Every business wants to achieve the highest possible listing on Google. But using questionable techniques to boost your rankings can often end up backfiring.
Violating Google’s Webmaster guidelines will result in penalties that reduce your website’s rankings or completely remove it. To avoid spending time in the Google penalty box, steer clear of the following penalties.
The Big List of Google Penalties for SEO
UNNATURAL LINKS TO YOUR SITE (IMPACTS LINKS)
When Google detects unnatural links that have been artificially created by you or someone else on your website, it will penalize the unnatural links by devaluing them. In this case, Google says clean up the links if you can, but it shouldn’t hurt your website (they are a little unclear on this one unfortunately).
Here are a couple good resources on this one.
- Unnatural links to your site—impacts links – Moz. March 18, 2014
- 3 Unnatural Link Warnings and How to Deal With Them – Search Engine Journal. March 16, 2015
UNNATURAL LINKS TO YOUR SITE
These are links to your site that Google thinks you have control over. As a result, they will penalize your entire website as well as the links. This is a tough one, read about it here.
UNNATURAL LINKS From YOUR SITE
This penalty is applied to the web site on the other end of any unnatural links to your site. If you are selling links, this could be you.
If Google thinks your site has been hacked, it will be penalized.
THIN OR SHALLOW CONTENT
Increasingly, Google algorithms put a premium on quality of content. Which means the content on your site must be relevant and valuable to readers. Thin or shallow content will be considered spam, and treated accordingly.
Google hates spam. Websites crammed with filler text, cloaked pages, scraped content or other gibberish will draw a quick penalty.
Typically applied to websites where users create the spam, such as forums, this earns the same penalty as user-generate spam.
Excessive use of keywords can get you in trouble. Use too many keywords now and the Google “refs” will throw the yellow flag and penalize your site. You can still use keywords multiple times on a page. Just make sure they make sense within with the context of your message.
Search engines are like accounting auditors – they want to see everything out in the open, with nothing hidden. This is true even with text that your readers may not want or need to see. You can hide text in many different ways, such as making the font the same color as the background. Regardless of the technique, Google will consider it spam and may penalize your site accordingly.
When Google detects spam on multiple websites hosted by the same host, they usually penalize all the websites.
Google’s rule on this one is crystal clear – no buying or selling links in a way that passes on search engine ranking credit. Google dislikes this practice so much that they have banned companies like J.C. Penny and Overstock for months at a time. Paid links may seem like a cost-effective way to improve search rankings. But get caught doing it on Google and you’ll pay a heavy price. (Hint: don’t believe programs that tell you their paid links can escape Google detection.) You can report paid links here.
AUTOMATICALLY GENERATED CONTENT
Are you having a program create content on your website? Learn more.
Are you redirecting the user to a piece of content that is different than what they search for? Learn more.
Did you create a bunch of pages that provide no value, but are intended to rank for keywords? Learn more.
Are you stealing content from other websites and re-purposing it as your own? Learn more.
Are you only listing information about affiliate programs on your website? Learn more.
CREATING PAGES WITH MALICIOUS BEHAVIOR
Are you installing content on someones computer, changing home pages or pushing unwanted files on a user? Learn more.
Did you use an automated program to build a bunch of comment links? Learn more.
Google also has seven major algorithmic penalties that can affect your website’s rankings.
This algorithm penalizes overly aggressive link-building schemes, including any links to and from your site that are intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results. Penguin really hits sites hard that have too much anchor text for a term.
You can thank Hollywood and the recording industry for this one. In response to pressure from these powerhouse industries (and the government), Google now penalizes sites that receive multiple requests to remove copyrighted material. If you post content on your site that might fall within this domain, it’s a good idea to regularly check your Google Webmaster Tools account for any DMCA takedown notifications.
Designed to improve local searches, this algorithm won’t directly penalize your website. However, it can potentially lower your rankings if the SERPs that it targets contain locally searched keywords that do not abide by Pigeons ranking guidelines. Read our ultimate guide here.
This algorithm focuses on the meaning behind the words in a search query. If Google determines that your content doesn’t match the meaning of the words in a search query, it can reduce your rankings. You can read more about Hummingbird here.
- Google Hummingbird Update Impacts 90% of Searches
- Is your Content Hummingbird Quality?
- Hummingbird Update: Watch a Video by John E Lincoln
- In-depth review of Hummingbird
Google understands that website visitors don’t want to have to slog through a mountain of ads in order to find the information they’re searching for. If Google’s page layout algorithm can’t identify enough useful content “above the fold,” it will lower your ranking. To maintain high rankings, don’t make your readers search for content.
Cleaning Up the Wreckage
Okay, so you got penalized. Now what?
Google understands that violations, especially minor ones, can be unintentional. So they have a process in place whereby you can work with them to resolve the situation.
If your rankings have declined, or your site isn’t appearing in search results at all, check Google’s Manual Actions page. There you will find the nature of your penalty and the appropriate steps to address the problem. Once your site is back in alignment with Google’s Webmaster guidelines, you can request a review of your site directly from the Manual Actions page. If you think it is something else, check out the Panguin Tool. It will give you an overlay of all the Google updates against your analytics account. You can also check out our Google update timeline.
Good luck with your penalty. If you have question, please ask.