Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, right? Google will quite literally be your website’s best friend when it comes to search engine optimization, but did you know it is possible for this friend to turn foe?
Before you tell Google they can’t sit with you (Mean Girls reference), it is important to know why these penalties happen and how you can avoid them.
What are Google Penalties?
Google penalties are enforced to protect users from spending excessive amounts of time filtering through search results that are irrelevant to the topic they searched. Google understands that users do not want to visit a website that is not related to the topic or keyword they are searching. Therefore, Google has developed an algorithm that will enforce penalties to websites that violate certain conditions.
Google can penalize any site that violates its Webmaster Guidelines. These penalties may be barely noticeable or they could spell disaster for your site. Not all penalties are intentional. You could violate one of Google’s terms or conditions through a Google algorithm, so it is important to know what these penalties are and how to avoid them.
Penalty #1 – Link Penalties
Don’t freak out. This doesn’t mean that those links you have included in your website or blog post have violated Google’s terms and conditions, but you need to be careful and understand what type of links are allowed and what type of links are forbidden.
First, you need to make sure the links you are including in your website are quality, reputable links. If they are not, Google will classify these links as “spam backlinks.” Spam backlinks are websites that have been linked to your website through another party.
Google views spam backlinks as a violation because some users will pay to have backlinks integrated into their website to help boost their website’s discovery via search engine. This is a violation because the content you are offering users is not quality content. Instead, it is purchased content with no quality substance, so Google will remove your website from search results by issuing what is called a Penguin Penalty.
How to Remove Spam Backlinks
While you may not have purchased spam backlinks for your website, they can still inadvertently show up. You may notice your traffic has died, and you did not receive an email notifying you of any such penalty. You will want to check your webmaster tool and look at the links that are connected to your site to see if there are any spam backlinks in your database. If so, you will need to email the webmaster to have the links removed, or you can use Google’s disavow tool to remove the harmful links.
Pro Tip: Check these links every couple of months to make sure you have not linked any harmful backlinks before Google has the chance to penalize you for it.
Penalty #2 – Keyword Overload
Yes, keywords are important for search engine optimization (SEO), but they can do more harm than good if Google feels these words are overloading the website in an unnatural way. Google believes by overloading posts with keywords, you are attempting to manipulate the search engine results.
Don’t think that you need to avoid the keyword altogether if you want to avoid this penalty. If that were the case, keywords would be irrelevant, ya know? Instead, think of keyword density. While there is no magic number to ensure you won’t be penalized, the chance decreases tremendously when you use a practical, common sense approach to keywords.
Use the keyword(s) naturally within the post and you should be fine. If you find you are being penalized for stuffing keywords, edit the post and remove a few of the keywords; however, if you do it right, this shouldn’t be an issue.
Penalty #3 – Don’t Sell Your Link
When all your hard work has paid off and your website is ranking at the top of the search engine results, don’t get greedy. If you begin receiving emails asking if you will sell your link, don’t do it. The last thing you want to do is sell your link to God-only-knows who and for Google to catch on. They will immediately penalize you, and you have just committed website ranking suicide.
Penalty #4 – Do Not Steal, Plagiarize, etc.
This one should be obvious, but as sure as we don’t mention it, someone out there will do this. So to CYA (cover your you-know-what) and ours, we need to tell you not to steal.
This includes offering pirated content on your website. Google frowns upon that and will penalize you immediately.
Plagiarizing or participating in “spun articles” also violates Google’s terms and conditions. Spun articles are articles that are put into a spinner and “rewritten” for you as your own. The only problem (well, not the only problem) with this is that the content is still extremely similar to the article you swiped to spin; so now you look like a thief and a dumb one at that. Just don’t do it.
What Happens if I Already Have a Google Penalty?
If you have already received a penalty and have tried your best to solve or resolve the issue, then you can send in a request for Google to review your site to hopefully have the penalty removed. This process is called a reconsideration request, and Google may request documentation about how you have now adhered to their guidelines.
How to Avoid Hefty Google Penalties
The best way to avoid these common penalties is by being honest, authentic, and genuine.
- Don’t try to get a “quick fix” by purchasing backlinks for your website because Google will catch on and penalize you accordingly.
- Incorporate keywords into your website posts naturally. Do not overload your posts with an unnatural abundance of keywords. Google will know.
- Don’t sell your link(s) to anyone, no matter what they offer you or how innocent the offer may seem. Google will find out, and you will be penalized for it. And to that end buying links is also penalized.
- Do not offer pirated content on your site. Google will find out. Offer original content and you will be rewarded.
- Do not plagiarize or run an interesting article through a spinner. The content will likely show up as plagiarized and Google will know you are a thief.
- Do not participate in a “link exchange” with another website. In Google’s eyes, links that are exchanged between two parties look suspicious. If Google feels like the wool is being pulled over their eyes, they will penalize accordingly.
So, stay out of Google jail and keep those sites rolling, ladies!