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What Is A Google Penalty, And How Can Your Business Recover from One?

OK, honesty counts. And here’s the question: ever click “I Agree” to one of those terms of service agreements on the Internet?

You did, right?  Don’t worry, you’re not the only one.  More than 90% of people agree to avoid reading some massive legal document which, even if they took the time to read it, they probably wouldn’t understand.

 

1. THE NAME DROP EXPERIMENT

 

The thing is, those terms of service could really come back to bite you.  That’s what researchers at the York University in Toronto found out when they created a bogus company called “Name Drop” to see how many consumers would agree to its terms of service without reading them.

How did they know how many people actually slogged through their mind numbing legalise to get access? Easy. One of the terms of service included turning over your first-born child. Another was that all your personal information would be sent directly to the National Security Agency (NSA). More than 98% of people agreed to those terms.

2. WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW CAN HURT YOU

 

It’s understandable that you and people like you don’t take the time to plow through that gibberish — after all, you’ve got a life.  And it’s likely that agreeing to things you didn’t read about the companies you do business with never did any real harm.  It’s just a fact of life. But the same isn’t true about your business.

And here’s the thing: the percentage of people who don’t read terms of service agreements is about the same as the percentage of businesses that don’t have a clue what Google is doing to their search engine rankings. But that doesn’t stop Google from making changes to algorithms they use to assign rankings or hitting businesses with penalties when they violate the search engine’s “terms of service.”

3. WHAT IS A GOOGLE PENALTY?

 

The rules about best practice SEO strategy are about as much fun as a root canal. But not knowing that your website has just been penalised by Google can drag down your search ranking and bring your website traffic to a crashing halt.  So, it’s in your interest (and that of your business) to know what Google penalties are, whether you’re the recipient of one, and what you can do to fix the problem.

That said, here’s what Big Commerce has to say about Google penalties (and how they’re different from Google algorithm changes):

“If your website traffic suddenly drops and you see a corresponding decline in rankings, there is a good possibility that you are on the receiving end of a Google penalty. Google reported in 2014 that over 400,000 manual actions are taken against websites every month by their web spam team… and that’s really only a fraction of the total number. Many other websites are penalised when Google rolls out new algorithmic updates to Penguin or Panda.”

4. IGNORANCE OF THE LAW IS NO EXCUSE

 

The factors Google uses to decide which websites get smacked with a penalty are complicated and replete with insider SEO jargon. But not knowing the rules of engagement won’t spare your business from a penalty.

Among the factors that could trigger a penalty include things like:

  • Cloaking. This is when your website shows different web pages to Google than you show to site visitors.
  • Hacking.  More than 30,000 U.S. websites get hacked by cyber criminals every day. If Google does a manual review of your site and finds it’s been hacked, it drops a notification (“this site has been hacked”) into your search results.
  • Keyword stuffing. Trying to get higher rankings, some site developers drop pivotal keywords into content way too much. That’s bad for user experience and readability. Think of clumsy content like “Our personal injury attorneys will help you in the event of a personal injury and fight hard for your rights if personal injury occurs”. It can also lead to a Google penalty.
  • Anemic content. This is content that fails to provide any real value to consumers, things like blog posts that are more salesy than informative.  Remember that consumers on average read about 5 pieces of content before they’re willing to talk sales.  You need to make sure that content is focused on customer needs, not how great your products or services are.  Content that’s replete with sales pitches is anemic, and Google doesn’t like it (neither do prospective customers).

5. SO, WHAT’S THE FIX?

 

Here’s the good news:  Google penalties aren’t irrevocable. Your business can recover from them and fully restore its search engine rankings through what’s called a “Google Penalty Recovery”. Like most aspects of SEO, that process can be both confusing and complicated. Fortunately, there are experienced marketing agencies who can give you the guidance and advice you need.

To learn more about the ways our strategic growth consulting, branding and marketing services can help you achieve your top marketing objectives and take your business to the next level, contact us today.

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