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What is a Google Penalty and how can we avoid them?

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Google Penalties are a punishment imposed on webpages for not following their webmaster guidelines. These penalties can be very harmful to our website’s organic traffic since they drop their position on search results and Google partner websites or, in the case of serious offenses, Google may even cease to index our web (remove it from their database which means we won’t appear in the Google search results at all). This is why it is essential to be able to identify SEO penalties to be able to react and resolve the problem as soon as possible.

Different Types of Google Penalties

We can classify these Google penalties by their origin, cause, or extension.

According to the origin, we have two types: algorithmic Google penalties and manual Google Penalties.

Algorithmic Google penalties
These are much more common and they are those imposed automatically by Google’s algorithm. These sanctions are more complicated to identify since we won’t be warned about them.

Manual Google penalties
The second type is manual penalties. These are imposed by a Google editor that has revised and flagged our page. They are much easier to detect than algorithmic penalties since Google sends us a notification through the tool Search Console and an email, this is why it is important to regularly revise our associated Gmail account even if it is not our primary account. If we are the target of a manual sanction from Google, we must solve the problem that caused it and ask the Google editor for a revision.

According to their cause we can list two important examples, thin content and pure spam. SEO Penalties for thin content are caused by having scarce content and duplicate content. This type of penalty is easy to identify and correct in small web pages but it is very complicated to address on larger websites. Pure spam penalties are applied when we abuse advertising and affiliates, plagiarize content, incorrectly spin webpages or simply for repeat offenses.

The extension of these SEO penalties can vary, they can affect all our domain or simply a part of the page.

How to know if you’ve had a Google Penalty

symptoms google penalty

In case our SEO sanction is algorithmic and we aren’t warned, we must know the most frequent symptoms of a penalty. These include:

-An important drop in website traffic. It is important to verify that this is not due to other causes which could be a seasonal drop in traffic or a change in Google’s algorithm.

-The disappearance of our page in Google searches.

-Unindexing of our site or a part of it in Google. We should make sure it isn’t due to our own mistakes, for example, a 404 error.

-Missing Keywords.

A quick and easy way to see if we have been penalized is to write site:”your domain” in Google search. If we don’t obtain any results it means our domain has been unindexed by Google and our website no longer exists for its searches. Nevertheless, even if our website still appears in the search results it could still be penalized. If this is the case, we must access “Google Webmaster Tools” and go to the “Crawl Errors” section, where we can view all the problems with our domain and take action to resolve them.

False Alarms for Google Penalties

Google rankings

Sometimes, even though it may seem that our website has been penalized by Google, it might not be the case. It could be instead one of the following:

-Normal fluctuations in Google search. In some cases, we will realize that our website traffic drops in an unexpected way. However, we must be patient and wait to see if traffic recovers since it is normal for fluctuations to occur in Google search.

-The competition beats us in Google rank. It is a possibility that our competition has improved their SEO strategy and now beats us in the search results.

-Changes to our website can affect ranking. Any change to our website can affect search results. Whether it’s a big change, such as modifying the domain, or smaller changes: 301 redirects, changes in architecture, using a different program to edit, design changes, etc.

As we have seen, reacting against the penalties that Google can impose on our website is crucial to maintain SEO traffic to our website, which is our best tool to attract clients organically. This is why it is very important to know how to identify, diagnose, and solve these penalties. At Zink we are ready to help you with this and with much more!

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