Most business owners today either at least have a basic understanding of search engine optimization. In many cases, they’re aware of the benefits, but not quite sure of the path to get there. They’ll either make attempts to learn SEO on their own, or hire an SEO agency. Either way, one thing is clear: no business can successfully thrive long-term without it. Even the biggest brand have SEO plans in place.
However, the fight to reach the top of search engine results pages can result in a few messes and those messes come to hurt your site via Google penalties. Unfortunately, many business owners, especially local business owners, aren’t even aware of the mistakes they’re making. They misconstrue grey or black hat SEO tactics as “competitive SEO.” Furthermore, Google has notoriously been hush-hush about their algorithm updates and how it affects sites. Therefore, any tactics that seem to be treading the line and getting away with it are often penalized after those tactics are pushed.
Don’t Get Hit With A Google Penalty
Getting hit with a Google penalty can turn out to be a major financial dilemma. Most small business rely on organic search results to bring in new business. One study from Eye Centric found that at least 70% of consumers submitting search engine queries will ignore paid search ads altogether and focus on organic search results instead. This isn’t to discredit the value of PPC ads, but to emphasize the tremendous importance of staying in Google’s good graces: organic search is the number one traffic driver, by a landslide.
Manual & Algorithmic Penalties
The first part in avoiding Google penalties is understanding the different types of those penalties. There are two primary types: manual penalties and algorithmic penalties. Manual penalties are when Google conducts a manual review of a website and imposes a penalty if they see anything that goes against their rules. There are actually over 400,000 manual penalties on a monthly basis, making it fairly common. You’ll be able to easily identify manual penalties in your Google Webmaster Tools.
Google’s algorithmic penalties are harder to identify, because as previously mentioned, Google doesn’t always notify when updates are made, nor do they explain how webmasters will be affected by it. Algorithmic penalties happen automatically when Google pushes updates to their algorithm that your site violates.
Examples of violations you could be penalized for include having bad links pointing at your site, publishing duplicate or weak content, article spinning, and keyword stuffing among others.
Examples of Penalized Sites
No matter how small or big your business is, you are not exempt from Google penalties and you will not blend in with the masses. There are several examples of how Google algorithms completely obliterated sites, and didn’t care who it was or what influence they had. For example, eBay lost a major influx of traffic and rankings fell dramatically during a Panda 4.0 update.
There were many other big brands that were penalized, too. Overstock got hit big-time when Google realized that the retailer was offering discounts to schools in exchange for links to its pages. Nearly the entire site was pushed off the first page of SERPs, and with just two months in a penalty period, they lost 5% of revenue.
Fixing Google Penalties
No one likes getting a hit with a Google penalty, but it isn’t the end of the world. There are ways to fix it, but some penalties are much more difficult to fix than others. The ultimate goal is err on the side of caution and enforce preventative measures, though in some cases, even the most innocent of efforts don’t come out on top.
There are two ways you could go about fixing a Google penalty: you could take the DIY route and learn on your own, or hire an agency to work on your behalf. Perhaps you’ve got a handful of bad links point to your site and want to clean things up. Or you’ve hired a freelancer that’s given you duplicate content. Regardless of the situation, consider the time and energy it take stop remove penalties, and also consider revisiting your overall SEO strategy.