Understanding and Recovering from Google Algorithm Updates
If you’re a business owner with a website, it’s important to understand how Google’s algorithms work and what you can do if your site is hit with an update or penalty. In this blog post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Google’s algorithm changes and how to recover from them. Keep reading to learn more!
The True Cost of Bad SEO
SEO practices can be tricky to navigate, especially with Google regularly rolling out updates to its algorithms. But let’s state this fact; to be penalized, you have to work very hard to get penalized, or you really worked hard at breaking Google Webmaster Guidelines. Chances are you or your SEO company were too aggressive in manipulating Google’s algorithm to your favor and consequently ended up with this problem. These changes can sometimes result in penalties for websites previously ranking high and seeing a lot of traffic. Depending on the severity of the penalty, a website could experience anywhere from a slight drop in visibility to total deindexing from Google search results. In either case, it’s important to understand why Google has imposed these penalties, what was done improperly and then what you are going to do to recover Typically involves issues like thin content or generating poor quality content, which may involve generating massive amounts of AI pages, bad link building strategies, as well as the types of penalties they come in – manual action or algorithmic penalty. Understanding this information is essential since SEO mistakes can have costly consequences if not dealt with accordingly.
Types of Google Penalties
- Manual Action Penalty: A manual action penalty is when Google manually penalizes a website for violating its quality guidelines.
- Algorithmic Penalties: An algorithmic penalty is when a website’s rankings drop as the result of a change in Google’s algorithm or indexing methodology.
- Link-based Penalty: A link-based penalty occurs when an excessive number of spammy links pointing to your site causes your rankings to drop in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
- Unnatural Links Penalty: This type of penalty is triggered by links that appear unnatural, such as paid links or link networks designed to manipulate PageRank or increase search engine visibility without permission from webmasters who own content linked from other websites Penalties and Manual Actions
- Technical SEO/Mobile Penalty: Technical SEO penalties, Non-SSL and mobile penalty targets sites that are not optimized for mobile devices, not using SSL (yes, there are still some out there) or use bad Technical SEO, causing them to be ranked lower than those with better mobile optimization.
Google has these penalties because it wants to ensure that only sites with high-quality content are ranked in its search results. Google penalizes websites that violate their webmaster guidelines by using tactics such as generating low-quality content, keyword stuffing, cloaking, link spam, and hidden text or links. These all negatively impact the user experience and can ultimately result in lower rankings for a website if Google detects them. Additionally, if a business is found to be using black hat SEO tactics like buying links and engaging in other manipulative practices such as redirecting traffic from competitors’ websites without permission, it may also face serious penalties from Google. Ultimately, Google’s goal is to provide accurate search results for its users; therefore, any behavior that attempts to game the system is discouraged.
Comparing Manual Actions vs. Algorithmic Penalties.
Manual Action Penalty and Algorithmic Penalty are the two most destructive Google Penalties. Both of these penalties can have a significant negative impact on a website’s rankings, traffic, and reputation. The main difference between the two penalties is how they are imposed. Manual Action Penalties are imposed by humans at Google who review websites for violations of their quality guidelines. A website may receive a manual penalty if it is found to be using black hat SEO tactics such as buying links or redirecting traffic from competitors’ websites without permission. On the other hand, Algorithmic Penalties are imposed by an algorithm that updates regularly as Google updates its algorithms to detect and punish any malpractices. These updates can result in sudden drops in visibility for websites previously ranking highly as well as new penalties for sites breaking webmaster guidelines.
Regarding severity, Manual Action Penalties often have more severe consequences than Algorithmic penalties. They can also be very difficult to correct. But, most sites receiving manual actions usually have significantly exploited Google’s Guidelines
Algorithmic penalties, however, tend to cause less drastic effects, such as a slight drop in visibility or ranking for certain keywords or phrases instead of total deindexing from search results. They are also easier to clean up for an SEO expert than a manual action. The one caveat is that you understand what caused the problem so you can take the proper corrective action. In the past few months, however, Google has compounded algorithms changes making it hard for business owners or even some SEO companies to properly diagnose the issue. Honestly, if you have a solid SEO company that does not push the envelope but does their job well, it is rare a business will have either of these problems.
