Do you see a decline in traffic lately? Or a significant change in page views, CTRs, or more over the metrics board.
There is a chance your website is a casualty of a Google penalty. It may have been affected by a Google algorithm update, a manual penalty, or an algorithmic penalty. This isn’t to say it’s the end of the world.
You can reclaim your traffic and revenue. All you need to do is determine which type of penalty it has received and devise a sound recovery strategy.
But, before getting into that quotient, let’s look at how the Google algorithm works and how to protect your website from being penalized by new Google algorithm upgrades.
Google Algorithm Overview
Consider the last time you used Google to look for something like “top places to visit in Miami” or “pastry shops in Manhattan,” the search engine provided you with millions of results in seconds.
Have you ever wondered how it manages to display the relevant result in a particular order every time?
Google uses a powerful robust algorithm to retrieve data from its search indexes in order to answer a search query as quickly and as effectively as possible. These complex sets of algorithms are referred to as Google algorithms.
These algorithms are updated frequently. They make adjustments to Google’s SERPs to ensure improved quality, applicability, and overall user experience, which we call a Google Algorithm update.
Google’s algorithms were only updated a few times in its early years. Now Google makes many updates every year.
Google imposes two sorts of penalties as a result of these algorithm updates.
- Manual penalties
- Algorithmic update/ Google core update / real time update
A manual penalty is issued when the Google team concludes that the site is not developed according to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. As a result, it affects the website’s search rankings, traffic & overall website visibility.
These Webmaster Guidelines are the standards that marketers must follow for their websites to appear in Google’s search results. If you don’t follow Google webmaster guidelines, you risk incurring a manual penalty.
You can check out the Google Webmaster Guidelines here
Violations of Google policies can also result in a manual penalty, although the consequences are unpredictable.
Few Major Updates from Google
Panda is a Google algorithmic update that was initially introduced in 2011. It penalizes the website for having low-quality or plagiarized content. These penalties can have an impact on your entire site or just a few pages, as well as your SERP ranks and search traffic.
Look for plagiarized content to see whether your site has been affected by Panda.
This penalty might now be triggered by having spammy backlinks that do not belong to any genuine source. Penguin can affect the entire site or a group of pages judged to be in breach of Google’s quality rules.
How to Recover from a Manual Penalty?
Google does not impose a manual penalty until the site has been manually inspected. Google’s professional team checks websites for compliance with its Webmaster Guidelines and flags them as potentially non-compliant. A manual penalty may be imposed if the team judges that a flagged website breaches Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
A penalty can be recovered by fixing whatever triggered it.
As the name suggests, manual penalties are applied manually and reported through Google Search Console.
By looking at the notification in your Search Console account, you can figure out what caused a manual penalty. It could be any of the following reasons –
- Deceitful structured data/ Incorrect structured data
- Unnatural backlinks/Bad backlinks
- Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) mismatch
- Spammy or free web hosting service
- Hacked website
- Thin content
- Cloaked web pages / Masked web pages
- Improper Keyword stuffing
- Hidden text
- Stealthy redirects
- User-generated spam
For instance, if the notification in the Google console states that your website has been punished for artificial backlinks, a site owner can correct it by deleting/disavowing your site’s low-quality backlinks. Or, if the reason is malware, you can remove it to fix the penalty.
After fixing whatever caused the manual penalty, you can inform Google to reevaluate your website and approve it. Also submit reconsideration requests to Google with the form.
Algorithmic Penalties are like the proverbial assassin; Google will launch an update, won’t investigate your website, or warn you. Instead, it’ll directly stab your website with a penalty, leaving you to wonder what caused it.
By definition, an algorithmic penalty is an automated action imposed by Google’s algorithm update on a website to lower its search rankings and traffic. However, this penalty is not applied after a manual website audit by the Google team, so you have to overhaul your website and determine what violates Google’s guidelines and has resulted in the penalty.
With this update, your site will get positive movement, or you might see a decline in traffic & ranking. It is vice versa and solely depends on marketing tactics.
How to Recover Algorithmic Penalties?
This is one of the first thoughts that crosses every webmaster’s mind when an algorithmic upgrade hits his website.
As Google does not send out alerts concerning algorithmic penalties, recovering from them might be difficult.
The first thing you could do is go through each guideline and match your website with it.
- You took part in link exchange programs with other bloggers or website owners.
- Your website has low-quality or plagiarized content.
- You have inadvertently broken any Google webmaster quality criteria.
If you locate the problem, rectify it, and it will be updated in the Google Search Console immediately. If not, try some basic strategies to remove an algorithmic penalty from your website.
- Better site structure & user experience
- Checking the content and creating new if needed
- Better site speed
- Create linkable assets
Ideally, you need to wait for the next core update once you rectify the issue. Also, Google is running the update in real-time, so you might see your site back in the search results.
Google Real-Time Core Update – Part of Algorithmic Updates
Google usually announces updates a few days ahead of time or on the day of the event, though some upgrades may take several days to reach users.
The last Google update rolled out during the biggest shopping festival of the year.
How to Find Major Root Causes with the Real-time Google Updates?
There are a few significant patterns that can assist you in identifying the underlying reason for a penalty so that you can begin delving into it.
