You may have spent a lot of time and/or money designing and building your website to have the best chances of ranking in your industry or related terms. Then when you make the site live you discover that you’ve received a penalty from Google that hinders your site’s performance. How could this have happened and what possible mistake could you have made that led Google to strike you with such a penalty? This article discusses the most common reasons that Google might distribute penalties for and honest mistakes site owners may be making. It also covers preemptive actions you can take to make sure you’re not penalized and how you can recover from them even if you are.
Common Reasons for Penalties by Google
Google’s aim is to provide the best potential search results for its’ users based on their search queries. They do this through the use of their advanced algorithm that ranks websites in order of relevancy to a given user’s search query. Google has set forth a set of guidelines and best practices for websites to follow in order to avoid incurring penalties and to improve their chances of ranking. Any site it finds that violates these guidelines and best practices, or that it believes is aiming to take advantage of its users, receives a penalty.
Content is king in the world of search engines and search engine optimization (SEO). Whatever practices or tactics you may follow to get your site to rank won’t matter if your content is not suited to your user’s needs. Some businesses try to take short cuts when it comes to their content and simply copy good content found on pages that are already ranking. Google can recognize this and knows what content came first when it comes to duplicates. Duplicate content is bad whether it’s similar/duplicate pages on your own site or content found on other sites. Google hands out hard penalties on pages that contain duplicate content which can severely impact your ability to rank.
60% of today’s searches are conducted through a mobile device. Mobile is a growing source of traffic for Google and websites alike. The best-ranking websites all accommodate the wants and needs of mobile users. With the majority of its users coming from mobile platforms, Google has taken steps to penalize any sites that are not mobile responsive. Even without this penalty in place, if your site isn’t optimized for mobile users then you could be losing a large percentage of your traffic. If you’re redesigning your site or creating a new one then mobile usage should be your primary focus. If you’re unsure whether or not your site is mobile friendly then you can use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to find out.
In today’s fast-paced world speed is a key factor in ranking. No one likes waiting for a webpage to load and chances are if a site isn’t loaded within a couple of seconds then users will go back and try a different site. Google follows the needs and wants of its searchers and knows that people hate waiting. This is why Google uses loading time and page speed as one of the factors in its ranking algorithm. Faster pages rank higher than slower ones with all else being equal so aim to get your page to be as fast as possible.
Bad links are one of the most common reasons that Google will hand out penalties to a site. Bad links come in many forms and many times people mistake bad links for good ones. Links can be helpful for your site, for instance, good internal links can help direct users on your site to the information that they’re looking for. Links from credible sites related to your page’s topic with strong domain authorities can also drive a lot of good traffic to your site. But bad links can be deceiving. Below are some examples of bad links and how they may hurt your business.
- Buying links: Google has made it very clear that buying and/or selling links, or exchanging free goods or services for links in return, is strictly prohibited. If they detect this they will give a penalty to both the buyer and the seller.
- Unnatural reciprocal links: Reciprocal links with a related business are not bad, but having a sudden high velocity of links all of the sudden looks suspicious to Google and you will likely receive a penalty for it.
- Spammy links or links from non-credible sources: Links that appear as spammy or being linked to from non-credible sources or websites can negatively impact your ranking. It’s important that your links appear in places where they make sense and where users will actually benefit from coming to your site.
Preemptive Actions & What to Do If You Do Get a Penalty
The best way to avoid a penalty on your site is to abide by Google’s set guidelines and best practices for website content and design. Sometimes even when you think you’ve followed everything correctly you may still receive a penalty. Google’s algorithm is updated periodically as new practices and techniques are discovered and added. Some practices that may have been okay or even good in the past might be causing your site harm now or in the future. Below are some of the best practices to avoid receiving any penalties and actions to take if you do receive any.
- Always publish new and unique content. Avoid copying any content from other sources that will incur a duplicate content penalty. If you do have duplicate content on your page, aim to remove it as soon as possible and replace it with new original content. Publishing new content will also keep you ahead of the competition and drive more traffic to your page, naturally increasing your ranking.
- Design your site to be mobile-friendly. If you’re building a new site then make this the focal point that your site is built around. If operating on an existing site then use tools such as Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to find out how to optimize your site for your mobile users.
- Make your pages as fast as possible. Speed is a factor in Google’s ranking algorithm and faster pages will rank higher. Identify issues such as extra-large images that are hindering your site speed and work to condense them for optimal loading times.
- Never buy links. Just don’t. You should also be aware of where your site is linking to and from where your site may be linked from. Remove any links you may have purchased or sold in the past to avoid any potential future.
- Aim to remove low-quality links. Links to your site from non-credible sources, or sites with low domain authority, negatively impact your site’s rankings.
Your website is important in the modern digital world. You may have spent a lot of time and/or money in getting your site to where it is today. With over 90% of search traffic coming from Google a penalty could be detrimental to your business. Use the techniques in this article to avoid incurring any penalties from Google and recover from them if you do find yourself with any.
If you want to learn more about your website’s current SEO performance and how it stacks up to the best practices, use our free website grader to receive a full SEO report!