Website Penalty? Steps to Diagnose and Fix a Google Penalty
One of the most devastating things that can happen to a small business – especially a business that generates leads and business through the internet – is a Google penalty.
A Google Penalty is often difficult to diagnose and fix, especially if you have recently made multiple changes prior to the suspected website penalty, such as a complete redesign or if you are not completely aware of what your SEO company is doing. I’ll provide you with some practical advice on how to diagnose and fix a Google Penalty.
What Was Done Before Your Website Rankings Dropped?
I suggest you apply the scientific method of eliminating variables here as well as ask yourself some honest questions. Let’s presume your website previously ranked well in Google for select keyword searches, and now it doesn’t – ask yourself this:
- Did your website really deserve to rank for those terms?
- Have you, your web design firm or your SEO firm recently made changes to your website?
- Where does your website rank for a Google search of mywebsite.com? How about site:mywebsite.com?
- What do you see in your Google Webmaster Tools account?
- Has your organic search traffic dropped on all search engines or just Google?
- Do you buy or sell links (or both)?
- Do you run an affiliate program?
Review and understand exactly what has been done to your website prior to the suspected Google penalty.
Google Penalty or Search Engine Algorithm Change?
Sometimes your website may lose it’s rankings because of an algorithm change. OK – sometimes Google makes a change to it’s algorithm and that can impact your website, the rules do change and that’s a good reason to diversify your small business’ marketing exposure, as well as hiring an SEO firm that stays on top of this activity. Sometimes this happens for other reasons, for example new websites that rely on rankings because of keywords in the url.
In my experience, sudden dramatic drops in small business website rankings are not algorithm changes, but it’s possible.
Fixing a Google Penalty
Here are some of the things I recommend you consider to diagnose and fix a Google penalty:
- Check your website for Malware and Viruses (every directory, every file, every line of code – start with .htaccess and your web logs.
- Look at your links – use Xenu or a similar product, a bad link profile can crush a website.
- On page content – could you be keyword spamming? Using excessive anchor text? Loading your footer with keywords and links?
- Consider a reconsideration request with Google as a last resort.
Resources for Fixing a Google Penalty
Having seen this with several clients, I understand the frustration and real revenue consequences that come from a penalized website. I recommend the follow websites as resources as well as for more tips on diagnosing and fixing a Google penalty:
- A great flowchart and article on diagnosing a Google penalty by Rand Fishkin at seomoz.org
- Ann Smarty’s post on How to Diagnose the Reason of Google Penalty
- Andy Beard’s article on his experience submitting a Google Reconsideration Request
- Please review the Google Webmaster Guidelines
- Marketing Practicality – my firm, that specializes in small and mid-sized business SEO. We understand the seriousness, urgency, responsiveness needed to restore your website rankings.
If you suspect you have experienced a website penalty, I recommend you either plan on spending a lot of time analyzing exactly what changes potentially triggered the change or hire a professional, qualified SEO company. In order to properly diagnose and fix a Google penalty it is critical to understand what caused it. More important is fixing the penalty, and restoring your business’ website traffic.