In the digital world, Google penalties are one of the most feared complications.
They can be devastating to your website and take an age to recover from.
What should you do if you have received a Google penalty as a result of an algorithmic change or even worse a manual action? Well it depends on the type of Google penalty and the scale of the problem.
Once you have grasped you do have a problem that needs urgent attention, there are some steps you should – and shouldn’t – take to try to identify and fix the problem.
Here is the CMS Live list of Steps you need to take if your website has been hit with a Google penalty.
We know when things go wrong with your website, especially if it’s the heart of your business it easy to panic, but try to keep a cool head and figure out what’s going on. In our experience it could take an hour or two of research to find the most likely reason for the Google penalty. Once you have determined the source of the problem, there are a few things you need to do next…
Figure out if you have a manual penalty
Use your webmaster tools. If you have been given the penalty by Google’s web spam team then there will be a warning under the Search Traffic/Manual Actions link.
See if there has been a change to Google's algorithm
Once you have determined the penalty is not due to a manual action you can breathe a sigh of relief!
So, it has to be algorithmic, this means your website will not be the only one affected.
Believe it or not this is good news. For whatever reason there has been a change, big or small and it has hit your website.
The next thing to figure out is what your penalty is related to. Is it onsite factors, which is likely to be caused by the Panda update or offsite, which is likely to be caused by the Penguin update.
Measure how big the problem is
Use your Google Analytics to compare your website traffic with the dates of the Google updates. If your traffic dip sync with any of the updates then you have found your problem.
Search for terms that your homepage used to rank for
Some of the worst penalties will cause Google to ignore your major, non-specific landing pages. You have a major problem if your homepage has seemingly dropped out of Google for keyword queries that you used to rank highly for.
Review your SEO strategy
It’s always good to review your SEO strategy so you are up to date with all the latest changes but when you have been issued with a Google penalty it’s most likely due to things you have done in the past, maybe a black hat SEO method you thought was a good idea at the time. Google Penalties are often linked to legacy tactics such as bought links, duplicate content or lots of low rent pages. It is really important you are up to date with Google’s quality guidelines when it comes to the algorithm.
Audit your website
Use backlink analysis tools to look for any bulk dodgy links and start the disavowing process. If your link profile looks ok then it is likely to be related to onsite factors. This most likely is a problem with your content or your technical setup, which is good because these are under your direct control. In the past link building was the way to execute your SEO but today Google is taking a lot more notice of a websites structure, the content and the user experience. If your website has been standing still then maybe this Google penalty is the gentle push you need to build a shiny new website, if this is the case, give us a call!
If you’re using a web agency, you need to be asking questions
Alarm bells should be ringing if you spotted the Google penalty before they did!
Your agency should be up to speed on all Google updates and algorithmic changes and they should know what that means for you and your website. If they haven’t spotted the penalty and have not heard about an update then you should seriously consider changing your web company.
Sort your problems out in a structured way
We would suggest using a collaborative spreadsheet for this as its likely you will need multiple people working on this with you. This applies to jobs like link removal campaigns, disavowing links, fixing up problem pages and for sorting out technical issues. You need to be methodical and thorough.
Pull your head out of the sand
You need to do your research and take control, Google penalties do not fix themselves. Create a plan of attack and get yourself a team of helpers.
Find a good Web Technical Support team
If you’re looking at a full web overhaul you will need a good team of web techies behind you. Our blog post Choose the Right Web Design Company for You could help you here. Once you have found them you need to make them aware of the reasons behind your suggested changes and the impact the Google penalty has had on your business.
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