A Google penalty can spell the end for a business which relies on the internet for customers. Since early 2011 Panda and Penguin have compelled internet marketers to change their black hat ways and follow tactics which abide by search engine guidelines. When business owners approach me for advice after they’ve noticed a dramatic drop in traffic, the first question I ask is whether or not they’ve received a manual penalty from Google. Most will reply ‘yes’ but when I log into their Webmaster Tools account I see no such penalty. Many are unsure as to the difference between a manual and algorithmic penalty. If you are in this group, please read on…
If Your Traffic Drops Dramatically, Check Webmaster Tools
If you have received an unnatural links warning in your Webmaster Tools account then your site is under a manual penalty. This will explain loss of rank and traffic.
If you receive one of these you have to act. A detailed description of the process involved to remove a manual penalty is outside the scope of this blog post. However, the steps can be summarised as follows:
- Analyse all links pointing to your site using Webmaster Tools and other SEO tools.
- Determine which links are having an adverse effect on your search visibility and contact the site owners to get these links removed.
- Get Google to disavow any bad links you can’t get removed using the disavow tool.
- Send a reconsideration request to Google.
The main point to remember when creating a case for reconsideration with Google is that you have to be able to prove to them that you have done your utmost to remove any bad links.
My Traffic Is Down, I Don’t Rank Anymore, But I Haven’t Received A Warning
Your site may be subject to an algorithmic penalty. Strictly speaking, penalty is the wrong word. In reality what has happened is that Google has changed its ranking algorithm and as a consequence, the links you have pointing to your website no longer pass any value. This means you lose rank and your traffic plummets.
Obviously there could be other issues which have caused the loss of traffic to your website, such as infrastructural problems. However, a quick look at your analytics can confirm whether or not your problems are down to the change in algorithm. If your traffic drop corresponds roughly to the dates of these recent major Google updates, then you can be reasonably sure you have an algorithmic penalty:
- Feb 2011 – Panda
- April 2012 – Penguin
- May 2013 – Penguin 2.0