How to Avoid a Google Penalty

April 7, 2020 |
By Sotiris Sotiriadis

There’s no worse feeling in the world of search engine optimization than getting shuffled into the back of the “Google sandbox”.

Because search engine rankings are maybe the most highly competitive thing on the internet today – with literally millions of sites all fighting over the top spot – it takes a lot of work, a lot of time, a lot of energy and a lot of resources to create consistent success.

For that to all fall apart because you’ve been hit with a Google penalty is bone crushing.

Worse still, every now and again Google makes adjustments to their search engine algorithm that determines rankings without any warning whatsoever. And all of a sudden things that were perfectly acceptable before are now absolutely forbidden – and your site is shuffled to the back of the sandbox anyway.

Thankfully though, as long as you follow a couple of best practices recommended by top-tier SEO experts you won’t have anything to worry about.

With the help of the inside information we highlight below you’ll know exactly how to avoid a Google penalty from here on out, basically future-proofing your site and protecting your rankings moving forward.

Shall we get started?

Two Kinds of Google Penalties to Know About

Really quick, there are two specific types of Google penalties you want to know how to avoid.

Manual penalties happen when someone at Google specifically takes a hard look at your site and your SEO efforts and determines that you’ve done something that violated their terms and agreement requirements. Penalties like this will almost always be accompanied by a Google Webmaster Tools notification directly from Google about the penalty itself.

Algorithmic penalties, on the other hand, are 100% automatic and these automated penalties arise as a result of the super-secret Google search engine algorithm.

No one outside of Google really knows what goes into this algorithm to determine how your site ranks versus all others for specific keywords (outside of informed guesswork) – but if your site runs afoul of these algorithms you’re going to get pushed to the back of the line. That much is certain.

Those are the kinds of penalties we are talking about in this guide.

Now let us dig into the meat of how to avoid a Google penalty from occurring in the first place.

Following the Rules

Google won’t share information about their search engine algorithm for fear that people will try and manipulate the system, but they are pretty upfront and explicit in the guidelines that they want you to follow when it comes to ranking highly with them.

You can find the Webmaster Guidelines from Google with a quick search. These are the general rules you’ll want to follow when undertaking a search engine optimization campaign. Follow them to the letter and the odds are pretty good that your site’s rank will increase pretty quickly.

Bend or break these rules and you might find the Google algorithm less than understanding.

Audit Your Content Regularly

In the Wild West days of search engine optimization you used to be able to stuff keywords into your content pretty much anywhere and everywhere you wanted to – even if it didn’t make sense when human beings read it – and still rank highly on Google.

Today, however, that kind of keyword stuffing is going to absolutely devastate your rankings faster than you ever would have thought possible.

Google has dramatically overhauled their algorithm to look for keywords, but also to look at other components of your site and its content, to determine whether or not it is relevant for a specific search.

Try outdated forms of search engine optimization like keyword stuffing and you’ll have an almost impossible time ranking well.

Clean Up Your Links

Aside from keyword stuffing, another old tactic that used to work really well to get a site rank highly was to generate as many back links as humanly possible to your site onto site pages – regardless of whether or not those links were relevant, organic, or informative in any way whatsoever.

Today, though, Google maintains a “link profile” for every single site that it indexes on its search engine.

The algorithm then runs through all of the links that are pointing to your site (as well as the links that are pointing outwards), looks at the anchor text used to direct those links, and then determines just how trustworthy, reputable, and how authoritative your content really is.

If you still have a lot of links generated by automated tools, spam robots, link wheels, and other similar gray & black hat SEO approaches now is the time to clean them up and scrub them completely.

Few things crater a site’s ranking the way that the cluttered and confusing link profile at Google will.

Stay Up to Date on Google Algorithm Changes

The last big piece of the puzzle we want to highlight here, in figuring out how to avoid a Google penalty, is staying up-to-date on the major changes Google has made to their search engine algorithm.

The last two major shakeups to the algorithm were given codenames – Penguin and Panda – and they changed the way that Google rankings worked almost entirely. Most changes to the algorithm are a lot smaller and subtle, but they happen with an almost breakneck frequency.

You need to make sure that you are keeping on top of these changes if you’re going to change and adapt your search engine optimization efforts to protect your site from Google penalties.