21 SEO Issues that Quickly Triggers Google Penalty
Nobody wants to fall prey to Google’s penalties. Absolutely normal. But, what if you are not even aware your site has been penalized? Penalizing websites is Google’s own way of punishing websites that are found wanting, and to serve as a deterrent to others.
When BMW was penalized for using doorway pages, I’m sure it served as a deterrent to top brands, and none of them would try to do the same trick again.
In addition, these penalties can be ‘Algorithmic or Manual’. The algorithmic penalties are imposed automatically by the algorithms once any wrongdoing is detected. But, manual penalties are sanctions that are imposed on sites manually for not adhering to the laid down rules.
While the algorithmic penalties are lifted automatically once you make amends, manual penalties do not follow the same pattern. In fact, you need to re-submit your site for review, which is then manually checked by a human reviewer to make sure you have made corrections. After this, you may be reconsidered.
What can you do to attract penalties? And, how can you correct or prevent them?
I have listed 21 common mistakes you must avoid to beat Google’s penalties.
#1 Hijacked websites that take months to notice
If your site has been hijacked by hackers who now use it to promote their products (think of Viagra, Cialis etc.) and carry out other malicious acts like; phishing, installing viruses and other badwares, you risk getting penalized. You may not even know why your site’s ranking went down till you notice weird pages popping on your site.
Immediately you notice this, launch an aggressive attack against the hackers to recover your site back and delete whatever they might have secretly hidden in your site. Not just that, make sure you block the loopholes that gave them access to your site initially, to prevent future occurrence. Frequently analyze your domain with Rankedy to stay safe.
#2 Unnatural link velocity
A site may be getting hundreds and thousands of links from sites with high DA, Google will understand that this is normal. On the contrary, if you are operating a site that has a lot of new incoming links, but your site content cannot justify these links, then it seems to be spam links especially if the site is a new one.
Periodically, analyze your backlinks with ‘Rankedy Backlinks Monitoring Tool’ to make sure you are getting healthy links that will not attract penalties.
#3 Site returning error codes to google bot
Aside from the obvious 404 error, there is a range of others that Google really hates to see. 302 (temporarily moved) isn’t ideal; if you really must redirect something, use 301 (permanent redirect). Also, if you see any 500 errors, deal with the root cause as soon as you can. Else, the algorithm will automatically penalize you. Find invisible errors with this WebConfs HTTP Header Check tool.
#4 Domain with bad reputation
You might have innocently purchased a domain with a bad history (already being slammed with the full ban by Google). This could cause you problems when you try to build a new site around it. Unfortunately, this is often a dead end street; the best thing to do is to count your losses and buy another domain, rather than throwing more money at the problem. Or better still, if you can address the issues it was penalized for, you can manually ask for a review as long as it was not a full ban. But, let Google know in your reconsideration request that you just acquired the site as explained here at Google support.
#5 Stuffing your page with keywords.
In a bid to rank well, you may be tempted to trick the crawlers by stuffing your content with so many keywords. This often makes the content difficult to read and in the end, it makes no sense to the readers too. Definitely, with the new sheriff in town (RankBrain), it won’t take long before this algorithm notice it and penalize you. With Rankedy, you can be able to research the right keywords, and achieve more results without stuffing keywords.
#6 Placing too many ads above the fold
Showing ads above the fold means, the first thing at the top of your page are just ads meant to monetize your blog. If it was just one, it would have been better. But two? C’mon! It makes your site look spammy and even slows down the page speed. Moderately place ads within the content of the page, and ensure they are not distorting your site’s look and speed, to prevent penalty from the algorithm.
#7 Misleading headlines or bad clickbaits
Fine, clickbaits will get you more clicks to your site. But, when your content does not really address what your headline says it is all about, then you risk being penalized. Google algorithms can detect this using some metrics. Although, headlines should be catchy, but not to the extent of misleading readers just for clicks.
Plagiarism is when you duplicate someone else’s content on your site without giving due credit to the actual owner. In fact, the Google algorithm update (PIRATE) launched in August 2012 (Updated in October 2014). was specifically released to take care of sites that violate copyrights through DMCA takedown requests. Use Copyscape to check for plagiarism.
#9 Content spinning
This is not actually plagiarism, but well, something close to it. You basically rewrite an article in a way that is quite different in terms of words and context used, but the article still conveys the same information. Sooner than later, you will get caught, because span content usually contains a lot of grammatical errors, and they hardly make any sense. Consistently doing this can make people report your site to Google for spam, hence, earning you a manual penalty.
#10 Paying for backlinks
Backlink is one of the metrics used for ranking by Google, and every site wants as many as possible. Moreover, Google place value on only relevant, quality and natural backlinks. Unfortunately, a lot of people- out of desperation- pay for backlinks. Unfortunately, where most of these links come from are sites that Google regards as “Link Farms”. If not Link farms, then your backlinks may be from sites with content that are not relevant to yours. Both practices can be penalized automatically by the algorithms.
