We all know that Google visibility is crucial to online success; however an eagerness to appear in the first page of the Google results can sometimes lead you into trouble.

If you experience a sudden drop in rankings for your main keywords there are two likely reasons:

  • There has been a change to Google’s algorithm and you have been one of the unfortunate losers.
  • You have received a penalty from Google for breaking (or bending) their guidelines.

If you feel your drop in rankings may be the result of some infringement of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines it is important to correct them immediately. I am sure you are aware that Google will never make it that simple for you and many of the reasons they penalise sites is only known to those locked within the walls of Google headquarters. There are, however, some sure-fire ways to get yourself penalised (or banned) by Google:

  • Linking into ‘bad neighbourhoods’. A ‘bad neighbourhood’ can include spammy sites, link farms or just generally sites that have no value to the Internet user as a whole. A good rule of thumb is: “if you are in doubt then it is probably best left alone”. If you want to check for sure then do a search for the Home Page in Google and if it doesn’t appear in the first page of the results it suggests that Google doesn’t trust it that much. Check out the Bad Neighborhood tool for help.
  • Keyword stuffing. Always write with the user in mind first and the spider second. Stay away from repeating the same keywords over and over again.
  • Excessive reciprocal link building. Some reciprocal link building can be considered natural – especially if you share the same topic in a niche. However stay away from unnatural amounts of ‘off topic ‘ reciprocal link building – always make sure your reciprocal links are from trusted ‘on topic’ sites and make your reciprocal links a small part of your overall link building campaign.
  • Buying links. It is thought that that buying links can harm your rankings (like most things with Google though it has only been hinted at rather than confirmed!). It is always better to be safe than sorry so try and avoid buying and selling links and you are less likely to be penalised for it.
  • Hidden text on your site. An old trick and very likely to get you banned – don’t make the text the same colour as your background, you will get found out sooner or later! The same applies to hidden links on your site.
  • Check your site is considered safe. Here is how we check our site is safe:

Go to Google and type in (obviously replacing the with your site). This we show you this screen which will give you Google’s details on the ‘Safe Browsing’ details of your site:

Other ways to reduce the risk of getting banned or penalised by Google by Google include:

  • Make sure the anchor text of any links pointing to your site is varied as possible
  • Do not link to any currently banned sites
  • Avoid excessive cross linking with any other sites you own
  • Avoid over optimisation
  • Avoid excessive use of directories
  • Make sure your link building increases at a natural rate (about 10% of the total number of inbound links you already have)

The final tip for avoiding Google penalties is:

  • Use your common sense!

If you think that your actions could be construed as slightly dubious then stay away. Make your link building look natural and design and optimise your site with the user in mind and remember it can take time to rise up the rankings – patience is a virtue!

Here are some tools and links to help you with diagnosing and solving Google penalty issues:

Bad Neighborhood – Bad neighbourhood checking tool

Google Webmaster Guidelines

MajesticSEO – Backlink checker and neighbourhood checker

Google’s Malware help

Google’s reconsideration of your site page

+++Wayne Barker+++

One response to “Google Penalties and how to avoid them”

  1. Nousheer Ali Khan says:

    Will my site get affected by the penguin update if I’m hosting my site on a shared server rather than a dedicated server? Also please let me know if you have any example or any blog post of a website hit by penguin which was hosted on a shared server.

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