What Exactly Is a Google Penalty and How Do I Avoid It?

2020 - Cover (8)

When SEOs conceive of a Google penalty, they see two types of “penalties.”

One type of penalty is a manual action penalty, which is site-specific and administered on purpose. The other form of “punishment” is more of a repercussion. It occurs when a website’s rankings suffer as a result of the Google algorithm.

According to Google, manual operations are becoming less often as the algorithm becomes wiser. Google, for example, used 2.9 million manual actions in 2020, significantly lower than the 4 million sent in 2018 and 6 million in 2017.

Because algorithmic hits are increasingly responsible for ranking decreases, I believe it is appropriate to refer to them as search engine penalties.

I’ll go into more depth regarding both sorts of penalties and why they exist below. You are free to skip ahead:

What are Webmaster Guidelines and Penalties?

Google’s “Webmaster Guidelines” assist website creators in understanding what might result in a penalty or low ranking.

Quality is at the heart of these principles. An excellent user experience is provided by a high-quality website. Websites that provide a positive user experience have a greater chance of ranking high in search results.

Websites that provide a poor user experience and violate Google’s standards may face a manual penalty or simply fail to rank — or both.

The webmaster rules are guided by fundamental quality concepts such as the following:

  • Create pages primarily for humans rather than search engines.
  • Don’t mislead your customers.
  • Avoid tactics used to boost search engine ranks. A reasonable rule of thumb is whether you’d be comfortable describing what you’ve done to a competitor’s website or a Google employee. Another good litmus test is to ask yourself, “Does this benefit my users?” Would I do this if there were no search engines?”
  • Consider what makes your website distinct, valuable, or interesting. Make your website stand out from the crowd in your industry.

So, how can you prevent misleading your consumers while creating a high-quality site? In its “quality guidelines,” Google provides a list of things not to do, which should serve as a road map for your website. Don’t, for example, employ automated programmes to create your webpages. And, as far as possible, avoid duplicating content.

Even if you believe your website and business are in good hands, you might unwittingly throw yourself into problems.

Why? Perhaps you didn’t read the webmaster instructions well enough and ended yourself in a link scheme by accident. Perhaps the penalty was caused by the guest posting service you hired. It’s also possible that you engaged a low-cost SEO agency that set your website on a downward spiral.

Even the most savvy companies have been caught up in poor SEO techniques. Don’t be discouraged if you see a dip in ranks or perhaps a manual punishment. Just make sure you employ the correct SEO expert to repair it.

What Is a Manual Google Penalty?

Manual penalties are intended for sites that violate Google’s webmaster rules. This is a highly specific activity performed by a Google employee on your site. (This is in contrast to an algorithm, which may have an influence or “penalty” on numerous sites.)

Google explains the existence of manual actions:

People have been committed to cheating their way to the top of search engine results pages since the beginning of time. This is terrible for searchers because more relevant pages are buried behind irrelevant results, and it is bad for genuine websites since they become more difficult to locate. For these reasons, we’ve been fighting spammers, assisting consumers in finding the answers they seek, and assisting genuine websites in gaining traffic through search since Google’s inception.

Our algorithms are incredibly effective at detecting spam, and in most situations, we recognise it and delete it from our search results automatically. However, in order to safeguard the quality of our index, we are also prepared to remove spam from our search results manually.

When Google takes a manual action against your website, you will be notified.

How Google’s Algorithm “Penalizes”

I recently wrote about the reasons why websites lose ranks. One of these causes is algorithm updates. Keep in mind that Google makes over 3,000 Search enhancements every year, including regular algorithm tweaks. And the ranking algorithms take into account hundreds of distinct parameters.

Changes to the ranking algorithm might involve the addition of new criteria, the reorganization of existing elements, or the strengthening or weakening of existing factors. The Page Experience upgrade, for example, combines numerous pre-existing ranking variables with new “core web vitals” to generate a new ranking signal.

Then you add Google’s AI — RankBrain, which helps provide what it feels are the most relevant results — and your rankings might shift in an instant.

As a result, any websites that are not adapting to Google’s adjustments risk losing ranks and visitors. This may appear to be a punishment. And, of course, you want to avoid any and all Google penalties. Keep in mind, however, that an algorithmic penalty is simply Google’s attempt to serve the top quality sites on Page 1 of the search results.

If you’ve experienced this, the sensible thing to do is figure out how to improve your website so that it more closely resembles the websites that are currently ranking in your position. As I’ve always stated, SEO should outperform the competition rather than the algorithm. So pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and begin reviewing the best findings.

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