The Most Common Reasons Why Your Website can be Penalized by Google

 If you take your website seriously, then you are likely to be concerned about its ranking in the Google search engine. Statistics have shown that the search engine result pages build more traffic than that gotten from advertisement.

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But search engines themselves have become very sensitive and complex with increasing focus on quality and user experience. These had been achieved through various changes to the search engine algorithm. To be loved by search engines, you need to keep up not only with what the search engines love but also be aware and avoid what they do not love. Getting good traffic flow to your website boosts your Internet marketing campaigns just as location is to real estate. It's the only thing that really matters. If you cannot generate targeted visitors to your site, you will not make any sales and your being on the internet will definitely not be worth it.

Traffic flow depends more on the quality of your website for it is what Google and other search engines assess. Usually the owner or designer of the website is the person designated to drive traffic to the site. The chief ingredient in generating traffic is the search engine. Of course, you can use advertising, but it's going to cost you and as mentioned earlier advertising does not generate as much traffic as search engines do for top ranking websites.. Using the search engines to generate targeted (interested in your product) traffic is the least expensive method known.

Unfortunately, many website owners do not understand the importance of search engine visibility, which leads to traffic. They place more importance on producing a "pretty" website and can be very satisfied with meeting up with the technical details. It is not enough to have a beautifully looking website, but it is really secondary and cannot be compared to the power of good search engine placement. Remember that while you work to impress the search engines with the quality of your website, you must also strive carefully to avoid what the search engines hate. Search engines are powered by programs and will act immediately any violation is suspected. Sometimes it could be a serious penalty and sometimes it could be an outright deletion. You mush be very watchful

Also read:

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What Is a Google Penalty?

Google has embarked on changes to its search engine ranking algorithms since December 2000. That was when it released its toolbar extension that created the toolbar update and brought about a radical change to the SEO industry as we know it. In fact, it was the first time PageRank was published in a meaningful or usable form.

Since than we have seen Google continued to refine the quality of its search results. Google started to eliminate poor quality content and elevate the good quality to the top of the SERPs. penalties started setting for the poor quality websites that suffered some downgrade and sometime an outright deletion.

The Penguin update was rolled out in 2012 and shook the search engine world affecting more than 1 in 10 search results  and in some cases wiped out websites from searches entirely, pushed poor quality content off the map and forced optimizers to think much more carefully about their content strategy. Since then, SEO have changed and webmasters have really given much attention to Google’s plans, and paying strong attention to the what Google will do in upcoming updates especially if a planned update could lead to a penalty to their website.

Recognizing a Penalty

When changes occur to Google algorithm or their is an update affecting websites, you need to be able to determine if you have been hit by an update. Penalties can be automatic or manual. Wen manual penalties occur, you’ll probably be told, but you may not always know you’ve been targeted if the cause is algorithmic. Those penalties may take even the most experienced SEO professionals by surprise.

For algorithmic penalties, here are some clues.

  •     Your website is not ranking well for your brand name any more. Even if your site doesn’t rank for anything else, it should at least do well on that one keyword.
  •     You have lost a page one position you had and slipping back to page two or three without any action on your part.
  •     Your Mz rank and domain authority suddenly drops from a respectable position to something much lower.
  •     Your entire website has suddenly been removed from Google’s cached search results.
  •     Running a site search keyword yields no results.
  •     Your listing for your website suddenly changes from your homepage to a page on your site.

When you see any or some of these actions affecting your website, then you should now you are in for some trouble with Google and you need to carefully check to address the cause of the penalty.

The following are the list of common mistakes, made by many website owners which you need to avoid to gain better rankings with the search engines and to generate the desired traffic for your website

1. Avoid the mistake of Not using keywords effectively.
This is probably one of the most critical area of site design. Choose the right keywords and potential customers will find your site. Use the wrong ones and your site will see little, if any, traffic.Understandably using keywords had been a bit controversial following Google's decision not to use the keyword metatags in determining ranking in its search engines. That decision actually did not completely make keywords irrelevant. Keywords remain one of the major elements of your website content that Google uses to understand your website and what it is all about. Here are some simple and basic guide that may be helpful in your use of keywords:

Be mindful of keyword density and placement. This is a complex task and quite difficult to achieve.. A general rule will be that you do not focus much on building keywords into your content rather write for people instead of for the search engines.. That way, you will be able to avoid keyword stuffing and write valuable content for your website. It is also a good idea to use the important keywords in headings and sub headings in your content.

