When I was given the brief for this article, my first thought was that of the godfather films, in much the same way that Marlon Brando governed over his family with an iron fist and unbendable devotion and the ability should you cross him, to have you wake up in bed with a horse’s head, Google does the same. Google has already monopolised internet searching, and has become the undisputed champion of search engines (sorry Bing!), which means they, like the Corleones, get to write the rules, and should you break their rules, google will leave your website with a horse’s head, and that precious ranking you’ve spent three years building will be gone.
So what can you do? Ordinary Digital Marketers and Web design companies can’t take on the might of google, right? Unfortunately in the grand scheme of things this is true, for the most part if you get a penalty off google it’s staying until you resolve whatever it is that google deems to be penalty worthy. However for many people this shouldn’t be too much of a worry, if you’ve put time and effort into creating your website paying attention to the most minute of details then you’ll probably never have to worry about google putting a hit out on your website. But for those who are currently building their site, or for those who are just a bit worried they’ve missed something, then read on and I’ll explain what you can do to keep your website safe.
What are Penalties?
Firstly I’m going to explain the nature of google penalties, and why and when they occur. There are two types of penalties that google hands out, the first is their ‘Manual penalties’ sometimes known as ‘SPAM actions’ which are given out manually by google’s staff, and are given out for using spammy links or for not using quality content. The second penalty is google algorithmic penalties which occur automatically and repetitively every time google’s algorithm checker catches a site that doesn’t conform. So what can you do if you get penalised or you are just edging on the side of caution?
First things first, over the past few years google has put a heavier focus on content, and with the introduction of the Panda Algorithm in February 2011, google made their first algorithm that actively de-ranks websites with poor-quality content, stolen content or with minimal content. However this is helped by normal people like you and I, google asks people questions about sites, such as ‘would you trust this site with your credit card details?’ and depending on the answer it alerts the google bots. To avoid the google bots penalising you, always use original content, focus on creating a strong headline that leads the article rather than allowing it to be keywords stuffed and lacking any real information. Also try and add images that have been optimised for the web to your content.
If you ask any web designer or digital marketer what is one of their least favourite animals, i bet you penguins are up there. Google released Penguin in April 2012, the purpose of penguin was to penalise any web site that was using black hat SEO and that was using other sites to create unnatural links. Since then Penguin has become the bane of many content writers lives, especially as it only takes the wrong word in the wrong place to get you a penalty, and if you thought your site would be safe because you were guest posting, think again, as google uses the links you put into the guest post, to find your website and gives you a great big penalty. Like they say you can’t hide from the mob. So here’s just a few tips on avoiding the penguin, try and build a natural looking link profile, this is done by using natural phrases that suit the content, making sure you are only guest posting on sites that fit your own business; you don’t see Prada putting content onto whiskers cat food, and don’t use too many links that use just the one source (most likely your own).
Unfortunately it’s not always your fault, in many cases it turns out to be either your clients or someone taking advantage of your site, this is done normally through users of your site posting spam links to their sites, other people’s sites, or to virus ridden pop ups that promise men of a certain age that they will able to perform like a stallion if they invest in the latest miracle pill on the market. Google in this situation is more like the godfather at his daughter’s wedding, all you need to do is use the ‘nofollow’ tag, which will let the search engine know that you don’t endorse, promote or really care for the user-generated links, now that’s an offer you can’t refuse.
Let’s face it, for many businesses nowadays, no matter whether it’s a small business or an international corporation, for many of us our websites are our business, we use them to market and brand ourselves, they are how we introduce ourselves to our customers, without them our businesses suffer. So a Google penalty is quite a serious and daunting thing, but if you follow these few basic tips and tricks on what to avoid, the likelihood is you won’t get penalised. And if you have been penalised and you’ve done everything I’ve said, and Don Google is still after you, then contact us here at Kudos Web Design, where for the past 17 years we have been the leading experts in all things SEO and have successfully helped many of our clients get to that all important number one spot on the google search engine.