With the frenzy that is increasing in the web, following the updates of Google, the biggest concern of every blogger is to receive some penalties.
The two most recent algorithms introduced by big G ( Panda and then Penguin) are the cause of a real mass psychosis, that has generated insomnia and fear to many webmasters across the world, which are still seeking help and information to prevent their sites being penalized by Google.
Often the reasons for a decrease of position in SERP or a loss of Page Rank may be attributed to high-risk SEO tactics called “black hat“, while in other cases a penalty may be due to trivial errors in handling a website.
Here you can read a list of the most common reasons that may cause a penalization to your website.
A big part of the SEO work is still focused on link building, which are still a major factor in ranking on search engines.
There is nothing wrong with that. But of course there are some limits. There are many pitfalls in fact, involving great attention and precision in following the Guidelines for Webmasters provided by Google.
1 . 10.000 links for $ 19 : spam emails that offer hundreds of links for a few dollars can not be true. Purchasing these links at bargain prices, certainly leads to a penalty.
2 . Paid Links on sites with high PR : if you can escape to paid links in most cases, it is quite easy to see when you buy links on sites with high PageRank, in other words those where the PR toolbar indicates 6 or maybe even more. There are few sites that have a page rank so high and in that sense, paid links are easy to flush out.
3 . Large-scale link exchange : linking to another blogger that mentioned you is natural. On the other hand, a massive exchange of links can be recognized algorithmically and it is too obvious. So you would be punished sooner or later.
4 . Links hidden in templates or counters : currently many websites well positioned on Google SERPs are just scams, leading to hidden links in WordPress templates. If you use these links to make “link building”, do not be surprised if you will be penalized. Some visits counters were doing the same thing in the past.
5 . Profiles with artificial links and anchor text that always match : when every link to your site is optimized to something like “SEO company”, this seems too forced to go unnoticed by Google.
6 . Link in unrelated languages : a website written in English, which get thousands of links from Russia or China brings many doubts. Google engineers are good enough to compare the language of your site with the one of the sites that you receive links from. At best, your rank will go up only in Russia and China. Otherwise it will fall everywhere.
7 . Getting too many links too quickly : not always the more links you have, the better. Even the good links if otained too fast can lead to being penalized. Google controls the speed of the link building and if you get more links than you deserve, you risk a penalty even if they are perfectly legitimate.
The outbound links are crucial for any website, especially for blogs. Many webmasters have blocked external links, in order to try not to lose PageRank.
Google engineers have discouraged this practice and they actually suggest instead of using external links. Nevertheless it is advisable to only link to reputable sites, which deal with similar topics, otherwise it can be risky to use them.
8 . Broken links : too many broken links on a page cause a notice in the algorithm of Google. This may not be a penalty in the strict sense, but it could cause a sudden drop in rankings if there are many broken links on a page.
9 . Link to “bad neighborhoods” : the links to bad neighborhoods are even worse than broken links. Spammers use this technique to deceive you. Many of these links are part of a decline process. The sites in question will soon disappear.
10 . Too many external links or neither : a website that has more external links to content itself, may lose its visibility on search engines. This may not happen suddenly, but will have equivalent effects in future. In addition, sites that do not have any external link, or use no follow links only believing it is an effective SEO practice, may be full penalized.
11 . Link hidden in third-party services (such as menus, widgets and counters) : free services for websites often have a sneaky business model. These links are hidden inside of what they offer. It may be a CSS menu, a sidebar widget or a visitors counter.So often these links are not only hidden, they are also off-topic and authentically SPAM. Check and verify the source code of what you add to your site. Google, of course, does not allow hidden links.
Despite Google still claims that “content is king”, this can also lead to problems.
12 . Duplicate content : the duplicate content on your site or elsewhere may cause a significant drop in the ranking.
13 . Low quality content : Panda Google Update focuses on low quality content. Superficial texts and too loaded with keywords on same pages will downgrade your entire site on Google.
