Let’s cut to the chase. If you’re reliant on your website to run your business and make you money, and that site is penalised by Google, your rankings will plummit and you will lose traffic overnight. No traffic = no money.
That’s why it’s crucial to understand what a penalty is, how to identify it, and how to get rid.
We’ve created a series of videos covering this very topic, giving you a full round-up of what a penalty looks like, why you might be at risk, and the complex process we use to get rid of one.
Martin Woods, Head of Technical and Insight at WMG is going to kick us off with an Introduction to Google Penalties.
In case you can’t watch the video, you can read the transcript and take a look at our whiteboard here…
Hi, my name’s Martin Woods. I’m the Head of Technical and Insight at WMG, and today I’d like to talk to you about Google penalties. Yeah, Google penalties, on everyone’s lips at the moment and has been for the past couple of years.
In order to really understand Google penalties, probably the most important thing is to understand why Google are going down the route of giving out penalties. The main reason is they want to provide better search results for their users and provide a better user experience. Part of that means providing a fair marketplace to get better results onto the organic section, which then enhance the user journey of people using their search platform.
So why now?
Why now? That’s a really good point. Until recently, Google has known about link spam, but it’s not been in the position where it can tackle it effectively. This could be down to technological reasons, crawl capacity, number crunching, time. Basically, now they can, and in the last couple of years, they’ve really been going after people that have been abusing their search results.
So, Google penalties. Often referred to on the internet, “Google penalties” is a phrase for both algorithmic and manual actions. It’s important to clarify at this stage the difference between the two.
A manual action is where a member of the Google Webspam Team review a website, following on from either information triggered from an algorithmic update or a Webspam notification, so when someone’s reported your website, or another reason. We don’t know. We’re not Google.
And then they’ll take action on your website depending on what they found. If they believe you to be breaching their terms and conditions, then they’ll take action on your site, which we’ll go into in more detail in a second.
The second part of that is an algorithmic devaluation. Now, an algorithmic devaluation is where Google knows something – it runs an algorithm script across the whole of the internet, and that refreshes periodically. So you’ve got the Panda algorithm refresh, you’ve got the Penguin algorithm refresh, and it will look at the website, the internet as a whole, and then devalue certain aspects of your website or your links depending on what it finds to be natural, unnatural, or you’re trying to manipulate. So there’s no manual review in that process; it’s very much just “Right, we think that these should be discredited. Yeah, okay. That’s great.”
The important thing to remember and take away from that is that not all penalties are link-based. It’s just that there’s a lot of talk at the moment about Penguin. Google Penguin is a link-focused algorithm, but there are other things at play, which obviously is another topic in its entirety.
So what is Google Penguin?
Google Penguin; it’s a link-focused algorithm. What does that mean? Basically, it means that they’re looking for manipulative link activity. By that, I mean people that have tried to either gain links or manipulate anchor text or – there’s loads of other ways to manipulate links – in order to boost a website’s performance in search results, either for a particular keyword or the authority of the domain.
What are the main types of link penalty?
Now we’ve got that bit cleared up, so what are the main types of link penalties? As we stated earlier, they’re not actually all penalties. The first one is an algorithmic devaluation, which is a Penguin algorithmic devaluation. This targets, as I said earlier, links which Google thinks that “These shouldn’t pass the same amount of PageRank and authority that other links do. We’ll discount them and we’ll probably use the link graph to position your website in search.”
Also, if you’ve maybe got a lot of links with a particular anchor text or coming from a different country, that may be looking unnatural to Google, so again, it might discredit that. But also, what it’ll do is it’ll hold your website back slightly. So if you’ve got a lot of anchor text for payday loans, for example, it looks a bit manipulative. You might’ve been trying to manipulate Google’s results, so what it’ll do is it’ll just bring down your search results automatically.
What is a partial match action?
The second one is a manual action. The manual action is broken up into two types.
The first type, which is the more common type, is a partial match action. This is where the Webspam Team look at some data, whether it’s from Google Penguin, algorithm refresh, or from a manual spam report, and then they’ll look and go, “Well, yeah, there’s a few parts of this website which look like they’ve been manipulating our results, so we’ll take action just at these levels.” That may be a particular word, it may be a phrase. They don’t tell us, but usually it’s a targeted section of your traffic, so you’ll notice a drop, but you won’t notice all your traffic going.
What is a site-wide action?
The next one, which is probably the most severe, is when Google decide that you’ve been so bad that you have to be given a site-wide penalty. This is when you don’t rank for any phrases anymore and you don’t even rank for your own brand name. This is probably the most severe kind of penalty, and obviously it’s going to have a big impact on your traffic.
Now, the last one is probably more for publishers rather than website owners who don’t publish content, and this is for people who’ve been selling links. It’s a very much outbound-link-focused penalty, so that’s when they’ve gone in your website, they’ve noticed a few links on your website that point out to other websites; they look suspicious, they look like they’ve been paid, and obviously, Google wants to make sure that we all know not to buy and sell links.
Hopefully that’s a good introduction to Google penalties, and we’ll crack on with some more information about them in a second.