In order to serve up only the most relevant and high-quality search results to users, Google is constantly changing and fine-tuning their search algorithm. Sometimes these changes are almost imperceptible and result in no real change in ranking for a company website (and related blog posts). Other times, Google almost completely changes the rules of the game in a way that shifts search engines leaders to 2nd or 3rd page results (or worse).
Google Panda and Penguin represent specific large scale changes of the Google algorithm that resulted in a large redistribution of search engine rankings. In some cases, these changes caused a website to be deindexed by Google as a result of penalties. Not ranking at all (as opposed to ranking low and moving up) is a major problem that can be insurmountable. Not appearing on Google at all is a huge loss for a business.
Obviously, it makes a lot of sense to learn more about Google’s specific algorithm changes, notably Panda and Penguin, as well as the things your company can do to avoid a Google penalty. Take what you learn about these things to implement good onsite and offsite SEO practices to comply with Google guidelines.
What is Google Panda and Penguin?
It’s important to first know that your website can automatically be tagged by Google as having a penalty as a result of their algorithm. However, there are also manual penalty checkers that may tag your site if there’s a penalty but the algorithm doesn’t catch it. Google has a worldwide team of manual reviewers that are working around the clock to make the internet what they perceive to be a better place.
In the Google Panda update, websites with low-quality content were flagged and ceased to enjoy the same high search rankings.
In the Google Penguin update, high search rankings that resulted from keyword stuffing and other black hat SEO tactics were knocked down a notch. These black hat SEO tactics were employed to trick the search engine into displaying a website as the top result. Whereas keyword use and relevance used to be the most important factor in ranking, Google’s algorithm evolved in Penguin to pick out webmasters who were abusing this functionality.
How to Avoid a Google Penalty
Once you understand what Google is trying to phase out of top search results, it’s easier to determine how to avoid a Google penalty. The following tips will assist in making sure that your company website doesn’t do anything specifically to risk de-indexation or lower search results on Google due to the algorithm or manual checkers.
- Overuse of anchor link texts to your site – Google detects excessive links pointing at your site using clickable link text that exactly matches or very closely matches the keyword that you’re trying to rank for. Make sure to vary this text so it includes keyword synonyms.
- Excessive links from untrusted sources – There too many links directing to your site from untrusted, low quality or spam sites. You may not realize this is happening, but if you work with an SEO firm that employs black hat tactics, this may be their strategy.
- Excessive links from irrelevant sources – Google thinks that there too many links directing to your site from sources that are irrelevant to the topic of your site. Relevant links are a much more effective SEO strategy that won’t result in a penalty.
- Link schemes – Google thinks that you have paid people, programs or services to link to your site and vice versa. See excessive links from untrusted sources above. An effective link building strategy builds high-quality links over time – not all at once.
- On-site keyword overuse or keyword stuffing – Unnatural repeating of the keyword that you want to rank for on your site over and over, especially if you try to hide it from view (so only the search engine would actually see it).
- Low quality content – Google’s algorithm or manual checkers don’t think your content has much substance or value that’s helpful to the visitors of your site. By consistently publishing useful content, you can easily avoid this penalty.
- Hacked site – Google thinks that you have malicious activity on your website. If you’re using WordPress, only install fully-vetted plugins and delete the ones you aren’t using.
- Excessive ads on layout – Google thinks that you have way too many ads on your site, or that these ads position negatively affected the site’s usability. If you use ads, keep them to a minimum and make sure your content is ultimately the focus – not the ads.
- Outbound spam links – Google thinks that you are allowing spam links on your site, or you aren’t active enough to detect these links. Be wary about people asking you to use your website to link to theirs.
It’s important to remember that although search engines can be an important organic marketing medium, you’re writing content to be read and used by people, not robots (or search engine spiders!). Content should focus on quality and valuable information, not how many times you can fit in a keyword or specific links for the sole purpose of improving SEO.
When deciding to work with an SEO company, beware of those that make hefty promises in a short time frame. SEO takes work and results are seen over the long term. Anyone who says otherwise may be engaging in short term fixes that will eventually be caught by Google’s algorithm or manual checkers. Black hat SEO is very much looked down upon, and may result in de-indexation – the opposite of a solid SEO strategy!
A significant drop in ranking and traffic is a clear indication that your site has received a penalty, likely because of a new Google algorithm changes. Look to the guidelines mentioned above, or a reputable SEO company to work to correct these issues before de-indexation occurs. It’s hard to keep up with the many changes, but being well versed in how search engines work can be a profitable marketing strategy for your company.
Are you unsure how your company website is ranking and the different factors that affect it? Contact Blu Sky for a simple audit about your website and some recommended changes.