Why Do Websites Get Hit By Google?
The importance of search engine optimisation (SEO) in running a successful website is well known. However, the art of getting a site onto the first page of Google and to the promised land of the first ranking today is much different than it was a few years back.
Once upon a time, it was possible to publish articles filled with little more than keywords and spam links and reap the rewards in terms of a search ranking; since Google’s major Panda algorithm update of 2011 and Penguin update of 2012 though, SEO has changed dramatically.
SEO today is all about quality. Google is focussed on providing search users with a better experience – one that promotes good content and punishes anything that it deems to be poor. Of course, off the back of such drastic changes, even websites with a legitimate goal of creating quality content can be hit by Google and find themselves suffering from severe lack of traffic as a result.
So, why does Google hit websites? Well, the short answer to this is lack of quality and unethical practices, but there are lot of individual elements to this. In a post-Panda and Penguin world, the following SEO practices will see you become a victim of Google punishment:
- Thin Content – websites with little in the way of engrossing and informative content are not helpful to searchers and Google will see them as irrelevant.
- Spam links – unless your backlinks are earned through quality content or are from well-respected sites in your niche, you are treading a really fine line. Links from dangerous sites, paid text links, comment spam, and questionable guest posts will all be punished.
- Too many ads – if your website has a high-ratio of ads that affect the user-experience, Panda and Penguin will come down hard.
- Empty webpages – whether it’s due to on-going maintenance or internal search functionality, empty webpages run the risk of your site being hit by a Google penalty.
Recovering from a hit
If you notice an unexpected drop in traffic or rankings, there is a chance that your site may have been penalised by Google. If this is the case, Google may notify you through your Webmaster Tools account, or will simply hammer you with an algorithm hit (which is as harsh as any penalty).
Next, you should go to Google Analytics and see where your site is suffering. Check if your entire site is suffering, or just specific pages and look at whether all or just some keywords are being hit. It is also worth using a rank tracker tool to see exactly when rankings dropped, how far they have dropped, and for which keywords.
If Google has directly hit your site, then it most likely has something to do with a lack of quality and/or spam-laden practices. To correct this you will need to clean up your act and remove anything that could be deemed as low quality or unethical in favour first-class content and white-hat SEO. Google has its own Disavow Links tool to help get rid of bad links; however, the company recommend using it only after a significant effort has been made by you to remove links.
Submitting a reconsideration request
If you have been manually penalised by Google and have a message in Webmaster Tools confirming this, you will need to submit a reconsideration request to make your case that any issues have been corrected. It is important when doing this that you are honest, open, and polite with your reconsideration request. Google are a fair bunch and will most likely accept your request, but do not expect them to be quite so lenient if it happens again.
Being hit by Google can be extremely detrimental to your business, so remember, when it comes to SEO – keep it quality!