Google Penalties: Factors that Hurt Your Google Ranking and SEO Efforts
Most people assume that if a website has a low search ranking, it’s because they haven’t done SEO, or haven’t done it properly. However, did you know that some practices can actually have a negative impact on your SEO, and that Google will penalize some websites? In fact, some sites and search terms are deliberately removed from Google, making it more difficult for people to find content with any search.
While Google closely guards its algorithm, and seldom gives complete details of the exact measures that determine search rankings, here are the primary reasons that sites can be penalized and have their rankings lowered:
Google will restrict or remove sites in order to comply with local government regulations. Examples include Google limiting the visibility of online “rogue” pharmacies in cooperation with the US FDA, removing sites that appear to repeatedly violate the DMCA, removing military sites and information, and limiting results in different countries around the world to comply with local government guidelines.
Time-Bounded Penalties and Bans
The most famous of these is probably when retailer J.C. Penney was banned from Google for key search terms for 90 days. For most sites that have a drop in rankings due to an update or change, they update their content accordingly and can recover rank when their site is next crawled. In the case of J.C. Penney, Google simply excluded them for 90 days as a penalty for link abuse exposed by the New York Times
Penalties for Being a Bad Actor
While some websites may exhibit shady or questionable behavior, some are outright bad actors and will be penalized or banned from Google. For example, websites that appear to have been hacked, websites that distribute malicious code, or websites that deliberately redirect traffic away from the search term, will all experience negative SEO.
Algorithm Updates and Changes
When Google issues major updates to their algorithm, including recent updates like Panda and Hummingbird, it can have a dramatic change on the ranking of some sites. Often these updates involve refinements to help Google better detect and omit low-quality content and link spam. As a result, some sites that were using effective SEO techniques one week can see their rankings plummet the next. This isn’t a deliberate form of penalty or exclusion, it’s simply a change in the weighing of various factors on a website, and it often involves Google choosing to exclude practices that worked well before. For example, it was once good SEO practice to cram keywords into a title, leading to page titles like “Sandals – summer shoes – shoes for women – casual shoes for women”, etc. Now Google prefers page titles that are based on natural language like “Casual summer sandals for women”.
Conclusion and Recommendations
When companies find that they have lost search rank due to these changes and updates, Google’s standard response is that companies should simply produce high-quality content and follow Google’s webmaster guidelines, and they won’t be penalized. However, a dramatic drop in search rankings, and therefore a loss of traffic, usually means a resulting loss in revenue. Figuring out what happened, and why, and how to amend your content to recover from a SEO loss or penalty can be a time-consuming guessing game. Because Google updates search algorithms frequently and silently, and seldom says what exactly impacts new rankings, SEO experts have to do extensive research and discovery to determine what has changed, and what the appropriate corrective action should be.
If your site has taken a recent drop in rankings, or if you want to create pages and content with the highest probability of avoiding SEO penalties in later algorithm updates, it’s best to consult with SEO experts and get a detailed analysis. SEO Digital Group can help you recover from a drop or penalty, and create a site that is better optimized for the future of search.