No one wants a penalty from Google. A single penalty can get you knocked so far down the search results you may as well be invisible. It can be reversed if you make things right, but some companies abuse this system—and Google just announced they’ll take extra measures against repeat offenders. It’s more important than ever to stay out of their cross-hairs.
Many companies wander into a Google penalty by accident. Anything that seems remotely spammy can trigger the action, and business owners don’t always know what’s allowed and what’s not until it’s too late. In a world where you could easily make things right, that wasn’t a big problem (though it was time consuming and frustrating). But with this new announcement, it seems that one errant link-building policy could essentially close down your website.
This kind of penalty is not the automatic adjustment from algorithms like Panda or Penguin. Instead, it’s a “manual action” where Google notices you’ve broken their Webmaster Guidelines and decides to drop your rank. Common ways to get this kind of penalty include:
- Using article farms. Article directories or “link farms” should not be part of your SEO strategy. These are sites that exit only to host countless articles with links back to various companies. Most of the articles will never be read. It’s a smoke-and-mirrors game to make Google think you’re getting lots of links, and it will always fail you.
- Links stuffed with keywords. Very few natural links will happen to use your top keywords as the anchor text. Instead they will link to you by brand name or with a descriptive sentence (like “it will always fail you”) above. Google evaluates what percentage of your links are keywords, and assumes that keyword-heavy link structure is unnatural. (Here’s our guide to checking our your own link structure.)
- “Spammy” or low-quality links. Plenty of websites are just disreputable. If links on those sites point at you, some of their filth may rub off. One or two links is no big deal, but lots imply that you’re actively seeking them out. Never agree to have links put on spammy sites, nonsense blogs, in hundreds of message boards/forums, etc.—and never pay for links in any context. This will help keep your nose clean of suspicious linking strategies.
When these mistakes are made once or twice, it could be an honest mistake. But when they’re made repeatedly, it shows ill intent. And you may think to yourself, “My company doesn’t have ill intent! We would never use a spam strategy on purpose.” That’s excellent. But what about your SEO partner?
There are still SEO companies out there that use outdated, spammy tactics every day. They know exactly what they’re doing and they know it will eventually hurt their client. They don’t care because they can usually show good results early on, get paid and then get out.
Dealing with this kind of company was already dangerous for businesses because getting a penalty lifted can be costly, especially when there are hundreds or thousands of bad links to disavow. But if your bad SEO strategy went on long enough, Google has vowed that it will be even harder to resolve. They didn’t specify what “further action” they will take, but it could be a deeper penalty or a six month waiting period. Some have theorized that Google will completely drop you from the search results.
There are two steps to protecting yourself:
- Learn everything you can about good, content-driven SEO practices. Know what a high quality SEO company does. You will be better informed when hiring one.
- Demand transparency from your SEO firm, not just results. You should know what strategies they are using at all times.
EverSpark Interactive offers high quality, effective SEO. We can get rid of a Google penalty and help you climb the search results the right way. Call us today for a free consultation.