What’d I Do to Deserve This? A Google Penalty Guide
In the early days of internet marketing, ranking for competitive keywords was like fighting Glass Joe in Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!! – if you were persistent about buying links and putting up keyword spammed content, you could rank pretty easily. But much like the progression through Von Kaiser, Don Flamenco, King Hippo and eventually Tyson himself, Google has gotten more and more sophisticated through each update and the strategies for ranking are becoming more and more complex.
The worst part? One wrong move and you might get hit with a Tyson-style uppercut – and see your web rankings go down for the count!
What Is Google Penalizing These Days?
SEO has been around for a long time now, meaning there have been a lot of once legitimate strategies that our industry has sort of run into the ground. Here’s a quick guide of what you have to be wary of these days:
Directory Links – directory links do still serve a purpose – each listing counts as a “citation” of your business’ name, address and phone number (NAP), which can help boost your Google Places listing. However, using directories as a link building strategy is frowned upon and might land you with a slap from Google.
Guest Blogs – when used effectively, guest blogging can be a great way to get your name, and website, in front of fresh eyes. However, not taking care with your guest blogging strategy can get you into trouble. Treat guest blogs like you would treat a post on your own site – make sure they’re well written, provide genuine value to that blogs readers, are placed on reputable websites, and, most importantly, you don’t pay for the opportunity to post.
Infographics – Infographics are another thing that SEOs have muddled up. Same rules apply to Infographics as to guest blogs – make sure they provide genuine value and you’ll be fine.
Advertorials – funny story: a few years ago, Google Chrome got caught spamming blogs with advertorials, also known as paid reviews. And Google punished them for it. That’s right – Google punished its own brand for advertorials – that’s how much they hate them.
Exact Match Domains (EMDs) – in the past, trying to rank for “payday loans in Maryland” was simple: just make your domain paydayloansinmaryland.com. You didn’t even need content! These days, however, sites with exact match domains are coming under serious scrutiny for that exact reason – so many of them have thin, useless content that Google is cutting a swath right through them.
Overuse of Affiliate Links / Top Heavy Design – if you run a “Made for AdSense (MFA)” website, you’d better hope it looks damn good. Google has been punishing sites with lots of ads at the top of the page, citing the presence of those ads as evidence that the sites provide a negative user experience. Keep your ads below the fold.
Piracy / DMCA Takedowns – this is a fairly new one, aimed at penalizing sites accused of piracy by groups such as the RIAA, Hollywood studios, and governments. Google hits these sites somewhat selectively, as sites like YouTube and other popular content sites are largely unaffected.
Bad mobile sites – Google is all about user experience these days, and part of a solid user experience is a solid mobile site. If your site isn’t built with responsive design, you should at least have a separate mobile site to give users on smart phones and tablets the information they want.
Everything else – I’m not going to get too far into all the usual things, since everyone already knows what those are. As a refresher, stay far away from:
- Link wheels / networks
- Paid linking
- Keyword stuffing
- Scraped / spun / duplicate content
- Footer links
- Error codes / internal 404 errors
- Over optimization
- Comment / forum spam
- Slow website speed
Google changes every day, sometimes arbitrarily, and what was once fair game can suddenly get you knocked out faster than Little Mac against a Tyson uppercut. Before you suffer a Google penalty, call Blue Corona. Our time-tested online marketing tactics have helped hundreds of businesses improve their search engine rankings and grow their businesses.
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