Let’s face it; if you’re a website owner, you wouldn’t want to be in Google’s bad books now, would you? It’s like turning your ally into your worst enemy. That’s a situation you do not want to find yourself in. Google penalties can be quite harsh and, honestly, very annoying. You would have no other option but to honor the punishment or else risk being the rotten apple in Google’s book. The consequences could be disastrous from your website’s SEO point of view as you stand to lose organic search visibility, face a steady decline in traffic, decrease in your revenue, to name a few.
Google’s algorithm is constantly changing, which could mean that your website could be at risk of getting a penalty if you are not proactively protecting your site. Many website owners have no idea how they can receive a penalty and how these penalties can be damaging to their website.
But before we explore the steps you can take to avoid these penalties, let’s understand what exactly Google penalties ARE and how it affects your websites.
What are Google Penalties?
Suppose you suddenly witness that the traffic on your website has abruptly dropped or reduced, and you see a similar decline in the rankings of your website. In that case, it’s a pretty obvious sign that Google has penalized your website. If you’re a retailer or an e-commerce website owner, this sort of abrupt drop in rankings can be catastrophic for business. Why? Because low rankings basically can prevent visitors and potential customers from finding and purchasing your products. Business owners online can take extreme steps like keyword stuffing, invisible text, and other illicit actions to boost their website’s ranking by tricking Google’s algorithms. To counter these unlawful and unrecognized methods, Google decided to update its algorithms with the sole purpose of weeding out any possible traces of unauthorized SEO tricks, spam links, or other unnatural use of language. By doing so, genuine businesses were helped improve their ranking, and a sharp drop in their rankings penalized those using unlawful methods.
There are various Google penalties, such as Cloaking, Intrusive Interstitial Penalty, Google Penguin, Google Panda Penalties, Keyword Stuffing, Slow Speed, Spam Comments, Broken Links, to name a few. But the good news is that you can fix Google penalties. Let’s find out how!
The very basic way to avoid these penalties is to follow Google’s guidelines and stay aligned with Google’s core mission. There are, however, other steps you can take to save your website from Google penalties.
Prioritize SSL security
As we mentioned above, it’s important to follow Google’s guidelines. One of the points in those guidelines clearly states that websites must have an SSL certificate. SSL certificates act as a two-factor authenticator by overseeing the communication between the server and the site. Secure socket layer or SSL comes in handy by providing a safe and secure transfer layer protecting your confidential and precious data from falling into the wrong hands. SSL certificates act like a second wall that ensures that it’s genuinely you and not an attacker trying to gain access. SSL Certificates work on the Handshake Protocol and Record Protocol, where the handshake protocol authenticates the server and generates a shared key. The record protocol isolates every communication using the shared key, making the process more secure. In short, SSL protects your website’s sensitive data such as credit & debit card details, bank details, usernames, and passwords from hackers and cybercriminals.
Without an SSL certificate, your website cannot rank on Google’s SERP, which would result in visitors and customers unable to get access to your website.
But the question arises, what if you have multiple subdomains of your online business, and how does an SSL certificate help in that case? In case you have more than one domain or multiple subdomains, simply having one SSL certificate is not enough. You’re going to need a wildcard SSL certificate in this case!
While a “regular” SSL certificate provides encryption for just one domain at a time, the Wildcard SSL certificate helps secure websites with multiple first-level sub-domains along with the chosen primary domain. Given the security considerations of a wildcard SSL, if there is only one domain to secure and you have no intention whatsoever of adding any more subdomains, it is advisable to go for a normal single-domain SSL certificate. But it’s different if you have multiple subdomains; it makes more sense and feasibility to opt for a wildcard SSL rather than investing in a regular SSL certificate.
Do not force feed keywords
Keywords are integral to not just your online presence but to your part of your content strategy as well. If you don’t have any keywords, Google will not and cannot identify your content, and, eventually, your product is all about. This could be bad news if you want to drive traffic to your website. But just because you should have some keywords, it does not mean that you stamp them randomly and forcefully in your content. Stuffing your content with many keywords forcefully confuses Google’s algorithm into believing that your website is fake and not authentic. Google has bots and smart crawlers that can identify hidden keywords in the content and penalize the website for misinforming the users and the search engine to reach the top.
The lesson here is that if you want to avoid penalties from Google, don’t be this naive and try this old and tried technique of stuffing keywords in your content.
Avoid forming private networks.
Many site owners practice forming a private network that is establishing connections between multiple sites that they own. Even though there is no harm in forming private networks if all the other websites are relevant to each other, the problem arises if they are irrelevant. Irrelevant content linked as a private network would be flagged and penalized as Google considers it an unethical practice. Google algorithms deduce that the website owner or owners are trying to form unnecessary links to rank on top and are not confident about its content value.
Hence, you avoid making private networks to stay away from penalties instead of forming relevant links by coming together with other sites on the web.
Do not scrape content. EVER!
Content scraping is a form of plagiarism; it means that you have content that has been copied from other websites and rewritten with some minor changes so that you can fool search engines to display your content before others. If your content is scraped, it would never rank high as Google has now got the necessary tools in place to identify which content is authentic and fresh and which ones are rewritten, plagiarized, or copied from other websites.
Content scraping puts you on Google’s radar, but not the good one. Unfortunately, if Google finds that your website has scrapped content, you pay for it by reduced user engagement and reduced search rankings.
If you want to highlight something or some information that you’ve found on another website, it is advisable to add a link to the source website in your content and give them credit.
Don’t ignore a sitemap for your website. In simple words, a sitemap is a blueprint of your website that provides information about the pages, videos, content, and other files on your site and the relationships between them. A sitemap helps search engines find and properly index all of your website’s content.
Additionally, sitemaps tell search engines which pages on your site are important and which are not. If your site’s pages are properly linked, Google will identify and verify it. If you do not have a sitemap and Google fails to index or find your website and verify the authenticity of the content, it will impose a penalty on it.
Do your best to avoid 404 errors.
A 404 error is a normal and standard HTTP code that informs about the status. This particular message is sent from the server of an online presence to the web browser, which is usually the client that initiated the request. The browser then displays a ‘404 not found’ error code. In short, 404 errors occur when the server cannot redirect the user or the client on the page due to the source code being unavailable or when the code has been changed. Although quite common, if these errors are not identified and rectified on time, it could bring down your website’s rankings. If Google identifies that a page hasn’t got fixed, it would initially start sending warning signs. However, after the warning signs, if the site is still not fixed and the error still appears, Google would impose a penalty for a dip in user experience.
Search engines like Google and Bing have become very precise in today’s competitive online business environment, and there is a constant battle as to whom they should rank on their SERP. One cannot win the ranking game by simply taking care of your website security, as multiple factors lead to deciding your website’s rank. Goes without saying that you must dedicate a specific amount of time and resources towards the management of your website and ensuring that it is visible to your audience without breaking any rules. Google penalties are not because it hates websites; on the contrary, these penalties are enforced to provide optimum experience to its users by flagging websites that employ illicit means to draw traffic and hike rankings.
Therefore, if you wish to stay in Google’s good book and avoid unnecessary penalties, we advise you to follow the tips we shared above.