When anyone hears the word penalty, it is never a good thing, and it is no different with SEO. Receiving a penalty of any kind can often give people that nervous pit in their stomach, and the worst often creeps into their minds. What many people don't realize is that many companies have been hit with penalties, including Google themselves. Yes, even Google makes itself an example.

Actual SEO Media, Inc. focuses on a few key points to inform audiences about the reality of Google penalties and how to combat them:

-What a Google penalty is
-Their purpose
-The consequences
-Recovering from a penalty
-How to avoid them in the future

The Dreadful Google Penalty and What It Means?

Google never uses the word "penalty" in their definition. Google defines a "penalty" as an action due to a website for not conforming to its rules and regulations. These actions can be given out manually or algorithmically. The result of these actions is one page or more on a website losing its ranking on Google's SERP.

A manual action or penalty is given out by a human reviewer. This means someone personally looked over a website and they saw something that didn't comply with Google's SEO rules and gave that page a penalty.

An algorithmic penalty is given by one of Google's many algorithms. It can be a significant penalty given by one of Google's more notorious core algorithms, such as the Penguin or Panda core algorithm, or by one of their tiny ones.

Why Do They Exist?

So what is the point of these penalties, and how are these penalties administered? Content creators of all kinds often complain about algorithms constantly changing and how these changes affect their ability to reach their audiences. The purpose of these penalties is to help minimize the number of scam sites and poorly made sites making their way to the top of a SERP and essentially providing a poor user experience. If Google sees a site not complying with one of its rules, then that site will drop in ranking. These penalties are typically geared towards sites that are using black hat SEO tactics, which can include:

-Link buying
-Links that lead to free products
-Footer Links
-Hidden Links
-Spam in comment sections
-Overusing the same anchor text
-Poor backlinks
-PBNs, or sites that are all interconnected with each other
-Keyword stuffing
-Hidden Content
-Duplicate content
-Doorway pages

There are many black hat tactics that people try to use to manipulate the system. Google continues to create algorithms that not only search for these tactics but can also learn when someone is outright trying to exploit a tactic.

That is not to say that if a site gets a penalty, then it is seen as a poorly constructed site or a scam site. Many high-quality sites have had the unfortunate experience of receiving a penalty or two. Even some of the best sites on the web have experienced a penalty because the algorithm changed, and they were suddenly out of compliance.

This situation is similar to a scenario where the most well-behaved kid in class ends up with detention for the very first time just because of unfortunate circumstances. They might freak out that they got into trouble, but it doesn't mean they really did anything wrong.

These actions are just the best way that Google has been able to organize the web logically and put the best upfront. However, genuine sites that do get hit with a penalty should not take it lightly because the consequences can have some detrimental effects.

Big Brands Who Have Faced Google's Wrath

When a website receives one of these penalties, oftentimes, it will drop in ranking on Google's search engine results page. Depending on how long this penalty has been in effect, it could affect business sales. The length of time a company can suffer from a penalty can vary. Some companies that have been hit with a penalty have lost their rankings anywhere from a few days to a few months.

For example, WordPress was hit with a penalty back in March of 2005 for using doorway pages. Doorway pages are also known as bridge pages or portal pages. They are solely created to trick a search engine and boost ranking. It took them about two days to bounce back. During that time, they didn't rank at all for their own name.

The BBC got hit with a penalty back in March 2013 for unnatural links and lost traffic for an entire day. The Washington Post was penalized for selling links back in March of 2013. Google has a specific set of rules when creating paid-for links, but the news outlet disregarded those rules and lost traffic for a couple of months. JCPenney also lost their ranking for about two months due to a large amount of paid links on unrelated sites.

Mozilla is an interesting case because they were not inherently at fault for what happened, but they were still penalized. In April 2013, Mozilla was hit with a penalty for 12 megabytes of spam from user-generated content in the comments section. They tried to fix the problem, but they ended up removing the page completely.

