Google Penalty? Don’t Press the Panic Button Yet

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Google Penalty


One of the main concerns of business owners while building their websites is to avoid Google penalties. SEO has changed quite a lot in the last 10 years. It goes without saying that SEO is complex and rules are more like guidelines. Optimizing your website for SEO isn’t enough, managing and keeping a check on the ever changing algorithms is also necessary. Though prevention is always better, but in the Google scheme of things this doesn’t happen always and sometimes one needs to get on the ground and find a cure. So, there might be times when you might get caught up in a penalty, the key is not to panic and plan a recovery.

Vikas Rana — CTO (HolidayIQ), who has mastered how to detect and emerge successful from Google penalties, was recently hosted by Accel at our insights event. In the session, Vikas shares his experiences with Google penalties and how he managed to get back his traffic. Here are the key takeaways from the event:

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Why You Can Get Penalized?

There might be multiple reasons why your website has come under Google’s scrutiny. If you have been knowingly manipulating your way up to the ranking, duplicating content, having faulty links then you can be the target. Depending on the breach, Google can either penalize certain sections or an entire website.

Types of Penalty

Google penalties fall under the below mentioned categories.

Manual Penalty: During manual penalty, someone from the google team analyses a website and sends notice regarding the fact that the website SEO is violating Google policies and guidelines. This type of penalty happens when you have been using manipulative methods such as on-site cloaking, duplicate content, poor backlinks, spam or unnatural content. If your website isn’t user friendly and gives poor experiences such as pogo sticking, pop-ups, advertisement heavy content, then you are sure to get that dreaded message from Google.

Sharing his experience, Vikas says, “Around end of 2012, HolidayIQ experienced a drastic increase in traffic because of about 1000 unnatural links created by us. At the first quarter of 2013, we were hit by a manual penalty. Using the Google Disavow Tool and Google Webmaster Tools, the links were manually reviewed, listed down and removed. It took some time for Google to remove the penalty. The website went through audit and the penalty was removed by November, 2014. Eventually, the website was restored and we got the traffic back. Although, it took its own sweet time to get back.”

According to Vikas, it is better to avoid this type of penalty. Manual penalty affects your organic traffic and rankings. It also takes longer recovery period and lot of money to clean up.

Algorithmic Penalty: You will get an algorithmic penalty when Google bots analyse your website and send a notification regarding the fact that the website SEO is violating the Google policies and guidelines. The dynamic nature of Google’s guidelines sometimes might result in to this automatic penalty. Unlike manual penalties, where you get a message from Google, algorithmic penalties are sometimes hard to detect. If you ever see sudden drop in traffic, then it might be a penalty.

When HolidayIQ introduced a 15 seconds pop-up on their website, their traffic dropped by 20%. Once they removed it there was a rise of 32% in traffic. “Most of the times algorithmic penalties are a result of bad user experience. Keep user experience as a priority. Google is watching,” says Vikas.

Compared to manual penalty, algorithmic penalties are less problematic, as there is no intervention from anyone in Google. It is automated and hence faster to recover.

Structured Data Penalty: This occurs when Googlebots figure out that a website have improper implementation of structured data markup like marking up content that is invisible to users, marking up irrelevant or misleading content, and/or other manipulative behavior that violates Google’s Rich Snippet Quality guidelines

Structured Data is very important for Google. Structured data markups feed into Google’s Knowledge Graph, appear in local results, and generate Rich Snippets which is great for improving CTR and organic search visibility. Hence, it is always better to send the data to Google with the assistance of Google rich snippets testing tool or other websites like schema.org. And, if you don’t have a proper structured data then it is better not to give it to Google as it may cause problems for your websites. Implementing the structured data of the videos present in the website gave HolidayIQ a huge bump in traffic

What to Do Incase of Penalty?

Penalties, manual or algorithmic, don’t mean end of the road for your website. There’s always a way of recovery if corrective measures are taken immediately. It is highly crucial to realize that you made a mistake and be ethical about it. HolidayIQ had more than 4 million pages indexed on their website. The content quality for many of their website pages was poor. The pages were de-indexed and brought down to about 400K. This helped improve the overall content quality and authority. The website traffic went up after the de-indexing of the low quality pages.

“Google sends you signals (before penalizing). Don’t stop paying attention to them,” says Vikas. He further suggests, “You have to take the effort to rebuild your website. Keep persuading and sending your requests. This will make Google understand that you won’t repeat your errors.”

All you need to be is honest, persuasive and persistent.

How to Rebound?

Here are few pointers on how to avoid or rebound from penalties:

  • User experience is very crucial for SEO. Time on site, bounce rates, overall engagement level, landing experience are important and shouldn’t be ignored.
  • Don’t build low quality links. The best way to get relevant links to your sites is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity.
  • Avoid thin webpages, this will hamper the quality of your website. If a page doesn’t have enough information and doesn’t meet the minimum requirement, then don’t Index it. The number of pages Indexed should be proportional to the traffic a website is getting.
  • Structured data is a big ROI. Ensure Structured Data implementation aligns with Google most recent guidelines. Test markup in the Structured Data Testing Tool.
  • Don’t roll out A/B testing across the site. Roll it on few pages or section, not the entire website.
  • Avoid pop-ups or sliders. If you are still using them, then make sure it is user friendly. It may be at the bottom of the page or may appear after 90 seconds. If a user-friendly pop-up can’t be arranged, then it is better to implement a CTA button.
  • SEO changes detection will be slow, Google will take its time.

Related Articles:

  1. SEO Best Practices Adopted by Market Leaders
  2. Brand Framework for Category-creating Digital-first Brands

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