When it comes to how each penalty is triggered, Manual Action Penalties are typically triggered by violations of Google’s webmaster guidelines, such as generating low-quality content, keyword stuffing, cloaking or hidden text or links, whereas Algorithmic Penalties tend to be triggered by changes in Google’s algorithm and how it indexes pages. In recent months poorly written content or thin content has been in the algorithm cross-hair, following closely behind an excessive number of spammy links pointing to your site. Older penalties include or not optimizing your website for mobile devices, having poor core vitals or having a bad user experience. In all cases, action must be taken immediately to avoid further damage and loss of rankings and organic traffic.
Overall, even though both Manual Action Penalty and Algorithmic Penalty can cause serious harm to a website’s online presence, it is important for anyone that calls themself an SEO company be familiar with them. Knowing how to spot them early on so appropriate measures can be taken quickly before further damage is done is crucial
Causes of Google Penalties:
Google penalties can often be complex and difficult to understand. But it is important to understand the common reasons why a website might receive a Google penalty, so you can take steps to avoid this issue in the future. Here are some of the most common reasons why websites may receive a Google penalty:
Thin content refers to web pages that offer very little useful information or value to users. Google values websites that provide quality content that is relevant and useful; if your website’s content is thin or lacking in substance, then it may be penalized by Google. Additionally, keyword stuffing – cramming excessive keywords into the content – can trigger an algorithmic penalty from Google for spammy content.
Link building is an important part of SEO, but if done incorrectly or excessively, it can lead to a penalty from Google. If you are using link-building tactics such as paid links for link networks created solely for SEO purposes, then this could result in a manual action penalty from Google. Additionally, if your website has been linked from sites with poor quality or irrelevant content, this could also result in penalties from Google due to unnatural links pointing back to your site.
Technical issues like slow page load times or websites not optimized for mobile devices may also lead to penalties from Google. Additionally, if your website does not have SSL security installed, then this could also result in lower rankings and traffic losses due to non-secure warnings on browsers when people visit your site. It’s important to ensure your website is up-to-date with technical requirements set by Google.
Cloaking & Hacking:
Cloaking refers to techniques spammers use to show one version of their web pages (filled with keywords) when indexed by search engines and another version when humans view them directly in a browser window. If discovered by Google, cloaking will most likely result in severe penalties imposed on the given website as well as manual actions taken against it. Additionally, hacking sites through malicious code injections can also lead to major losses in rankings if identified by search engine algorithms; therefore, it’s important that you secure all aspects of the website, including third-party plugins and scripts used on it regularly.
How To Determine If Your Site Was Hit By a Google Penalty
If you are experiencing lower traffic than you think you should be, you should first ask your SEO company their thoughts. Personally speaking, we let customers know when we see trouble. Obfuscation of that often damages the trust between the company and the client. You can use the following as a guide to correcting the issue, or you can use this to check on your SEO company to make sure they are taking the proper steps and have good answers to the problem.
Checking whether a website has been penalized by Google can be a tricky process. But, the issues should show themselves very quickly so work can repair the problem.
First, you’ll want to review your website in relation to Google’s quality guidelines. Are there any obvious violations? Are there any signs of manipulative practices like keyword stuffing or hidden text or links? If anything looks suspicious, then it may be worth further investigation.
Next, you’ll want to analyze your backlinks profile. Check out the types of websites linking to your site as well as their quality and quantity. High-quality backlinks from reputable sources like educational institutions and government websites are key for SEO success, while low-quality backlinks from spammy directories or link networks often lead to penalties. Additionally, if you notice an increase in new links over a short period (particularly those with exact-match anchor text), this could indicate that someone is trying to manipulate search engine rankings on your behalf – another practice that will result in hefty penalties if detected by Google.
