So you have a couple of websites, which have been getting organic traffic from Google for a couple of years. You are happy because your sites are generating sales or ad-revenue organically and you can just focus on the content and services, without having to worry about getting customers.
Then one fine morning, you see a huge drop in hits. All your traffic has just vanished in thin air! You check your site analytics program and find that the traffic from Google has suddenly disappeared. This is a typical case of a Google penalty and it is a nightmare for a webmaster of any website, however large or small it might be.
If you keep your eyes open on any webmaster or SEO forum, you will find many people complaining about being hit by a Google penalty. Most of them are clueless about the reasons that led their websites being penalized at Google.
If you are one of them, here are a few things you should know:
What are the precautions I need to follow to avoid the Google Penalty?
1. Duplicate content: This is a surefire way to get penalized by Google and the majority of other search engines. Do not publish content that is already published elsewhere, do not copy and paste from article directories and do not publish rehashed content. Google can precisely determine the source of a sentence, so if you are using syndicated content on your website or simply copy pasting from popular blogs, your entire website will surely disappear from Google search.
Also, be extremely careful with other duplicate content issues like language translation plugins, site architecture, permalinks, and technical issues of your sites HTML template.
2. Selling Text links: Google and other search engines do not like websites that pass pagerank through links. Selling text link ads is extremely risky and you should not fall for those lucrative link exchange offers, or sell text link advertisements on your website. If you must link to a website which you do not endorse, remember to use the rel=nofollow attribute in the hyperlink code.
3. Excessive Use of Keywords in Meta descriptions and titles: Stuffing and overpopulating your pages with unnecessary Keywords and phrases is not at all a good practice and this is one of the reasons why Google might lower your rankings. Googlebot does not like a page that offers no real value to users and are written solely for getting rankings on search results. Write for the user and you should be in good shape.
4. Linking to Bad Neighborhoods: Before linking to a source, always check the credibility of the target site. Do not link to bad neighborhoods or sites that sell text link ads or have objectionable content. While this may not guarantee a Google penalty but why take a chance?
5. Hidden links in your Template: Never try to fool search engines by placing hidden links or hidden text in your site’s template. Hidden Links or text can be placed in your template by dwelling the color of the links with the background so that it appears as if there are no links on that particular area. Search engines are very strict with any hidden content on any page of your site and may penalize your entire site for cloaking.
6. Check Your Robots.txt file : A robots.txt file is used to tell search bots which folders and sections should be crawled and which sections of your website should not be indexed. Regularly check your site’s robots.txt file for blocked directories and pages.
8. Do not Use Link Farms to Inflate your page rank: Submitting your site to link farms or link exchange directories makes no sense at all. Most webmasters are pretty savvy regarding getting pagerank but they forget the fact that pagerank is not the only ranking factor. Any link, which does not look natural, adds no value to your site’s external link building.
You might see a Jump in the Page rank by submitting your site to link farms but the search engines will discover it and ban you eventually. Never use any type of automated scripts or programs that assure you a Page rank push. These things do not work and only harms your rankings.
9. Do not distribute Copyrighted content: You may be writing the content on your own and its purely original but still there are other ways to get banned and face a serious Google penalty. Do not host copyrighted material on your site, which includes images, videos, software executables, and other files. If you want users to download these stuff, link to the site, which hosts the product, and do not copy it onto your own servers.
10. Too Much paid Posts: Google and other search engines do not like paid content so avoid publishing paid or sponsored reviews in your blog. Google scans billions of pages and can find a pattern in sponsored reviews posted on multiple sites. If they observe the same trend and pattern in your sponsored article, your site might get flagged. You can do it occasionally but do not overdo and start reviewing sponsored products in bulk.
After reviewing all the above pointers, file a reconsideration request using your Google Webmaster tools account.
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This guest post is written by Lior Levine, a marketing consultant for a neon sign store that provides a variety of business signs including coffee neon signs. Lior also works for a China inspection service company that provides a variety of shipment inspections.