The search engines are very strict about the websites they show in their SERP’s and if you use black hat techniques your website could be penalised- here’s how to find out if your website has been penalised!
If your website has seen a recent drop in traffic or a drop in rankings it could have been penalised by Google, most website owners don’t realise they are doing something wrong until they have been penalised. As an ethical Manchester SEO company we are very careful to ensure your website does not get penalised, but sometimes sites have penalties or are blacklisted when we start working on them.
How to check if your website has been penalised
Has your traffic dropped? This may not always be a penalty but a trend, however a big drop in search engine traffic compared to refering sites or direct is a good indication that yoiur site is not doing as well in the Search Engines.
Is Google indexing your site? You can do what is called a site:command, this is where you type [site:yourdomain.co.uk] into the Google search bar, if your domain doesn’t come up you have been de indexed, if pages in your site does come up, compare these to the number of URLs in your sitemap.
Is Google webmaster tools reporting any problems? Webmasters should always install Google webmaster tools as they can be used to check crawl errors, 404 pages, submit your sitemaps etc, if Google webmaster tools is reporting problems these could have been the cause for your drop / penalisation.
Your site doesn’t show up for the domain name? If you google the domain name and your site isn’t high in the SERP’s then it has almost definately been penalised – although if it is a brand new website is may not have been found yet.
Is your website blacklisted? You can check if Google has blacklisted your website by typing http://www.google.com/safebrowsing/diagnostic?site=mydomain.co.uk, you should do this check if you are considering buying a website from someone as if google thinks the domain is not safe it will not come up for safe search results (the normal results)
Has your PR changed in the Google toolbar? As a website owner you should monitor your Page Rank if the Google toolbar has changed significantly (or is completely grey after having a PR) your site may have been penalised. Some sites get stripped of their PR if Google thinks that you have been buying or selling links. Sometimes a PR can go down and this is more to do with Google changing the boundaries than a penalty.
Has your website been spammed? You should check your website for any additional links that shouldn’t be there, try looking at the source code for links to bad sites.
Have your other sites been penalised? Sometimes Google will devalue domain owner so if all your sites are connected through WHOIS they may have all been penalised – this is very rare and you will have done something really bad to incur such a penalty.
Does you website have duplicate content on it? If your website is not seen to be unique it will be penalised, perhaps you copied someone elses site or use the same content on a number of websites? It may be that your website has been scraped and Google is prefering the scraper site. To test this copy a paragraph of content from your website and put it into the Google search bar. If Google see’s your website as being unique your site should be at number 1 for this paragraph. You can aslo check if a duplicate content penalty has been added to your website by adding &filter=0 to the search URL – or clicking on the “show omitted results” link.
Google will penalise you if…
Keyword Stuffing – this is repeating the words you want to rank for all over your website pages, this does not make good reading for users and will trigger alarm bels with Google bots.
Cloaking – cloaking is a process of hiding content on a website from users but visible to Google bots and search engine robots, this is manipulating the search engines and is a big no no!
Links in bad neighbourhoods Links from websites that ae on bad neighbourhoods can cause your site to be penalised, sometimes websites that share the same IP address as bad websites can be damaged by the association you link to a website that is in a ‘bad neighborhood’ you could incur a penalty.
You get lots of links in a short space of time Google places rust on people linking to your website, these links act as votes or recommendations from your website. most websites will aquire links natuarally, especially if they have good content, but if a site gains a lot of links in a short space of time Google will assume you are buying these links. If the links are coming from spammy websites, or porn or adult websites Google may think they are being purchased.
Duplicate content Many people disagree that duplicate content will cause you to be penalised but from my experience duplicate content will certainly prevent you from being indexed. Google and the search engines have a reputation to show good quality uniqe sites in their SERP’s so if your site isn’t unique they won’t put in those copied pages. I have seen this over my years in the industry, and even tweaking your content to be unique will increase your chances of ranking substantially.
Unique Title Tags and META’s This is another area that people disagree on, but I have seen that by having unique and relevatn title tags and META desciptions your website will do much better. And if all of your META descriptions are the same Google will just see them as being duplicate and not bother to index the pages. This can be a huge amount of work but worth it in the end.
If your website has been penalised, it can be an annoying time but you can apply to be reincluded to Google. If your business relies on search engine traffic you should be very careful to make sure your site does not get penalised as it can take months to be reincluded.