Avoiding a Google Penalty

ByDr.-Ing. Erik Neitzel
Avoiding a Google Penalty

In order to improve the Google rankings of your website, you should consider a few points that can help your website to be viewed by Google as thematically relevant and valuable for the user.

But conversely, there are also some points that you should absolutely avoid in order not to be viewed by Google as “black hat SEO” – as someone who “over-optimizes” their site and wants to provoke placement improvements with illegitimate methods.

Hard no-go’s that you should definitely avoid

Google now recognizes forcibly optimized websites very well. Below are some points that should definitely be omitted for a legitimate SEO optimization:

  • Internal link spamming (especially in the sidebar)
  • External link spamming (especially in subpages on domains that are isolated from the rest of the page)
  • External links via money keywords
  • External links via servers with the same IP address (even if they are operated by other people or organizations)
  • Keyword stuffing (exaggerated inclusion of the desired keywords in an article)
  • Misleading keywords (content misleading search terms that have nothing to do with the actual content of the page)
  • Hidden texts (white text on a white background or text outside the visible area of ​​the user, etc.)
  • Pure spam (texts without any meaning or use)
  • All technical redirects that lead the user to a page that he does not expect (e.g. hidden JavaScript redirects, etc.)
  • Take note of the aforementioned points not only on the domain you are interested in, but on all domains that have your imprint.

There are also cases that you may have seen so often on your own website that they do not appear reprehensible to you, but which are still very critical for Google, for example:

  1. Remove your own links to objectionable content (cannabis online exchanges, etc.)
  2. Also check 301’s, not just links, because ultimately it is only a link for the user
  3. Cloaking to secure the affiliate ID is ok, but watch out for SSL-encrypted forwarding targets
  4. Remove pirated content from guest authors (ideally check before posting the article online)
  5. Delete articles that fall under sensitive content categories (such as health tips) if you are not an authority in the field
  6. Revise categories that are inappropriate in terms of content and do not help the user (this also ensures that the link juice is distributed sensibly)
  7. Remove superfluous category links on each article

Of course, there are other points that can bring you closer to the risk of punishment. We would therefore recommend that you do not simply work through these points or see them too rigidly, but simply ask yourself honestly:

“Am I being completely honest and adding value for my visitors, or am I trying to cheat in some way?”

If you can honestly answer the first part of this question with “Yes” and the second part honestly with “No”, you have nothing to fear. In all other cases you know what to do: Correct your page and undo any illegitimate steps you may have taken.

After a few months you can expect your website to pick up speed again. But there are two different cases of penalty that we have yet to talk about.

Fixed everything, now what? Algorithmic penalties vs. manual actions

In order to clarify the question of whether and when you will be released from a penalty, it is important to distinguish between two types of penalty:

  1. Algorithmic penalties
  2. Manual action

In the event of an algorithmic penalty, only Google’s algorithms ensure that your page is penalized and removed from Google results for certain keywords. These algorithms are constantly being developed. So if you have corrected all potentially illegitimate points on your site and you comply with the guidelines with your domain again, your penalty will be automatically corrected as it originally took effect. This can of course take a moment, and even afterwards your website will have to recover for many months and “clean up” the field.

In the case of a manual measure, your website was not penalized by the algorithm, but by the Google Search Quality Team – be it through the notification of one or more visitors, or through anomalies that the team itself brought to your site (for example in the case of using a trademark that doesn’t belong to you).

In this case you will receive a message in the “Manual measures” tab in the “Improvements” tab in Google Webmaster Tools. You then not only have to correct your website, but also submit a review request via the Google Webmaster Tools. This request must explain what has changed on your site and why you think it is in line with the guidelines again.

When are penalties lifted?

The following video can help you understand when and how Google penalties are lifted.

The small penalty conclusion

To avoid penalties from Google, be honest with yourself and your visitors and follow a very simple guideline: never cheat. If you have, intentionally or unintentionally, taken steps that Google does not consider fair, you must clarify whether you have received a message in the Webmaster Tools under “Manual measures”. If so, read through the relevant message, correct your page and request a new review.

If your rankings have plummeted without you having received any manual action: go through the list above and consider what you could have done with it. Then correct your website and just be patient. Further ranking checks will help you to see whether your rankings are slowly increasing again.

Dr.-Ing. Erik Neitzel