Suffering a Google penalty can be damaging for your site and can create some major implications to the success of your business/website – especially from an SEO perspective. If you are new to the industry, you may not be fully aware of the indications of a penalty, so, we are going to go through the types of penalties your website may receive and we will provide some recommendations in order to avoid these penalties.
Types of Google Penalties
A manual penalty will occur when someone from within Google has manually analysed and reviewed your site. They will then determine that your website has breached one or more of their guidelines. In order to review these manual penalties, a notification will be sent to your Google Search Console account.
This type of penalty is given – if a website has tripped a filter/safeguard built into Google’s algorithm. There are a number of rolling updates in place from Google, but the major Google updates, which can significantly affect search results are the infamous Panda and Penguin updates. These two are designed to cut down on shameful practices such as automated link building and thin content.
5 Signs of A Google Penalty
Manual Action in Google Search Console
One of the most obvious signs of a website being issued a penalty by Google are the warnings, which are raised in Google Search Console via a Manual Action. In the Manual Actions section Google will outline whether you have a Manual Action or not and the reason for this penalty.
Drops in organic traffic & visibility
One of the most common tell-tale signs of Google penalty is the significant drop in organic traffic or visits to a website. If a website has recorded a significant drop in visits, which coincides with well known updates such as Penguin and Panda then that clearly indicates a problem on a website.
To discover if you have had a significant decline we suggest using Search Metrics. This allows you to create and analyse a visibility report for your website over the past two years, giving you a clear idea of whether your visibility has dropped from a penalty
Even the biggest brands can be hit by a Google Penalty. Below shows how eBay lost almost half their SEO visibility from a penalty in 2014.
Along with the drops in organic traffic & visibility one of the most common signs of penalty occurrence is the drop in your site’s Google Rankings. The first thing to check is that you still rank for your own brand name: if you don’t then it’s highly likely that you have a site wide Google penalty and your alarm bells should start ringing.
Drops of one or two positions are natural, however if you find that a number of your phrases have dropped or dropped by a substantial number of places; then you may have a Google penalty.
There are a number of tools available to help you check your rankings – again Search Metrics and Google’s Search Console can give you this data.
Low Quality or Spammy Backlinks
The Penguin algorithm update focuses on your backlinks and their quality and is the most common cause of a Google penalty. Any backlinks to your site should be of a high quality and be relevant to your industry; however low quality backlinks can naturally occur, especially if you syndicate content.
Majestic SEO is the best tool available for reviewing your backlinks and checking their quality. They use a score ranking called Trust Flow to determine the quality of a site, with 100 being the highest and 0 being the lowest.
We suggest you look out for these kind of sites, as it’s widely known that Google penalises them:
- Low quality free submission directories
- Article distribution sites
- Porn sites
Another common error made by many websites online is the use of duplicate content throughout their website. E Commerce sites are hugely affected by duplicate content and this is down to the sheer amount of pages they may have on their site. It’s vitally important to have unique content on every page of your site, to prevent a Panda algorithm penalty.
Copyscape is a great tool for finding pages with duplicate content, both on your site and on the web in general.
What can we take from this? We now know what Google Penalties there are and the tell-tale signs that you have received a Google penalty.