14 . Content copied : text taken from other websites and showed on yours is a sure way to lose ranking.
15 . Unreadable content : spelling, grammar and syntax mistakes are bad at Google’s eyes. Make sure that a human user can understand what you write. In addition, the formatting of the text is crucial. Google quality rater also control this aspect.
Analysts argue that Google is not a search engine, but rather an advertising company, since almost all of Google revenue comes from ads appearing on results and third parties sites.
However, the pressure on Google has grown over the years because of the problem of MFA sites (Made for Adsense), which pollute the Google index. Google “Panda” and “Penguin” were thought as an intervention to curb this phenomenon.
16 . Too many ads (little content compared to the amount of ads) : a large number of ads, especially of Google Adsense ads, can result in a penalty. You should not insert ads above the fold.
17 . Worthless Affiliated Sites : Google has always stated that affiliated sites are acceptable, but only if they offer additional value to the readers. Be sure to add useful content or sooner or later you will face a penalty.
Bad Reputation and Communication
The online presence is very important, so it is wise to manage your reputation.
18 . Ask questions in the official Google Groups : some disgruntled webmasters tend to be present on Google Groups and Forums, after they were penalized for a good reason. In the worst cases these people have not admitted their mistakes and continue to complain.
19 . The third-party web metrics as Blekko, WOT, McAfee SiteAdvisor : if you do not appear on Blekko, this means that you are banned. If WOT and McAfee SiteAdvisor have added your site to a list of dangerous sites, perhaps due to a virus or spyware in the code page, it could mean that there will be a penalty from Google (I still wonder why I have some bad reviews on WOT : may be they refer to when I started blogging, when I made some huge mistakes…or simply they were written by someone who does not love me).
20 . Mock Google : if you publicly display your successes withBlack Hat SEO techniques, you are vulnerable for trying to “make fun of Google” and this will soon cause you a penalty.
The Google Filters
Some of Google penalties are applied automatically with filters. If many penalties can be manual, some filters are obviously algorithmic.
21 . Multiple H1 Tags : a book has one title. Like this, a web page must have only one title tag with H1. Google believes that multiple h1 tags are a trick to spam the index, and penalizes sites that use multiple h1 tags. Use h2, h3, and other tags in its place.
22 . Keyword stuffing (“keyword density” too high) : one of the oldest spamming method is called keyword stuffing. Make sure you enter keywords that you are interested about in the content of your website, but do it in a natural way, giving meaning to what you write, thus avoid inserting keywords by force. It is more important to keep the text readable by users than high percentage of keywords.
Some traffic declines and penalties are due to stupidity or carelessness. It is important not to forget some technical aspects of web development.
23 . Nofollow : some blogs were excluded from the Google index because they have activated the WordPress privacy mode. This simply means that all of the blog is set up with noindex and nofollow, which is equivalent to block it with robots.txt.Check your settings!
24 . Duplicate titles and descriptions : when your site uses the same title and description for each page, or a very similar one, you do not have to be surprised, if it does not appear in search results. It is not a penalty, it is only logical.
Neither a Penalty nor a Mistake
In some cases a loss of ranking or traffic volume has nothing to do with you or your site. Something could be changed and this created a penalization.
26 . Increased competitiveness : this common situation occurs when your competitors do a better SEO job and they will surpass you. A change in ranking from first to second position in Google could mean a loss of traffic of 60-80%.
27 . Modification of the algorithm : Google changes its algorithm continuously.The main changes are called “updates”, and sometimes involve dramatic distortions in the search results. The only thing you can do is figure out what is changed and why your site does not satisfy as before the new factors of positioning.
28 . Charts changed in the SERPs : Google frequently make changes in how the results are shown. In particular, you may note the results of Google Places, which occupy much of the space of the SERP. You could be in first position in the organic results, but unfortunately you appear just at the bottom of the results.
As you can see there are many reasons that may lead to a sudden collapse of visits from search engines.
What do you think? Have you experienced a drop or an increase of organic traffic, after the last Google Updates?