Thirdly, you should track your organic search traffic and look out for any sudden drops in visibility. While sudden changes can also be caused by algorithm updates or seasonality effects, they could also indicate that your website has been hit with a penalty – particularly if there are other factors such as poor quality content/backlinks at play here too.
Some of the evaluation tools and steps you can use are listed below:
- Check Google Search Console: The first step is to log in to Google Search Console and check for any manual actions against the website. Manual actions are penalties imposed by Google’s webspam team, and they will be listed in the Manual Actions section of the Search Console.
- Check the website’s search engine rankings: If the website’s search engine rankings have significantly dropped, this could be an indication that the website has been penalized by Google. You can use a rank-tracking tool to monitor the website’s search engine rankings over time.
- Check Google Analytics: If the website has experienced a sudden drop in traffic, you can check Google Analytics to see if there was a sudden drop in organic search traffic. This can be an indication of a Google penalty.
- Check for duplicate content: Duplicate content can trigger Google penalties. You can use a tool like Copyscape to check if the website’s content has been copied or duplicated on other websites.
- Check for unnatural links: Unnatural links can also trigger Google penalties. You can use a tool like Ahrefs or Majestic to check the website’s backlink profile and look for any unnatural links.
- Use Google Penalty Checker Tools: There are several Google Penalty Checker tools available online that can analyze a website and provide information on whether the website has been penalized by Google or not.
Finally, if all these checks don’t answer whether your website has been penalized, it may be worth running a manual investigation using one of the many available online tools such as SEMRush and Moz Pro. Getting the right versions of these tools has a cost but they are usually well worth the money spent if you understand how to use them. These platforms allow users to monitor not just their sites but also competitors’ sites and analyze their performance over time so that potential issues can be identified more easily than when working manually.
Whether checking for yourself or on behalf of a client, understanding when and how sites have received Manual Actions vs Algorithmic Penalties is essential for SEO companies.
How to Recover from A Google Penalty
Now that we understand how to diagnose if a penalty has occurred. The question is, what do you do next?
- Fix the issue: As simple as it sounds, take the necessary steps to fix it. For example, if the penalty was caused by thin content, you can add more high-quality content to the website. If the penalty was caused by unnatural links, you can disavow the links and remove any spammy links pointing to the website. Although great care should be taken when disavowing links.
- Submit a reconsideration request: If your website received a manual penalty, you could submit a reconsideration request through Search Console after you are sure you have fixed the issue. The reconsideration request should include a detailed explanation of the steps you have taken to fix the issue and a plan to prevent the issue from happening again. Know that reconsideration requests can take a long time to hear back on. In addition, if it is incomplete, it can be kicked back to you and you will have to start the process again. Make sure you do it right the first time and if you don’t know or aren’t sure you should consult and SEO expert like Vertical Web to help you.
- Follow Google’s guidelines: Make sure that your website follows Google’s Webmaster Guidelines to the letter and uses best practices for SEO. This will help to prevent future penalties and ensure that your website complies with Google’s guidelines. And if you take this step first, you will not get caught up in a penalty in the first place.
- Monitor your website: After you have fixed the issue and submitted a reconsideration request, monitor your website’s search engine rankings and traffic to ensure it has fully recovered from the penalty. You can also use Google Search Console to monitor any manual actions and ensure that your website complies with Google’s guidelines.
Prevention is the Best Corrective Action for a Google Penalty
One of the best ways to prevent Google penalties is to ensure that your website follows Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and uses best practices for SEO. This means staying up-to-date with the latest trends and advancements in search engine optimization, such as using appropriate keywords and meta tags, keeping your content fresh and relevant, and avoiding any tactics that might be considered manipulative or deceptive. Additionally, it’s important to create high-quality content that provides value to readers. Content should be well-written, informative, and original; anything copied or duplicated from other sites should be avoided.
