What are Google penalties and what do they mean for your business? A Google penalty can be a serious problem – but what makes it worse is all the misinformation you can find on the Web. If your site is penalized, you need real answers to get to the root of the issue quickly.
Google’s goal is to provide users with information they need at the moment they need it. Ideally, it would point everyone to the perfect results even when users themselves aren’t 100% sure what they want. With this in mind, its algorithms don’t just rank sites: They analyze each for signs it might be designed to manipulate the system.
A Google penalty is the reduction in search rank you get when it thinks the answer is yes.
The Dreadful World of Google Penalties
There are over 50 known factors that can cause Google penalties. Many are caused by intentional wrongdoing, but quite a few can be introduced by mistake. As advanced as Google is, it can’t judge your intent in making technical decisions: It errs on the side of caution and penalizes liberally.
Some infractions that can cause penalties include:
- Low-quality content, including garbled or unreadable “spun” pages.
- Using keyword phrases too often in your site or on individual pages.
- Including links to other sites that Google considers of low quality.
- Poor performance, like slow loading or incompatibility with mobile.
This only scratches the surface. Some of these are maintenance issues, others have to do with the quality of content, and still more represent what SEO looked like years ago.
Some penalties are caused by mistake, but one big cause looms above the others: Cheap SEO companies that use outdated or shady techniques. Many SEO firms stuff content with keywords, earning Google’s ire quickly. Although it is possible to recover from most penalties, it can take months to undo the damage cheap SEO causes.
How Do You Know if You’ve Got a Google Penalty?
Any sudden drop in search ranking is suspicious, but many drops are temporary, resulting from broad changes in the way sites are scored. Verifying a Google penalties usually takes time and requires you to look at multiple factors.
Here are some tell-tale signs:
- You no longer rank well for your brand name or a keyword in your URL.
- Keywords you used to rank on page #1 have dropped to page #3 or lower.
- Your PageRank has dropped by two or more within a very short period.
Effective SEO is an ongoing process. Google’s standards change with time, and digital strategies must adapt. Engaging in a long-term, ethical, user-focused campaign centered around great content is the best way to make your SEO efforts “future-proof.”