The number of magazine and newspaper articles that talk about how the internet shapes our daily lives doesn’t seem to let up.
There’s no doubt that technology defines the internet age more than anything else. Google has become so big that we have invented the verb “googling” to describe searching the internet.
In response to Google’s dominance of the search engine market, website owners have been forced to adapt to Google’s rules. Most of these rules are determined by Google’s mysterious and ever-changing algorithm.
While the inside story of how Google’s Algorithm actually works remains a mystery to many people. We do know that unless Google’s rules are obeyed by websites, Google penalties could seriously damage your website’s SEO.
Keep reading to find out more about how to avoid Google SEO penalties and how to protect your website’s SEO.
What are Google Penalties?
Google penalties are simply when you are negatively affected by the search engine rankings of Google.
This could be as a result of a change to Google’s algorithm or due to an action you have taken yourself. In short, anything that goes against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines could cause a Google algorithmic penalty.
There are many potential consequences of Google algorithmic penalty. While some may only have a short-term minimal effect on your website, other could have a drastic effect on your website’s long-term SEO rankings.
Some of the most common Google penalties are the following:
- Google Panda – the quality of the website’s content and the effect of repetitive content
- Google Penguin – the quality of the links
- Google Hummingbird – natural use of language in search engines
Contrary to their benign-sounding names, this isn’t something you want to happen to you.
How to Check if my Website is Penalised by Google?
If you’re concerned that your website could be penalised by Google, you can find out. All you have to do is register and log-in with Google Webmaster tools or Google Search Console as they now call it.
This is how Google communicates with website owners about if there are any problems or penalties attached to your website. Here you can find out if you’re being penalised by Google for something.
But before you do that, keep reading to find out the things to avoid to protect your website’s SEO rankings.
1. Avoid Paying for Link Building
Link building is an essential SEO tactic for boosting your ranking on Google’s SERPs (search engine result pages). However, according to Google paying for links should be avoided at all times.
But this is especially true when it comes to paying for links from a private blog network (PBN). If you don’t know what PBNs are – the purpose of them is to manipulate the search engines by building links to a single website. The PBN will be themed specifically around your websites own content to make it look like related sites have linked to your site.
But it can be easy for Google to identify such illegitimate tactics. You’ll then by penalised by the Google Penguin part of the algorythm. They’ve been cracking down on what they call “unnatural” and “artificial” links for some time now. As Google continues to gear itself against buying links, it’s simply not worth risking your SEO ranking.
Despite this, guest posting is still a great way to boost your SEO. It’s just important to be aware of the potential negative outcomes of such tactics. Research carefully the website offering to guest post and link to your web pages.
Also, it’s important to make sure the websites you link to are also relevant to what you do. If you sell flowers in Leeds, there’s no point linking to a building company in London.
2. Don’t Go Overboard On Keywords
Another important ingredient of an effective SEO strategy is using keywords. Keywords are the words or phrases users search on Google and other search engines.
For instance, if you’re a florist in Leeds. It’s probably important that you dominate searches for “flowers in Leeds”. You can do this by littering your web pages with the phrase “flowers in Leeds”.
However, many website owners mistakenly believe that the more keywords the better. But this is simply not the case.
This is known as “keyword stuffing”. The most recent change to Google’s Algorithm, Google Hummingbird, has allowed the search engine to register when a web page has an unnatural use of keywords. If you start keyword stuffing, you’ll incur Google SEO penalties.
Instead, you need to integrate keywords naturally into your web page content. This way your content can be read effortlessly. But also, it’s likely to boost your SEO rankings.
3. Avoid Plagiarising
Plagiarising is just a fancy word for stealing other people’s content. This can result in severe consequences for SEO ranking.
It’s not difficult for Google to identify when you’ve not created your own original content. But instead, simply copied and stolen another web page’s content.
Even though creating your own SEO optimized, interesting, engaging and original content is expensive, time-consuming and difficult, it’s your only choice.
The alternative is becoming an enemy of Google’s search engine. This is certainly not an enemy you want to have if you want your website to successfully rise up the SERPs.
4. Don’t Include Intrusive Ads
Have you ever visited a website and tried to view the content, when a pop-up ad comes up on your screen? This unwanted promotion distracts and interrupts the user experience. That’s why Google has zeroed in on this. Now if you use intrusive ads on your web page this could damage your SEO ranking too.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to avoid using pop-ups altogether. It really depends on what is considered “intrusive” by Google.
For example, pop-ups that verify age or cookie usage are perfectly acceptable to Google. As are any pop-ups that don’t take over the whole screen space for the user.
That’s why if you must include pop-ups, make sure they are in the interests of the user. And also, don’t obstruct the user from continuing to view your content.
5. Don’t Cloak Your Content
If you don’t know what cloaking your content means – Google defines it as “a website that returns altered webpages to search engines crawling the site.” But it’s also known as “hidden text” or “sneaky redirects”.
In other words, the search engine returns different information to the user. By disguising the content on a web page to trick Google’s algorithm, you’re risking really damaging your rankings on SERPs.
If you think you’re the master of sneakiness and you can outsmart Google, then you’re mistaken. You simply cannot compete with Google’s resources and you will eventually be discovered.
Cloaking your content is actually lying to your customers about what is on your website. Plus, it’s totally a waste of your efforts to boost your SEO rankings.
6. Don’t Link to Spam Sites
Google does not like spam sites. So make sure you have nothing to do with spam sites.
There are many reasons why Google is anti-spam websites. It’s partly because they include deceiving content, due to the potential harm or damage to users. Plus, the fact that they are full of sneaky ways to get higher in Google’s rankings.
But you don’t have to be a spam site to be negatively affected by Google’s policy on spam. Google goes with the logic that if you’re linking to spam sites, then you’re probably a spam site yourself.
Therefore, the best thing you can do if you don’t want to do some serious damage to your rankings on Google is to stay well away from anything that even remotely looks like it could be spam.
7. Don’t Lie or Tell Falsehoods
When it comes to lies, Google is with God in sharing it’s commitment to the Ninth Commandment. Don’t do it!
There is plenty of stuff on the internet that is far from telling the truth. But Google is certainly not in favour of “Fake News”.
You might be surprised to find out that Google’s Algorithm is also attuned to whether you’re spreading lies and falsehoods to your users. Google will analyse how your user’s interact with your content to determine whether you’re making false claims or not.
Even though any website that has any grain of credibility shouldn’t be telling lies, there is more to this than ethics.
Stop telling porky pies and Google won’t punish you.
8. Always Moderate Comments
If you don’t already have a blog on your website, then you need to start one immediately.
Blogging is a great way of boosting your SEO, demonstrating your authority within your niche and creating excellent content that people actually want to read. Plus, allowing people to comment can have a positive impact on your SEO ranking and boost user engagement with your content.
However, many website owners don’t realise that by just allowing anyone to comment on their blog posts, they could be damaging their website’s ranking on Google results page. Google’s Algorithm monitors comment section to detect whether a website is a spam site.
You can combat this by keeping an eye on the types of comments you’re receiving on your website. If the comments don’t reflect well on you or link to spam sites, then you should make sure you’re able to delete them.
Find Out More About SEO
Google’s Algorithm is always changing. That’s why you have to constantly adapt your website and SEO strategy to keep up.
You can avoid Google penalties, by following the above tips and ensuring you protect your website’s SEO rankings.
If you want to audit your website before your next SEO campaign, check out our guide for what you need to know.