Regardless of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) being the secret sauce of your marketing strategy’s success, it can still end up making your site penalized by Google. SEO is tricky. You invest in it for 3 months straight, and boom! Your website is penalized due to an algorithm change or manual action by Google. A site that has been a victim of a Google penalty usually experiences a drop in traffic or fall in the SERP ranking. A drop in search engine ranking can result in lost customers and sales; therefore, your priority must be fixing these penalties.
Your website being penalized by Google can be a frustrating experience. But luckily, appealing and rectifying these penalties is possible. All you have to do is understand what caused it and fix the problem.
What is a Google penalty?
A Google penalty is a form of punishment that Google delivers to websites that do not follow their webmaster guidelines. Penalties can be delivered automatically by Google’s algorithms or manually by any of Google’s human auditors. Some penalties occur due to a change in Google’s algorithm updates, such as in the case of Panda and Penguin updates.
Just like the referee gives you a red card in soccer whenever you do something wrong and ask you to sit out the rest of the game, the same is with Google. But luckily, there is a way back in!
In this blog, we will discuss a list of Google penalties and how to fix them.
List of Google penalties and their fix
1. Cloaking and/or Sneaky redirects
Cloaking is the malpractice of giving search engines the impression that a website carries content that is different from what users actually see. Visitors might see a user-friendly, visually appealing website. But in reality, there would probably be little text and plenty of graphics or multimedia elements.
Then there are sneaky redirects that send users to a different page than what is shown to Google. In the search results, you found a link to the relevant information you’ve been looking for; however, as soon as you land on the page, the content you see is totally different from what you interpreted from the search result link.
Both practices violate Google’s webmaster guidelines and cause your site to get penalized.
- Go to Google Search Console > Crawl > Fetch as Google, followed by fetching pages from affected portions of your website.
- Compare the content on your site with the content fetched by Google.
- Resolve the variations between the two, so they look the same.
- Check and remove redirects that send users to an unexpected destination, conditionally redirect, and look sneaky.
- Once you fix these issues, submit a reconsideration request.
2. Clocked images
As previously mentioned, cloaking is a process of showing different content to users than what is actually shown to Google. In terms of images, some sites give Google the impression that they contain quality pictures when in reality, they are serving images that:
- Are obscured by another image.
- Are different from the image served.
- Redirect users away from the image.
- To fix this issue, show the same image to Google as shown to the users of your site.
- Submit a reconsideration request.
3. AMP content mismatch
This issue occurs when the AMP content differs from the canonical version of the page. Both versions must be essentially the same. It’s important to understand that the text on both versions shouldn’t be identical, but topically they need to match. Anything that the user can acquire on the AMP page should also be available on the canonical page and vice versa. Any AMP pages affected by a manual action will drop out of Google Search, and the canonical version will be shown in its place.
- Check and ensure the AMP page is associated with the correct canonical page.
- Check if the content on both versions is the same. Make edits as required.
- Use the URL inspection tool to confirm that Google’s view of the page is the same as the user’s view.
- Once you get your AMP and canonical pages in sync, navigate to Google Search console > Security & manual actions > manual actions and request a review.
- Keep an eye on your search console account. That’s where Google will confirm that a site review has occurred.
- Assuming your site no longer violates guidelines, the manual action will be revoked.
4. Hidden text and or/ keyword stuffing
Earlier keywords were given utmost importance by Google. Websites with relevant keywords in their content ranked on the first page of the search engine. However, some people tried to trick Google by excessively stuffing their websites with keywords, due to which sites with irrelevant content started ranking in the top position. Google soon found this and updated its algorithm, where only good quality content with relevant keywords ranked on the search engine. Sites with too much keyword stuffing ended up being penalized.
- Navigate to Google search console > Crawl > fetch as Google, followed by fetching pages from the affected portions of your website.
- Identify the text that is the same or similar in color to the webpage’s body.
- Use CSS styling or positioning to look for hidden text.
- Remove or re-write any hidden text so that it’s obvious to the users.
- Edit or remove any paragraphs of repeated words without context.
- Fix <title> tags and alt text containing strings of repeated words.
- Remove other instances of keyword stuffing, if any.
- Once you fix the issue, submit a reconsideration request.
Your website being penalized by Google can be a big setback for your business, especially for companies that rely on web traffic for revenue. But luckily, there are ways through which you can know how, when, and why your site is being penalized and take necessary steps to fix the issue. But remember that there are many ways to improve Google’s ranking without being penalized. Ensure to adhere to Google’s best practices at all times to minimize penalty issues.