Also read: A Checklist of Bad SEO Practices to Avoid

2. Avoid Repeating the same keywords.
The other aspect of keyword usage which we have already mentioned above is keyword stacking.. Keyword stacking is using the same keywords repeatedly. The aim is usually to get good placement for the particular keyword. This worked some long time ago but today, it no longer work for SEO. When you use the same keywords over and over again, the search engines may downgrade (or skip) the page or site. That hurts your placement in the search engine result pages negatively.

3. Avoid copying content from other websites.
The trouble with this practice is that it leads to duplicate content and Google seriously frowns at it. You may have heard or read that "this is the Internet and it's ok" to steal icons and text from websites to use on your site. We strongly advice against that and will urge you not to do it. Its one thing to learn from others who have been there and another to outright copy their work. The search engines are very smart these days and usually detect page duplication. The search engines seriously frowns at duplicate content and may go as far as preventing your site from ever being listed. That, you will agree will destroy all the gains your SEO efforts have achieved over the years and will mean total failure for your website, dashing all hopes of building traffic from the search engines.

Also read  A Complete Guide To Good SEO For Beginners

4. Avoid the Use of keywords that are not related to your website.
The central idea here is that your content must be related to the purpose of your website. For instance, you need not publish content on travel and tours when you are a web hosting company. The keywords in the post will likely be completely unrelated your work and will not help your ranking in any way. It is important to avoid this mistake so that you are not treated like many unethical websites who try to gain search engine visibility by using keywords that have nothing at all to do with their website. What those websites do is to try to take advantage of less competitive keywords write about them and use it to gain visibility even though those keywords may not be related to their website. They place unrelated keywords in a page (such as "sex", the name of a known celebrity, the hot search topic of the day, etc.) inside a meta tag for a page. This is done to rank high for such keywords even though the keyword doesn't have anything to do with the page topic. However, since the keyword is popular, they think this will boost their visibility. This technique is considered by search engines as spammy will usually result in a penalty which could be a downgrade or an outright delisting from the search engine.

5. Avoid Keyword stuffing.
Closely related to keyword stacking keyword stuffing means to assign multiple keywords to the description of a graphic or layer that appears on your website by using the "alt=" HTML parameter. If the search engines find that this text does not really describe the graphic or layer, it considers it to be spamming.

6. Avoid relying on hidden text.
This is called cloaking. Google is very hard against cloaking.. There are some offenses that can be accidentally done but not with cloaking. Hiding texts are things you do deliberately and that is why Google is very hard on it. The penalty can be as strict as an outright ban. You might be inclined to think that if you cannot see it, it doesn't hurt. Wrong. Do not try to hide your content or keyword phrases by making them invisible. For example, some unethical designers my set the keywords to the same color as the background of the web page; thereby, making it invisible.

Someone may want to ask how often will a word be used for Google to consider it to be stuffing.. Well, there is no exact answer but this is not normally a practice with enlightened webmasters.. New folks trying to setup a website are more likely to make this mistake. In any case, it is disliked by Google.

7. Avoid relying on tiny text.
Google take user experience seriously these days and having tiny text is one thing that does not go well with users. Tiny texts and hidden texts are closely related. In fact, we can say this is another version of the item above (relying on hidden text). Do not try to hide your keywords or keyword phrases by making them tiny. Setting the text size of the keywords so small that it can barely be seen.

8. Don't assume all search engines are the same.
This is a common mistake with most SEO professionals. Although it is known that there are several search engines, most SEOs will assume they are all the same. Search engines are not exactly the same and do not go with the same rules. Many people assume that each search engine play by the same rules. This is not so. Each has their own rule base and is subject to change anytime they so desire. Make it a point to learn what each major search engine requires for high visibility. But never take the rules of Google lightly.

