Google website penalty can be a tragedy for any online business or company, resulting in radical reductions in natural organic search traffic and online revenue. Google’s dominance in terms of search engine volume, determining a fast recovery strategy from a Google penalty is essential.
This Post was Last Updated on April 9th 2011.
Identifying the reasons of a Google penalty can be a time consuming and complex task without intricate knowledge of the Google algorithm. For instance, if your website drops suddenly for its main keyword terms it can be caused solely by a change in Google algorithm or search results (SERP) revise like the recent Google Mayday and Panda update.
Google Penalty can be because of the following 2 issues:
- On-Site Issues
- Off-Site Issues
Lets quickly first go through the possible the On-Site Issues.
You can quickly check the following things to identify if the penalty (or traffic dip) is because of any On-site issue on your website:
- Check your website analytics data (like Google Analytics), specially the search engine segment and compare it with previous month.
- See the pages which are showing low/nil traffic.
- See the keywords associated with the pages which are affected.
- Now, check if you have made any recent changes on the pages/website structure which are showing low traffic, any minor change in URL or meta can be a different story.
- Check if the pages are not accidently blocked by the robots.txt file present in the root of your website.
- Check if you have not spammed or even hidden keyword on the page which is showing low traffic or has dissapeared from the search result.
- Check if you have the same instance of the page with a different URL.
- Check the Google Webmaster Tool stats if there is any virus or spyware alert on your website.
- Check the pages in the copyscape if its showing duplicity from any website. Google has been very strict on duplicate contents recently.
- Check the server log to make sure that your website server was not down for a long period of time.
If you identified anything from the above list, fix it ASAP. Solutions to the above issues:
- If you have accidently made any change in the URLs of the pages then roll back the change and put a 301 redirect from the current changed URL to the earlier present URL. For example:
if you accidently or intentionally changed the URL from: http://www.example.com/xyz.html to http://www.example.com/xxyyzz.html then roll back the change and implement a 301 from http://www.example.com/xxyyzz.html to http://www.example.com/xyz.html
- if you have made any structural change in the website make sure that the URLs are same as it were earlier if not then implement a 301 redirect from the old urls to the new URLs. If you have made only the navigational changes then make sure that the affected page is linked by your core pages or Home page.
- If the keywords are spammed on the page or website has copied content then revise the entire content of your page. Make sure that there is no more than 2-3% keyword density present on the page. Do not use Multiple h1, h2 etc.
- If its blocked by Robots.txt file then fix the blocked pages and submit the website sitemap in Google Webmaster Tool.
- if there is any virus attack then remove the virus from the website from the affected pages and submit the website for re-inclusion in the Google Webmaster tool.
If there there is nothing above which has impacted your website then its the Off-Site factors which has caused the Google Penalty.
Lets go through the Off-Site factors now. However there could be hundreds of Offpage factors affecting your website, I will go through the strong cases only. You can read the entire Google Checklist here.
Lets quickly go through the possible the Off-Site Issues.
- Banned/Farm/Porn Backlinks. Check all outbound links from your site to see if you are linking to any sites which have themselves been Google banned. You can check your backlink in Google Webmaster Tool or in Yahoo Site Explorer. (Yahoo/Google backlink Check Query – link:www.example.com)
- Check if you are not linking to any bad neighborhoods, link farms, doorway pages or virus/spyware downloads.
- Link Buying and Selling: Check for any paid text or banner links. Use “nofollow” attribute if you have purchased any advertisement banner or link.
- Check if you have low quality links coming from Affiliate websites, made for adsense websites, comment websites etc
- If you have used any automated software for link building stop it ASAP.
Check all other possible Google Penalty Checklist here:
More on Google Penalty:
With any algorithm change or Google SERP update, there are always winners and losers, and when a sudden drop in rankings is experienced Google penalties are often incorrectly blamed.
Google often applies backlinks depreciation to links from various sources that it consider spammers are exploiting to artificially lift up the ranking of their sites. In addition, minor Google Search algorithm changes are continually being made in an effort to combat link spam and make the search relevancy better.
When link deflation occurs, as it has with reciprocal links from low quality web directories and link farms, reductions in Google ranking may occur affecting the addressee site of the links. The severities of ranking reduction are usually identical with the website’s reliance on that particular type of linking.
There is no doubt that blog comment links and low quality web directory links have also been devalued and this has lead to reduced website rankings for sites which got a major number of backlinks or site wide links from blogs or directories. Additionally, links from not related theme sites are also experiencing Google devaluation – so if your site heavily relies on these links, then it may have a sudden drop in Google search results.
If you suspect a Google penalty on your website, it first makes sense to check whether any Google algorithm changes have been made which could be the cause of the problem. SEO Forum posts reflecting algorithm changes usually appear on the SEO Chat Forum soon after the effects of any update are felt.
If your web site suffers sudden and dramatic fall in ranking and no Google Search algorithm changes has happened, then a Google penalty may be the cause, especially if you have been indulge on activities which might have broken Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. The most severe Google penalties lead to total lose in rankings and website de-indexing and where the SEO misdemeanor is serious a site ban may be imposed by Google, accompanied by a sudden Google PageRank reduction to 0 and a grey out Google Toolbar Page Rank indication.
Whatever the cause, recovering from a Google penalty is a challenge and our SEO checklist will help identify likely causes and reasons for a sudden reduction in Google ranking or an major drop in SERPS position for your main keywords.