Each time a new Google update rolls out, we get barraged with questions from worried business owners whose websites have been badly affected by the changes made.
Back in 2012, Google released a new update called Google Penguin. This update contained a new algorithm to help adjust the way Google ranks different websites based upon its own guidelines, and became infamous for completely demolishing many people’s website rankings overnight.
However, this wasn’t Google being unnecessarily unfair, as many of the sites negatively affected by Google Penguin were using some dodgy black hat SEO tactics to get ranked. Google changed the way it worked to make the playing field much fairer for businesses optimising their websites properly, and to provide a better service to people using the search engine.
Since then, Google has been updating Penguin regularly to patch up any loopholes that could be exploited, and focuses on low-quality inbound links.
Every time Google changes their algorithms they make changes to their definition of low-quality links, spam, or blackhat SEO tricks. If your website gets affected by these updates, it’s usually due to Google catching up with low-quality links on your website or a recategorised ‘grey area’ that is now considered as black hat SEO.
If your website has received a penalty for whatever reason, it isn’t the end of the world. Although time consuming, it can be solved relatively easily by adjusting various areas of your site.
There are two types of penalty, manual and algorithmic. Let’s have a look at both:
Manual penalties are slapped onto your website by one of Google’s (human) web spam team. They are given for spamming behaviour that is brought to the attention of the team or noticed while they conduct their everyday Internet browsing. As the name suggests, these penalties are manually slapped onto a site and their effect can be anywhere from minor (although still important to fix) to disastrous.
When your site is hit by a manual penalty Google will usually tell you through webmaster tools. This could be in the form of an ‘unnatural link notice’ or another message which basically says “you’re doing something wrong”.
You can fix these penalties by removing the mentioned problems from your site as soon as possible.
Once this is done, you can send a reconsideration request to the webmaster team, explaining the mistake you’ve made, how sorry you are, and they’ll decide whether to reinstate your original ranking.
Manual penalties aren’t always the easiest to find, so trying to find the right problem to fix can be complicated and time-consuming.
The webmaster team won’t give you any extra information beyond the notice they send originally, so if you’re having trouble fixing your website, get in touch with us. We’ll be able to figure out what’s going wrong and help you fix it.
Get to the top of Google for free
Unlike manual penalties, algorithmic penalties are caused by Google’s automated systems finding something that raises a bunch of red flags and lowering page rank as a result. Although these problems can be a massive pain to find and fix, once done, the problem will gradually solve itself over a period of time and you’ll be back to the usual ranking score. By gradually, we mean anywhere up to a year, but it’s usually much quicker than that.
Both penalties can be avoided by sticking to good SEO practice, avoiding spammy or dodgy content, and never ever buying links.
How Do You Remove Spammy Inbound Links To Your Site?
OK, so you’ve bought a load of inbound links and you’ve been hit by a Google penalty. All is not lost, however, you’re going to need to put a lot of work in to solve the issue. To get rid of these links, you’ll need to contact the website owner of whatever inbound links exist and politely ask them to remove it. Beyond that, there’s one last thing you can do.
The Disavow Tool
The disavow tool allows you to give a list of links to Google to say that you don’t want to be associated with those websites and that you recognise they are spammy. Google implemented this tool for a variety of reasons, including preventing people from holding your page ranking to ransom through a bunch of spam links.
Once you’ve handed the disavow links over, it’s up to Google how long it wants to take in fixing the penalty that it’s given you. We’ve seen examples that have taken a few weeks, or up to a year, depending on how fast Google updates its index.
If you’re still not sure about why you’ve received a Google penalty and would like some advice on fixing the problem, get in touch with our ninjas.
Want to know more about fixing your website penalties? Check out our best selling SEO book, How to Get to the Top of Google.