9. Avoid using free web hosting.
Search engines do not like free web hosting and we advice that you should not use free web hosting if you are really serious about increasing site traffic via search engine visibility. Search engines can be so hard on free hosting to the extent that search engines will eliminate content from these free hosts.

Also read: How to drive massive traffic to your blog and website

10. Make sure not to forget checking for missing web page elements.
Audit your website for completeness. Check to be sure there are no missing links, flash, graphics, etc.

This list is not complete but represent the major and most common mistakes people make with their websites wit potential to negatively impact on the website. This list represent just a few of the methods and techniques that you should avoid. Never be tempted to tr these methods. They may show signs of positive outcome but ultimately, Google and the search engines will catch you.

11. Avoid too much ads/top heavy layout

Google frowns at websites that are filled with ads or some intruding content like a sign-up form which makes it hard for people to find the actual content on the website. That’s what the Page Layout algorithm was meant to address. Often referred to as Top Heavy, this penalty is reserved for sites that frustrate the user experience by placing an over-abundance of ads before content. So don’t make your users search for the content. Do not block users from accessing website content by allowing too much adverts of pop up.:

Intrusive interstitials are also an issue that Google has warned against and taken action over: Google has confirmed rolling out penalties for intrusive interstitials and you must avoid getting into trouble with Google.

12. Avoid Paid links

Links are about the most influencial signals on website ranking. This tempts website owners to consider buying paid links in order to get a high ranking reward from Google. Google is so strict that it banned itself for link buying. Google Japan was banned for eleven months when that division was found to be buying links.

There had been a lot of debate over the rightness or wrongness of the action of Google against those who buy links but the bottom line is that to rank on Google, you have to follow Google’s rules — and the rules say no buying or selling links in a way that passes on search engine ranking credit.

Bing,does not penalize people for paid links though it frowns on the practice.

Also read: OnPage SEO Guide for Top Search Engine Ranking

13. Link spam

In an attempt to get links that can help ranking, some website owners have resorted to run around and drop links on forums and blogs, all with highly optimized anchor texts and in some cases with the help of automated software. Unfortunately, there is no reward for this as even the search engines see this to be spamming. In any case, most posts on forums and comment boxes are "no follow" links and do not have any SEO value. Avoid them

If you do go ahead with it, most of the links won’t give you the credit you were thinking they would. On top of that, you can find yourself on the sharp end of a penalty.

If you’ve been caught in this act and you need help on how to get out of this trap, you can disavow those links on both Google and Bing in hopes of redemption and a clean start.

14. Website down:
This is pretty much related to the quality of your web hosting, although a website can also be deliberately shut down by the web hosting company for spamming or for porous security that allow a malware on the site. Generally, a website being inaccessible affect its ranking. When a website goes down, everyone gets upset: the visitor, the webmaster and the search engine. If Google can’t access your site, it would rather de-index it rather than keep sending visitors to a dead end.

15. Keyword domains
Exact match domains has a lot of advantages and can naturally rank for the keyword more than any other domain name. But Google has frowned at the use of exact match domains be cause it sees it as an attempt to take advantage of the search engines especially when the domain do not contain rich and valuable content. So it is advisable not to go with keyword-rich or exact match domains to stay out of this trouble. If you do use an exact match domain, make sure it has plenty of great content on it, otherwise Google will assume you’re trying to fool people into clicking.

16. Slow speeds
Google is clear on speed as a ranking signal. This factor has to do with your web hosting company as well as your website design tool. Static websites are much faster than content management systems. If your site is slow to load, your users will get frustrated. Of course Google is very concerned about user experience and will downgrade a slow website for that reason. To improve the speed of your website, make sre to enable catching compression. You can use a CDN to also boost the speed of your website. It is a good practice to move your site to a data center closer to your most frequent visitors:

17. Hacked content
You must take very seriously, the security of your website to protect it from hackers. Google hate to find that a hacked content is on its search engine result pages (SERPs). If your site has been hacked, Google will quickly remove it from the SERPs. So it is recommended that you act very quickly to contain hacking attempts and restore sites from backup if the worst does happen. This underscores the need to monitor your websites and the mails attached to our websites. When you keep an eye on your website you can quickly discover any problems that arise and when you monitor your emails you can also quickly respond to communications from your web host on whatever could be a problem with our website.