Webmasters should pay close attention to Mozilla's case because it means that companies have to be aware of the content they are putting out, as well as how their users are interacting on their site.

Google themselves are no exception to getting hit with their own penalties. Google Chrome received lower rankings for two months due to black hat link-buying back in January 2012. This was allegedly an accident, but they suffered the consequences nonetheless. Google AdWords was also caught cloaking in July 2010. Again, this was supposedly due to a mistake; however, they were still penalized for a period of time.

It's Not Too Late for a Comeback

Companies that suspect they have been penalized online should investigate it as quickly as possible. A big tell-tale sign that a site received a penalty is a drop in rankings. Search engine rankings are not the end-all-be-all determining factors if a site has been penalized, but it is a red flag that something is wrong and should be investigated immediately.

If a site gets a manual penalty, Google will typically send out an email or some type of notification. This notification should explain the reason for the penalty, and the webmaster can then go in and fix the issue.

An algorithmic penalty can be more challenging to detect because these penalties are not distributed by a person. There is almost never a clear reason given as to why a site received said penalty, nor is there even a notification given. Webmasters need to stay vigilant and keep a watchful eye on their sites and ranking. Figuring out why a site has dropped in ranking and knowing exactly what needs to change will take time, patience, and a bit of research.

Audits can assist in diagnosing traffic drops to help speed up the process. Webmasters need to focus on three main areas:

-Back-end: hosting and indexing
-Front-end: content, metadata, and keywords
-Outside references and link quality

Companies may also want to look into hiring an SEO company. A company such as Actual SEO Media, Inc. combats Google penalties on a daily basis. They know exactly what steps to take to help clients regain their ranking and minimize the damage.

SEO companies tend to stay on top of these issues before they even become a problem. So long as companies choose a legitimate digital marketing agency to work with, penalties due to black hat techniques should rarely occur, if at all. Therefore, if a company does receive a penalty, it would most likely be due to algorithm updates. Furthermore, good SEO companies know how to stay on top of updates and manage sites that need to comply fairly quickly. As such, the chances of a site getting hit with a penalty will drop significantly, and company owners can focus more on running their business rather than worrying about appeasing Google and its many rules.

Evading Potential Issues

The best way to avoid penalties is to continue creating sites with high-quality content, good backlinks, and a user-friendly layout. Google's goal is to make sure users have accurate, informative, and trustworthy content. This is particularly important for brands that create Your Money, Your Life (YMYL) content. This content needs to be completely original. Sites that have plagiarized or duplicate content can be heavily penalized.

The site also needs to offer a good user experience. Sites that are slow, difficult to navigate, and look clunky overall will not rank well. Webmasters need to think from a user's perspective when creating their sites to have the best SEO outcome.

Lastly, links are incredibly important when it comes to SEO. Links are often used to manipulate search engines, and Google has created tons of algorithms to look for bad links. Links need to lead back to good reputable sites, and they need to be attached to accurate anchor phrases.

Companies would benefit greatly from hiring an SEO company if they want to avoid penalties altogether. Companies such as Actual SEO Media, Inc. know good content from poor content, and many of them create sites from scratch that are SEO-friendly. Furthermore, hiring an SEO agency means they can create all content for brands, from articles to blogs and even videos. Many agencies also offer online reputation management to ensure a brand's best foot is always forward. There is a plethora of resources and agencies across the nation that brands need to look into to avoid getting hit with a penalty at all.

As a leading Houston SEO company, Actual SEO Media, Inc. empowers its clients to maximize their digital marketing potential. By harnessing the power of search engine optimization, the company helps businesses expand their online reach and establish a stronger presence on the Internet. In addition to SEO, Actual SEO Media, Inc. is an expert in auditing and renovating websites to give brands their best chance for success. For more information, contact the office at (832) 834 - 0661 or by email at [email protected]

Jamin Mootz
Actual SEO Media, Inc.
+1 832-834-0661
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