It is quite horrifying to work for months to years on a website, building great quality articles, links, and attracting visitors, only for you to visit your website one day, and realize that you have lost all your traffic, and though you never cared much about it — your PageRank stands at a big fat zero, of which it was once a one, two, three, or four, or more rating. You scrambled to figure out what is wrong and how to fix it.
It is like operating for so long under what you felt were normal conditions, and then an inspector comes in and tells you that your building does not meet the standard code of operations, and condemns the building immediately so you instantly lose all your customers, your money, and your livelihood.
You search frantically through articles and websites to figure out what you did wrong and think about anything and everything possible that Google came across on your website that violated their guidelines. You come across articles warning about Google Penguin and Google Panda and realize you are not alone — there are hundreds of thousands of websites who were affected and are right there with you, struggling to figure out what is wrong, and wanting to make their website right again so they can continue on with their life and livelihood.
A quick visit to Google Webmaster Tools — if you are signed up — often lets you know exactly what is wrong, and offers you tips for fixing it. Google has set its standards for what it wants websites on the Internet to abide by and eventually, Google will always get its way. While it may seem like everyone must cater to Google, the intentions of Google are to make websites spam free and full of useful information.
Imagine a Google search bringing up the same 10 results - all different websites, but the same exact content. How useless would the Internet be if only the first article meant something? Google works hard to change its algorithm hundreds of times a year to bring its visitors (customers) the best relevant search results.
Unfortunately, your website may have been caught in the line of fire and matched a key in the algorithm that came across as bad or low-quality content. While Google cannot detect whether someone paid you for links, they are getting better at detecting patterns. If a company pays a dozen websites to put its link on the front page or sidebar and those websites are high in PageRank but not really relevant to the company website, everyone is guilty, at fault, and will be penalized — Google detected the pattern. Of course, there are also manual people looking into reports and even searching the Internet for similar trends and applying manual penalties on websites.
Most times, when a website is penalized, the webmaster has a pretty good reason to suspect why it was penalized. Companies, however, may be left in the dark, and wondering why their website is not bringing in traffic, leads, and sales. A company that has abided by the rules and not attempted any Black Hat SEO methods or false unnatural methods of boosting traffic and rankings will never have any problems.
For those companies that continue to figure out ways to outsmart Google — Google was founded in 1998 and has been researching the Internet for over 15 years. They will eventually know every trick in the book and they are never too far off from discovering new ones. Google has enough money, energy, knowledge, and people to figure out how the Internet should function.
Follow these Google guidelines and your site should never receive any penalty, and if it does, look over the list again. If you cannot discover anything at all, you may either want to hire a professional webmaster to help remove the Google penalty and restore your rankings and traffic, or get in contact with Google directly by email for additional support.
This infographic discusses how to troubleshoot a Google penalty and how to get your rankings and organic traffic back.
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Troubleshooting Google Penalties
How To Get Your Organic Traffic Back
Can you find your site by brand name in Google?
Have you received a Google webmaster Tools message?
What does it say?
Check Moz Updates History, match your traffic drop date with the update
Penguin related = Issues with inbound links
Follow the same steps, but also submit a reconsideration request at the end describing in detail all that you have done to improve your site
Panda related = Issues with content
Follow the same steps, but pay attention to keyword anchors and skip reconsideration request part
Do you have ads on your website? Do they occupy more than 40% of some pages?
Reduce the amount of ads and move the majority of the ones left below the fold
Check your site pages for duplicate content (use siteliner.com) to automate the process) Have you found a lot?
Do you use automatically generated content, scraped content, or low quality content?
Check your inbound links in Google Webmaster Tools, download them
Did your Google Webmaster Tools message con taint any samples of poor links?
Cleanse the site — remove the duplicates, or use del canonical on duplicate pages, or block those folders and sections from indexation
Replace low-quality content with high-quality content or block folders and files from indexation
If all of your answers were “NO”, most likely you misdiagnosed the issue, try following the steps again
Look for the links that would follow the pattern of the samples in your Google Webmaster Tools download
Look for any patterns and links that could have been considered by Google
Poor link source (cheap so-called “SEO-friendly” directories, infected sites, sites containing malware, porn, link farms, content farms, site that explicitly, violate Google quality guidelines)
Similar aggressive (commercial e.g. “buy a car”, “best silver jewelry for sale”) anchor text
Not evenly distributed link mass, meaning almost all the links point to 2 or 3 pages only
Select all the links that follow one of the patterns above that seem suspicious
Try to contact web masters of the sites you have selected and ask them to remove the links
Allow at least a week for the web masters to get back to you
Put all the links that you were unable to emote into a txt file one link per line or domains like this - domain:sample.com - and upload the Google Disavow Tool
Submit reconsideration request in your GWT describing in details all the measures you have taken to improve your site’s back links profile
Allow 2-4 weeks and if you get no positive reply repeat the sole procedure again
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Matthew Gates is a freelance web designer and currently runs Confessions of the Professions.