“Shit! Google penalised my website! F**k! What do I do know?” – This is an email I have woken up to this morning. Instantly I wanted to reply “Yah, it’s your fault and I know exactly why” but decided against it and instead have given the client a full explanation why that happen and why Google was probably right in doing so.
First of all…
What is a Google Penalty?
In the simplest possible terms, Google Penalty occurs when search algorithm finds something fishy, harmful, negligent or untoward within the content of your website, and decides to NOT feature your website anywhere on search engine results page (SERP). There’s not much point going all technical about the penalties at this stage, so I’m going to boil it down to this simple statement: Google crawl bots decided your website can be harmful one way or another and for that reason they decide to drop rankings as low as possible, so no-one can be harmed by your content. Sounds harsh, doesn’t it?
Duplicate Content – Untoward
Oh yes. The man had it and had it in buckets. After deciding he needs to cut his SEO budget, this particular client decided to do their SEO in-house. After all, how hard can it be, right? Yeah… Upon searching for “best SEO strategies” he decided to clone the subpages of his website and change the url link to make the results, as he described them, “relevant for local SEO”. Effectively, he ended up creating truckloads of duplicate content pages, which only differed with the location in within the url, e.g. example.com/services/my-services-wolverhampton, example.com/services/my-services-stourbridge, and location added in the copy of his website. Rest of it was completely the same. Google bots are the most advanced artificial intelligence in existence. They work out millions of combinations within nanoseconds. And trust me, they’ll get a wind of this kind of activity.
Google is all about relevance and value. They hate sloppy content marketing and, frankly, duplicate content is just replicating the same page over and over again. Ask yourself this: if you were Google, would you recommend your users to go on the website with crap content pasted all over?
How to fix it:
There’s a number of ways to deal with duplicate content. PLEASE NOTE: For the sake of this article I’ve omitted the instances when duplicate content may genuinely occur without your knowledge or due to an error, such as discrepancy between www. and non-www., or http vs. https – I’ll talk about it in future blogs.
One of the best and most effective ways to deal with duplicate content is to set up 301 redirect and to send traffic from the “duplicate” to the page with original content. The reason to do it? Google will understand that your original page and the duplicate pages are indeed the same entity and don’t compete one with another. Sounds easy enough to implement, so get on it now!
Plagiarism – fishy and untoward
*winces* Ouch! Yeah, it’s a big one. This particular client decided to take back control over his copy-writing as well. In his brilliance he decided that the best way to procure some fresh content is to simply go onto a website of his Australian counterpart and rip off their content. Yes. You have read that right. As Forrest Gump used to say: “stupid is as stupid does”. As Google indexed the pages and cross-referenced it with the content from other, better established website, it decided that the best course of action is to penalise my client’s site. And rightly so. As I said above, Google is above relevancy, but also good, original content.
How to fix it:
First of all try to work out where your content has been “borrowed” from. I’m not saying that you personally have taken someone else’s content and plonked it on your site, but perhaps you’ve used a copy-writer who hadn’t done a good job? For that use Copyscape, which is a free tool that will tell you whether your content has been used on other websites, or perhaps your website is using content from other sources. Then, the best way forward is to remove or rewrite offending content and re-index your site through Google Search Console.
Slow-loading Site & Website Downtime – Negligent:
Ok, this may not be entirely his fault. Oftentimes slow-loading sites will take a hit in SERPs due to bad code, too many redirects within the website or insufficient hosting. I had a client in the past who had decided to part ways with the company that maintained his WordPress site. As expected, this resulted in client installing all sorts of plugins that bloated his code and at one stage the site took 49.6s to load. 10 seconds short of full minute. Crazy or what?
As for the client I received an email from this morning: he’s got a huge problem with his hosting company. They are a well known brand but his needs for high quality hosting are not being met. His website is often down and it doesn’t take long for Google to get a wind of it.
How to Fix It:
Change hosting provider. It’s that simple! There’s lots of companies out there that will give you an incredible value and help your website soar. One of the companies we suggest and always happy to recommend is Affinity Hosting. Amazing value for money!
Another solution to consider – get your website onto a Content Delivery Network. CDN, in principle, is a collection of global servers that caches and delivers web content. In practical terms it means that content of your website accessed by a user in Seattle can be delivered to them using a server based as close to Seattle as possible to ensure the delivery time is as short as possible.
Spammy Content – Fishy:
Oooh! This is a big one! Often, something seemingly irrelevant as spammy comments on your website can give it a kick in the proverbial b****cks and throw your website into Google jail. You see, Google will not associate comments on your website with 3rd party. To Google it won’t matter who left these comments but whose website they were found on! Wild, isn’t it? Monitor all the comments posted on your blog. They can cost you your ranking.
Another thing – ads! Google don’t like adverts being displayed on your website. Especially if these are weird, 3rd party ads you might have on your website is you sign up for one of these funny partnership programmes where you get paid for ads to be displayed on your site. Google is not a fan because potentially harmful content may come through these ads, ergo, your website.
How to Fix It:
Due diligence and vigilance. You can prevent these issues by keeping an eye on any 3rd party content that enters your website. It’s that simple. Prevention is better than cure – all you have to do is to make sure you vet all the comments and they don’t automatically appear on your website. Check your site for new comments once a day. Approve legitimate comments and bin the rest.
As for monetising your website by selling advertising space – do it! Just make sure you know where these ads come from. Use highly recommended partners, such as Google, and you’re off to a good start.
Be smart but try to be not too clever with your optimisation strategies, because whatever you do, Google algorithm will be a lot more “cleverer” than you. Trust me. Keep an eye on your Google Search Console because Google don’t want your ranking hurt. They will actually notify you when something goes wrong.