1) Traffic & Ranking
Your organic traffic has been gradually increasing over the past few months, but now your site’s performance indicators have plummeted. It’s a more powerful signal for you. To be sure, start researching it and collecting more data points.
The second step is to look at the website’s ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs). If the ranking fluctuated significantly, then the update mostly affected your website. Perhaps the number of searches for your major keyword has decreased.
2) External Links
Most penalties are caused by backlinks (also known as inbound links).
Google’s eye quickly picks up Low-quality external links. For example, if you have 1000 backlinks in your link profile and 500 of them are from low-quality domains, this is a severe issue. With the Google adjustments, this may impact your website’s visibility.
Some low-quality links websites should avoid using are – global website and advertising links, links from websites that Google has penalized, websites with plagiarism, websites irrelevant to your industry, websites with hidden links, links from the directory, and social bookmarking sites, and more.
Audit your link profile and register a disavow using Google’s disavow tool if you fear a penalty related to external links. This enables Google bots to request that crawlers exclude certain bad links from websites.
3) Pages & Overall Site
Examine your website’s category or product pages. There’s a chance that the update affected a single page, which is known as a partial penalty. You must examine specified pages and take measurements of the data points.
Your entire site may have been affected, so look at data points like overall traffic, indexing, and so on.
Even after finding the problematic areas that resulted in a penalty, the recommendation here would be to conduct a full SEO audit to resolve the ills of the website and avoid the next update.
There are four main areas where you should take a look:
When Google releases new updates, its crawlers hover through entire websites and, if it finds any violations, it imposes a penalty based on the flaws discovered while ignoring a few on purpose. You don’t want them to be a source of worry for you.
- Examine all aspects, including hosting, indexing, and loading speed. Improve the speed with which your website loads. If it’s more than 3 seconds, try to keep it that way.
- Examine the server response time and, if necessary, improve it.
- Image Size Optimization and Reduction Without Affecting Overall Look
- Reduce the Render-
- Keep the number of resources and HTTP requests to a minimum.
- Create a Cache Policy for Your Browser
- Eliminate excessive redirect loops.
- Don’t overburden your website with content.
Backlinks can always be an issue. Diagnose your link profile to identify spammy links. You can always work on attracting the links rather than building the links. Earning links can be a great way to build a quality link profile.
The section of your website where your audience interacts is called content. Make sure duplicate content, meta descriptions, and meta titles aren’t causing problems for Google.
Examine and evaluate the content you’ve published on the website. You may always compare it to what your competitors have on their websites. And check for:
- Is there anything you think you could improve on?
- Does your website have everything that is popularly searched?
How to Secure Your Site from Future Updates?
When Google’s algorithm is constantly evolving, it’s difficult to keep up with all of the nitty-gritty details of the website. However, there are a few things to keep in mind and double-check on your website to ensure its hygiene and safety.
Quality Rater Guidelines
By delivering updates to improve search results, Google ensures that consumers have the best possible experience. Google hires a large number of third-party Search Quality Raters from all around the world to rate websites and determine whether they are good or bad in a variety of areas. This assists Google in determining which modifications improve the usability of Search.
Raters follow guidelines in order to rate a website. Raters are also important in categorizing data in order to improve our systems. Rater responses are used to evaluate modifications, but they have no bearing on how our search results are sorted.
Compile your website according to the quality rater’s guidelines, and make sure that it appears in search results as one of the most reliable sources.
E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness)
EAT is a crucial part of Google Search Quality Rating Guidelines. The letters E-A-T stand for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness, which outlines the criteria that are required to create a high-quality website that ranks well in SERPs.
The power and sources available to Google search engines enable it to decide whether a website is respectable, trustworthy, and authentic.
As a result, optimizing a website in accordance with E-A-T can assist you in climbing the SERPs and increasing organic traffic.
Let’s go over the definitions of knowledge, authority, and trustworthiness in more detail.
Expertise determines if the content writer is proficient and knowledgeable in the topic about which he or she writes, as well as their credibility.
Authoritativeness is a crucial component in demonstrating that your website is an expert in your field. Backlinks from relevant, authoritative sites might help establish your site’s authority. As search engines begin to recognize your site as recommended and trustworthy, your authority grows.
The term “trustworthiness” refers to how much a user may trust your website. This can be illustrated by using a secure domain that secures users’ personal information while remaining loyal to their statements. Positive client testimonials can also contribute to a website’s reputation. Conversely, a few bad reviews can make your site appear low-quality in the SERPs, lowering your ranking.
Why EAT is Important?
When conducting internet searches, we occasionally come across certain sketchy websites that waste our time by providing unrelated stuff. This is what Google is seeking to prevent users from discovering. The user experience is negatively impacted when such unreliable websites rank at the top of SERPs. Google takes a website’s E-A-T into account to protect users from having a bad experience and only provide them with high-quality content that fits their demands.
In a nutshell, Google algorithm updates are means to provide a better search experience for their end-users. These updates filter the sites which do not abide by the Google guidelines. We suggest looking around the Google core policy, quality rater guidelines, and aligning your SEO strategy so you will get positive results even in the real-time updates.