A penalty is a sanction imposed by Google when a website fails to meet certain criteria of good behavior outlined in the company’s Webmaster Guidelines. This type of penalty affects a page’s referencing and results in a loss of visibility in search results. Below are tips for understanding and responding in the event of a Google Penalty.
The various Google penalties
Google applies a number of filters to websites and results in different types of penalties, mostly focused on SEO.
This type of punishment is carried out by Google employees who are certainly members of the “quality team”. As the name suggests, these sanctions are carried out manually upon suspicion of violations of the instructions set by the company. This can come from spam reports made by users. These reports lead to a complete analysis of the domain.
This type of penalty often occurs after Google updates. Several filters and types of penalties are built into the algorithmic penalties:
- The panda filter analyzes the content of your website and checks if it is relevant and unique or not duplicated. The sanction can affect the entire website or specific pages.
- the penguin filter is responsible for analyzing whether the links on a website are of good quality. It analyzes the anchor of the hypertext link or backlink and its consistency. Because quality backlinks greatly improve SEO, spotting artificial links is especially important.
How do you recognize a Google Penalty?
If it’s a manual penalty, you, as the site admin, will be notified. A notification explaining the reason for the penalty will be available through Google’s Search Console tool. The information is displayed on the Security and Manual Actions tab under Manual Actions. Recommended actions to remove the sanction will also be provided to you.
If you haven’t received any messages and are seeing unusual and unexplained changes, it’s likely an algorithmic penalty. To identify this type of penalty, monitor your website traffic modulations via Google Analytics, which is a good indicator in the event of statistical anomalies.
Position tracking tools will also be important allies in detecting an algorithmic penalty. They make it possible both to track the positioning of a website on search engines and to carry out an audit to identify the factors that can influence this positioning. Note that a drop in the ranking of search results can also be due to a change in the Google algorithm. Don’t hesitate to compare the date you started losing traffic and that of an update from Google.
What are the consequences of a Google penalty?
Penalties have several serious consequences for a website:
- demotion: You observe a sudden drop in the positioning of your website,
- Deindexing: if there are duplicate pages, they disappear from the search results,
- The blacklist: Your website simply disappears from Google’s SERPs and no longer appears in the search results.
How to Respond to a Google Penalty?
A penalty is not irreversible. If you find yourself in this case, several actions are possible.
Respond to a content quality penalty
Here are the possible actions in case of a sanction related to the content of your website:
- Remove duplicate content: Google is targeting duplicate content. For this reason, it’s a good idea to identify and remove any auto-generated or “filler” content. It is possible to use duplicate content detection tools on a website, such as B. Kill Duplicate, Copyscape or Duplicate Content Checker.
- Monitor your keyword usage: Keyword abuse is strongly discouraged and harms SEO. To influence this bad practice, it is possible to take and rewrite repetitive passages that consist of many keywords.
- Add high value content: It is important to offer impactful content for readers. Analyze the expectations of your target, define an editorial line, create relevant, long enough and structured content.
- Reduce the number of ads: A website saturated with advertising has a good chance of being penalized by Google. Normally there should be no more than two per side.
Respond to a link quality penalty
First, it is important to identify your backlinks. Several SEO tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush have features that allow you to analyze external links pointing to your website. Google’s Search Console also allows you to examine your backlinks in the “Link to your website” section.
In a second step, three actions are possible:
- Check backlinks: Identify websites with many links to your website. The backlinks carry a lot of weight when referencing a website, the penalties against them are the most common,
- Analyze the last links: Identify the links added just before the penalty,
- Identify links from spam sites: Links from a low-quality site to your site can affect your SEO.
The goal: remove unnatural links. If you can’t manually remove links from other websites, you can use the “Break links to your website” feature, which you can access from Google Search Console.