keyword too much?
  • Buy or rent links?
  • Hide text on your website?
  • Feature stolen content on your website?
  • Have unnatural content and anchor text?
  • Have “spammy” links come to your website?
  • Have a lot of errors?
    • 404’s, slow site, etc.

While there are more factors to consider, having any one of these on your site can make you a target for a Google penalty. The key factor to remember is that while it is not impossible to recover from a Google penalty, it will be a long road, but with patience and perseverance, it can be lifted.

“Ok, what can we do about it?”

  • First, don’t panic. Just because you have a Google penalty does not mean all is lost. It also doesn’t mean you have to start all over with a new website. In fact that could just make things a little more muddled for you.
  • Perform a content audit. What keywords are you using and how often? Do your meta tags need to be updated?
  • Disavow troublesome and spam links. Sometimes links point to your site that you have no control over. Let Google know that you are asking your website to not be associated to these links.
  • Remove links if you can. While disavow is good, it is even better to have links removed if you can. This also includes internal and external links from your site.
  • Request reconsideration. If you know your penalty was manual you can ask Google to reconsider your site, after the necessary changes have been made.
  • Wait it out. After you have cleaned up your site, it is important to continue to follow best practices for SEO and allow Google time to recognize those changes and lift the penalty.

If you have more questions in regards to Google penalties, or are not sure where to start, Bayshore Solutions is here to help. Bayshore can help assess where your penalties are coming from and work with you on the best course of action. To get started, contact us at www.bayshoresolutions.com

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