The Google penalty is perhaps the bogeyman of every single webmaster out there. In one fell swoop, a Google penalty can basically wipe your website out of existence, at least where the search engine result pages or SERPs are concerned. Dealing with it is such as a pain in the neck, and it’s something you must do before you lose all your web traffic. You have to identify what caused it, and take the appropriate measures to correct whatever went wrong.
To diagnose the problem and fix it, here are three steps you need to take as soon as you can.
1. Determine if it’s a Manual or Algorithmic Penalty
A Google penalty is either manual or algorithmic, and it’s important that you determine which one you were hit with so you can take the necessary measures to resolve the problem. Of course, you’re going to need a Google Webmaster Tools account setup. To start, you have to log in and check the “Manual Actions” section under “Search Traffic.”
Of the two, a manual penalty is much easier to identify. After all, Google will send you a notification within your Google Webmaster Tools account because its spam algorithm was flagged by something relating to your site.
An algorithmic penalty, on the other hand, is much harder to detect. This happens every single time Google makes updates to its algorithms, like they did with Google Panda and Penguin. Even the slightest change in its algorithm can trigger an automatic penalty that will see your site’s search listings to suddenly plummet. Unlike manual penalties, an algorithmic penalty won’t prompt an automatic message from Google, but the severe drop in organic search leaves no room for doubt that you’re on the receiving end of one.
2. Take the appropriate action
As stated above, you will receive a message from Google informing you that you have been slapped a manual penalty and why. More often than not, manipulative link building is the culprit behind your manual penalty. Naturally, you will need to remove as many of these offending links as possible from your site. This is a pretty tedious task, as you will have to audit your entire inbound link profile. Making it even more tedious is the fact that you have to get in touch with every single webmaster whose site links to yours and ask them, as politely as you can, to remove the offending link.
Only then should you file a well-written reconsideration request to Google, which is basically the only way to deal with a manual penalty. You will then have to wait for Google to approve your request before the manual penalty can be revoked. However, keep in mind that reconsideration requests can be rejected a number of times before Google relents and grants them, so a little patience and perseverance wouldn’t hurt.
Dealing with an algorithmic penalty, on the other hand, can prove to be a bit more complicated. After an algorithm update and your site’s search listings suddenly take a dive, you will have no idea what caused it. So what you need to do is play detective to determine whether Panda or Penguin caused it. You will need tools like your analytics data and make a comparison between that data and the Moz algorithm change history. That should help you narrow things down.
If your detective work reveals that it’s Panda that caused your penalty, then usability issues on your site are likely the culprit. Google Panda typically flags sites and pages that have far too many ads, far too few content and duplicate content. Even slow-loading sites and those with poor navigation structures are also likely to get hit by a Panda-related penalty. So check those factors, and make the appropriate changes.
Penguin penalties, on the other hand, will necessitate link audits, removals, and disavowals. To lessen your chances of getting hit with a Penguin-related penalty again, you must make sure that your site has quality content as well as links that are reputable, credible, and authoritative. Maintaining activity on social networks and making sure that you conform to the best onsite SEO practices will also make you less prone to a Penguin penalty.
If you need help with this, we at Sharperedge can offer that kind of assistance, just like we have done—and are still doing—with a number of clients who have come to us with their rankings dropped. Modesty aside, none of our existing clients ever had problems with either Goggle algorithm, because we have never engaged in building dubious links.
3. Come up with a new online marketing strategy
There is that oft-repeated cliche about an ounce of cure being better than a pound of cure, and that certainly applies to webmasters as well. Dodging a Google penalty is certainly easier than recovering from one. If you want to avoid any and all penalties in the future, you will have to come up with a new online marketing strategy.
Remember, the world of Google has changed, and it’s about time you change with it as well. Whatever worked in the past no longer do today, courtesy of Panda and Penguin. Play by the rules, and by that we mean you should adhere to every single stipulation by Google’s Webmaster Rules. Violate one and you’re bound to get in trouble, and you certainly don’t want to do link cleanup or any of the dreary things associated with recovering from a Google penalty ever again, do you?
Having a solid content marketing strategy is a good place to start. Google now places a premium on quality content, and any content marketing strategy that involves fresh and quality content can take care of all the other aspects of SEO, from attracting inbound links to giving your social media campaign a much-needed shot in the arm.
While recovering from algorithmic and manual penalties can be really tough, it can be done, as long as you’re patient and persevering enough. If you’ve survived years doing all those old SEO tactics, know that you won’t this time, not with Google’s algorithms becoming even more stringent. A strong content strategy, coupled with a sound social media marketing plan, will keep ward off any Google penalties and deliver the results you want at the same time.