#11 Having a page showing error 404
This type of error is seen when the page being searched for is not found, because it has been deleted or permanently moved to another location. The page is then penalized by Google if there’s no redirect. Crawl your backlinks using Rankedy and check those that are no longer relevant, so that you can make amends.
#12 Cloaking or sneaky redirects
It may be hidden text or links on your page. Simply put, this is when the pages you show to users are different from what you showed to Google. This is done by redirecting them to somewhere else, often automatically (sneaky redirects). Or, just by hiding from the readers, things that helped you with page optimization (e.g. keywords). You may decide to hide them by using the same text color and background color (e.g. white on white). Fine, the keywords may be hidden from the users, but the crawlers can see it. Appropriately, this act raises suspicion that there’s something wrong being done on this page, then the algorithm will swing into action.
#13 Guest posting for links
Guest posting is good and allowed when it is done with the right intent. Usually, guest post is done by authors to gain more relevance and further establish themselves as an authority in whatever niche they are. Anything other than this is considered a spammy act, most especially if the sole aim is to point many links to the author’s site. Algorithms consider the links as spam therefore, imposing penalties.
#14 Spamming blog comments
One common practice by people in search of backlinks is, posting links as comments on blogs. This kind of comments is treated as spam since the links are mostly found on blogs that are not related to where they lead to. Definitely, your links will be considered irrelevant and as such earn you a well deserved penalty. Spam blog comments can hurt both the site where the link is, and the site where the link leads to. Use Disqus to make sure the comments are moderated to filter out spam.
#15 Having too many outbound links in one post
The standard ratio of link to text is 1:125. In other words, you are allowed to have one link for every 125 words. This figure is still excessive in my opinion. If a particular page is linking to too many external sites or one particular site, it may arouse Google’s suspicion and get you penalized. Make sure that you only link to relevant websites with good reputation.
#16 Backlinks from bad websites
A lot of bad sites may link to your site and Google feels like you are both involved in this act. Bad websites can be those that are being actively punished severely by Google.You can be slammed with some penalties for a couple of links you didn’t ask for. Google is justified to do this, since there is already a platform, Google Console, on which you can disavow bad links to escape the punishments.
#17 Focusing on filler content over quality content
Quality content provides value, not because of the length, but the usefulness of information contained in it. Writing unnecessary long pieces that are of no relevance to the readers can prompt Google’s algorithm to penalize your site.
#18 BROKEN LINKS
Links may get broken because the page being linked to has been deleted or permanently moved to another page, and there is no redirect that can lead the readers to this new page. It can also be the fault of the users, when they enter the wrong URL to a page that does not exist on the site. This kind of fault does not have any implication, since they are not crawled by Google bots. Unfortunately, broken links that are crawled by the bots end up wasting your crawl budget. Scan your site periodically for broken links, externally or internally, using the ‘Rankedy SEO Toolkit’. This will reduce the occurrence of error 404 which can attract a penalty.
#19 Underrating brand mentions and review
Backlinks are great, but Google is now able to detect and recognize where brand names are mentioned on the internet. Working on your brand can increase the number of mentions you will get online which Google will consider relevant and a sign of authority.
But, as a brand, Google is able to see the number of reviews you get too, good or bad. Bad reviews can get you in trouble. Alwyas endeavour to maintain a clean sheet on the web space. Set up Google Alerts, to know where your brand is being mentioned online. This alert informs you and make it easy for you to address situations where your brand’s reputation is at risk, since you already know where your brand was mentioned.
#20 Doorway pages
Doorways are the websites or pages created to rank highly for specific search queries, thereby resulting in multiple similar pages in SERPs. The trick is pulled off by creating multiple domains and building them to rank well for a particular keyword. Once this is done, the organic traffic earned by these domains is redirected to just one particular page. In essence, the other domains serve as a funnel to channel users to the main page.
This type of manipulative redirects is penalized when detected.
#21 Sites created solely for affiliate programs
There is nothing wrong in being an affiliate, as a matter of fact, ‘Affiliate Marketing’ is a branch of Digital Marketing too. But, when only affiliate links are seen on your site with no relevant content that can add value to the readers, everything becomes wrong. If you are going to sell links, at least, offer something valuable in return to readers who will buy through those links. Sites with just links and no content are spammy and they get penalized by Google.
Google’s penalty is not a ‘death sentence’ to your site, most of these penalties can be lifted once the right thing is done.
There are so many means by which you can incur Google’s wrath and get penalized, manually or automatically.
Peradventure you got penalized, login to Google Search Console to know your offence and get recommendations on how to fix it. But, for cases of manual penalties, make sure you rectify the issues before submitting your site for reconsideration.