Regarding link building, we are not advocates of buying links. Rather it’s essential to build natural links that are relevant to your website instead of trying to manipulate the system by buying backlinks or participating in link schemes. To avoid potential penalties from Google, focus on creating quality content and earning natural links from authoritative websites in your industry.
It’s also important to regularly check for unnatural links pointing to your website so you can identify and disavow any suspicious ones before they trigger a penalty.
A quick primer on Google Webmaster Guidelines
Google webmaster guidelines cover many areas, but this is a brief list of what you should be worried about. Our Internet Marketing Clinic teaches about these in the most up-to-date and current context.
- Quality content: Google emphasizes providing high-quality, useful, and relevant content for visitors. Websites should aim to create unique, valuable content that meets the needs of their audience.
- Technical optimization: Websites should be technically optimized for search engines, including having a clean and crawlable site structure, optimized URLs, and properly using HTML tags.
- User experience: Websites should prioritize user experience by ensuring fast page load times, easy navigation, and mobile-friendliness.
- Links: Websites should focus on obtaining high-quality, natural links from reputable sources and avoid using spammy or manipulative tactics to acquire links. Link schemes, buying links and guest posting should be avoided. Doing it right takes hard work. We get that, but getting penalized by Google is far more costly and can be far more damaging to your brand in the long run.
- Security: Websites should implement proper security measures, such as using HTTPS and protecting against malware and hacking.
When To Ask For Help Solving a Google Penalty
We have outlined a full set of items to be considered if you are worried your site has received a penalty from Google. There are very few companies that truly know how to solve these problems. Most of these issues are caused by an SEO company that does not use up-to-date methodology. Sometimes, the business owners themselves try to do the work. Or sometimes they take the receptionist and have them multitask and ‘do SEO’ when they know very little about it but can Google the topic.
Honestly, you did not get a Google penalty or have this happen by accident. And this should not be confused with people with no traffic because they have zero SEO.
In the 25 years we have worked on websites, we have never had a website get penalized or have action taken against it. Rather we are always cleaning up other people’s messes. And the conditions the sites arrive in are all pretty similar, and I’m listing them in order.
- Sites are under-optimized. This is usually because the business owner thought it was as easy as adding a title tag and filling in the keyword section of his website builder.
- Sites are over-optimized. This is caused in a few ways. One, a person doesn’t know, reads a few blog posts from 2005 and doesn’t realize the world has changed. Sometimes keywords are just spammed on a page. Sometimes they are written in the same color text on the page (so 1998). Just over to the top repetitive behavior that worked 20 years ago but not today.
- Someone hired a link-building company, but the link-building company had no clue what they were doing. Often when we see this, we find links from all over the internet that are anchor text heavy on money terms. Or better yet, they participate in a link scheme that cross links websites or spam in anchor text.
- Someone doesn’t understand the true cost of SEO and finds the cheapest person that cuts corners and uses out-of-country web developers or bad writers or AI modules putting up very thin content. Often changing your SEO company can cause this as well. If you are doing well with SEO, don’t look for a cheaper alternative. It often ends in a disaster. And if you change companies, look for drops in traffic. Don’t just assume the old guy wasn’t doing something and the new guy made it better. People who know SEO are not cheap, and the cost of doing business with a bad one can far exceed the money you save.
- Site flips gone wrong. We often see people that flip their website over to a new circumstance. Either an upgrade of a site with a reskin. A Platform change (WordPress to Wix/Shopify particularly horrific). There is so much damage done to a website when you do not know how to flip a site and do not keep its link profile intact and although it’s not an algorithm-specific situation, it can look like one and be misdiagnosed.
Overall there is a lot to consider when you’re talking about Google Penalities and Algorithm. But the best advice I can ever give anyone caught in this is not to go it alone and find a company that understands how to recover from a penalty and can do it relatively quickly because time is of the essence.
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