A Google penalty is probably the worst thing that can happen to your business online – essentially it completely suppresses your website’s rankings on Google – it is a business killer!
Things your SEO company may have done to trigger a Google Penalty.
The most common thing your SEO provider would have done would be to buy backlinks from a range of very low-quality websites. Many cheap SEO agencies who have no clue about SEO will buy these very low-quality backlinks en masse. Once Google indexes these spammy links, a Google penalty will follow.
Poor Content Marketing Strategy
Another common SEO technique used by so-called SEO companies is to get articles written at $2 per article and submit these to article sites. A big issue with this is that these article submission sites are allowed to resell published articles meaning that the articles that your website appears on will be open for anyone to use. They are scraped by other websites and your articles are reused. This means that the article which has your business name on it and this links back to your site could have very quickly gained hundreds if not thousands of links. This is classic over optimisation, in strict violation of Googles guidelines, and will certainly trigger an alert and in turn a website Google penalty. You must also be aware of the hazards of placing your link on blog comment sites. This is very easy to do and if the anchor text has been repeated on too many blog sites, then this will be perceived as trying to manipulate your page rank authority. Gaming the system in this fashion will also be a likely cause that could have penalised your site.
Lazy SEO companies wishing to impress you with fast rankings will get articles written by the truckload for your business. As stated above it costs next to nothing to get 500 words written but the issue is; what are they writing about and how unique is the article content? Google will know if the content is duplicated or if articles are very similar. If your business has had unprofessionally written content chances are that most of it is very similar and will trigger an alert within Google.
When contracting out an SEO supplier, most businesses will know very little or are quite naive about what is involved in the process. All they know is that they see their main competition on page 1 and they want to get there by any means available to them. The brief to the SEO company is just that: get us to page 1 and get us there quickly. Trying to impress the new client, backlinks are placed on websites with no value or relevance and they are placed by the thousands. The big issue here is that there was absolutely no audit carried out on the actual website itself to see if it passes the strict guidelines put in place by Google. Rather than rushing off and link building, the SEO team should have done a thorough site audit and made ‘on page’ site recommendations. Failure to do this means that the site might not comply with basic web standards and rules which may be the issue – bad web design can harm your SEO efforts.
Many business people are so concerned about saving a few dollars in the website design phase of their business, that they give the job to the company that can do it for the cheapest. Even worse they use open source platforms and try a DIY web design. This is where the problems begin. There is no thought given to site mandatories like site architecture, programming, web copy, speed, titles and headers, and what small amount they save at this stage is going to cost a whole lot more once the site has been hit with a Google penalty.
Be aware of Reciprocal Link Building. This is where one company promises to put a link on their website in return for a link on your site. Most times you provide a link to your high page rank homepage for an internal page link on their website. You end up with a bad end of the deal. These practices are frowned upon and were common practice in days gone by. Be aware that links to your website could be on other very dubious sites that may themselves be penalised.
How to Lift a Google Penalty
1. Stop Stressing
The first rule is not to panic. If your SEO company is not answering the phone, returning email messages or is denying all responsibility then you must stay calm. Going into a meltdown will only inflame the situation and you may end up doing things that you regret.
2. Google’s Webmaster Tools
Log into your webmaster tools account (if you haven’t got one sign up and create one) – it is here that you will see if there is any correspondence from Google regarding your site. If there are messages similar to what was posted above at least you know what the problem is.
3. Link Profile
You need to get an idea of your link profile. There are online tools that will do this for you, but if like most business owners, you have no idea about SEO or link building then this is going to perhaps be an area that will confuse you.
At this stage, it’s best to look at engaging the services of a professional company like Hopping Mad who can check your backlinking profile and see what the issue is. Given the Penguin and Panda Google updates it is more than likely that you are going to have to get all these links removed. You might think doing this is easy, but this is a huge task and is fundamental to getting out of the penalty. The owners of the websites that your links appear on, need to be contacted and asked to have these links removed.
This has a 50/50 success rate.
Sometimes website owners are happy and agreeable to remove your links BUT there is the other 50% who are either uncooperative or cannot be contacted. Many of these sites have no owners and try to see the site owners details but you will find that they are hidden. In this case, you are left with no alternative other than to hire a takedown team that specialises in link removal.
Once all this has been done and there are still some toxic links remaining you can use the Google Disavow tool which tells Google to ignore those remaining links and not count them as part of your linking profile. This is the last step and should only be done once you have proven to them that you have made every effort to get rid of the backlinks.
Tips for dealing with Google
Once you feel that you have done as much as you can in deleting backlinks and looking at all your on-page work you may write to Google by filing a request for reconsideration through your WMT account. This is the only way you are able to contact Google so make sure that you adhere to these rules in the Reconsideration Request.
- Be specific and don’t ramble. Google will be getting thousands of emails every day so they do not want to read tons of information that is irrelevant.
- Be as honest and as upfront as you can be. Never lie, and it’s best to let them know the names of the SEO companies you were working with. Being honest is the best tactic. Google wants to display websites that give the best search results and if your site is one of them and has been penalised due to factors beyond your control then they will know this and be a bit more lenient.
- Take very specific notes about all the actions you have taken since receiving the penalty notice. Make note of all links and articles removed and clearly write them down in a spreadsheet.
- File only one reconsideration and wait for the response. Sometimes this can take weeks but you have to be patient. Spamming Google with emails demanding answers is not the way to go. If you get a negative response from Google and they feel that you still have too many inorganic links then start all over again. Look at what links are still active and ask the takedown team to be more heavy-handed. You must continue to remove each and every backlink that you possibly can and never give up on this process. It’s really your best artillery in the battle against the penalty.
4. Website Design & Structure
You will need to look at your ‘on page’ website content and structure. As this was never taken into consideration by yourself or your web developers this is now a priority and needs addressing. Get them to look at site title tags, headers, links, and content. There might also be issues with link duplication or links that just don’t point anywhere, over optimised site content, keyword stuffing and wrong URL structure. All these points need to be looked at carefully and you might even end up trashing your current site and look at getting a new site designed and built for you properly from the beginning.
As you probably paid next to nothing for your original site these funds should happily be written off. This is an option you may want to consider and it might be easier for you to do this than make changes to an existing site that needs a lot of coding amends and restructuring. Compounding this, it might be impossible to make changes to your site if there is scrappy programming or if there is a proprietary content management system that you are unable to get access to or even understand. Many CMS systems are the domain of 1 particular company and making amends is next to impossible.
5. Stop all SEO efforts
Stop all SEO work that has been going on. In the case of a company that has disappeared this has been taken care of but if you are still in touch with your provider tell them to stop all work immediately. If you are under a contract with them then see out the contract but they must cease all work. If they are any good at what they are doing they will offer to help you out but since they are probably the culprits that got you into this position then you should look at cutting ties ASAP. Saying this they should provide you with a report of all their activity and everything that they have done for you, including each and every backlink so you can give this to your Google penalty recovery team.
6. Be smart and get a new SEO agency
Engaging a new SEO firm to help you get out of a penalty will mean that you now have to be looking at a new SEO strategy. This, however, cannot commence until you are in the clear. Be as honest as you can with your new SEO partner and take their advice.
This is really the first stage in getting your business out of the Google Penalty. If you have done nothing wrong and you believe that this has been the result of negative SEO techniques then you should be fine.
What you MUST not do is to try this on your own.
This article is intended only to give you some peace of mind that there are credible and proven solutions to a Google penalty.
If you feel that your website has been subjected to a Google Penalty and would like to work out a strategy to get your rankings back get in touch with one of our Google penalty removal experts.