18. Trying to build links fast
Simply understand this to be speedy link building. Most people including professional SEOs fall into this trap. Of course knowing that links are critical to gain better ranking, you are tempted to build links for your website. But link building must be done naturally to avoid any red flag. When you try to build links aggressively, Google see you to be attempting to manipulate the search engines and can land you into trouble. Don’t overdo link building. Keep in mind that Google sees lots of similar links pointing to the same place as a sign of automation.

19. Robots.txt
The robots.txt file is good and can help keep search engines away from sensitive files. But it should be used with caution as excluding or blocking pages exclusively using the robots.txt file could cause a penalty.

20. Over-optimization
Google insists on doing things naturally. Anything including the good things that the search engines love, done in such a way that Google feels you are trying to manipulate the search engines can lead to a penalty. An over-optimization penalty usually means you’ve gone a step too far in doing the good thing -- SEO.

21. Redirection
Be very careful with redirection. It is not necessary to redirect all the time. For instance, if you have had a penalty on a particular website, using a 301 redirect could transfer the penalty to a new location. After some improvements are made, if you remove the redirect,the penalty could still linger. The safe path is to avoid that kind of redirection. Another common mistake with redirection is website owners buying an expired domain which is related to theirs. If such domain had suffered a penalty and you redirect it to your parent domain, your can transfer the penalty unknowingly to the parent domain through that redirection.

22. Website not mobile friendly
This is simple to understand as it is clear that your website has to be mobile friendly to be loved by Google. Statistics show an increasing number of mobile visitors to websites. That tells you why Google is placing more attention on mobile friendliness for websites. To now if your website is mobile friendly, do a simple mobile friendly test with Google.

23. Your domain has a bad reputation
This occurs when you unknowingly purchase a domain name that had a bad reputation, had been dropped by its previous owner and you innocently purchase it. Of course, you inherit the penalties that were hanging on it. This could really be a difficult one as you try to get out of the situation. Sometimes, it is better to simply buy another domain rather than investing in one that had a penalty even before you started. Notwithstanding, we have found that by getting to do things right the way Google love it, penalties have been well overcome and weak websites have bounced back stronger.

In a few cases, it’s better to abandon a site rather than fight a Google penalty: if your domain has been tarnished, there’s little you can do. But most penalties can be fixed with a little effort, some hard work and an ethical approach to rebuilding your site.

Moving Forward, What if You are Under a Penalty

We have to address this issue because you could have fallen to any or some of the issues mentioned above and need to get off the hook. Here are the necessary steps you need to keep in mind. First, try to figured out the cause for your penalty. Once you understand that, you are already on the path to addressing it Every problem will require a slightly different approach by can get over it but surely there should be a solution. Here are some advice:

  •     Don’t panic. Remain calm. Penalties have become normal even for the most successful websites. The problem can be addressed so do not think the world has come to an end
  •     Use the disavow tool for troublesome links. Ask Google not to count troublesome links that are harming your website. Google Matt Cutts’ have provided some very useful clues.
  •     Get some links removed. Manually get some of the troublesome links removed. Despite using the disavow tool, this is a good idea that can really be helpful
  •     Improve on content quality. Carefully go through your content to address thin content issues, hidden text issues, cloaking and related problems with your content.
  •     Request reconsideration if your penalty was manual.
  •     Be patient. It can take Google a while to act on your changes and disavow requests. Especially for large websites, you must be patient for your changes to take effect. Never expect results immediately and hurry to make changes to key elements of your website if the expected improvements are not seen. Give it some time, up to 3 months before you can do another critical review.

Do let us have your comments and contributions if you think there are some others we may have missed that are so significant and should have made the list.

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