Google isn’t always forthcoming about their search engine ranking algorithms, but they do make it clear what sort of things they penalize websites for. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is about improving a website so that users and Google have a better experience. However, in the quest to do this many people make major mistakes that can cause Google to issue heavy penalties.
Google penalties are nothing to laugh at. When a website is penalized, Google usually stops listing it on searches or ranks it significantly lower. This means that you lose out on keyword rankings, user traffic, and online visibility.
Here are a few things that people often do that will result in Google penalizing your site:
1. Duplicate Content
By far the number one thing that gets websites penalized is having too much duplicate content. Original content is a pillar of SEO and there’s a reason for that. Google will only index the content once, so if you have tons of duplicate content this means that Google is just not taking it into account. Essentially, duplicate content is pointless as it doesn’t increase your rankings.
A penalty comes into play if the content is stolen from another site. Stolen duplicate content is plagiarizing, and Google will penalize sites that do this. Posting a quote or an article occasionally is fine but having no original content on your website means it will likely never see the light of a search engine result page.
2. Copyrighted Material
Google is coming down a lot harder on copyrighted material these days. Unauthorized use of images, videos, and articles is a quick way to get a black mark from Google. Things can become a little murky since often people don’t even realize an image they’re using is copyrighted! That’s why we always recommend people take their images and videos from free websites like Pixabay and Unsplash. If you do use copyrighted material, make sure you credit this or obtain permission.
3. Hidden Links and Content
A common black hat SEO trick that sketchy SEO agencies are fond of is hiding certain content or links on a site. This is done so that users see one version but Google bots crawl another. Putting text in the same color as the background or cloaking links so that users can’t see them are common ways this is done. Hidden links and content are done so that extra keywords can be stuffed into a page. Google is good at detecting this now, and penalize sites that don’t show the same things to search engines and users.
4. Spam Links
Back in the day, all links were good links. Times have changed though, and these days links to spam sites or spam sites that link back to your website, as a good way to get a website penalized. Link building is an important part of SEO, but they have to be quality links. Google is able to detect spam or low-quality links and will penalize a site for having too many. These spammy links can be either outgoing or in going, so make sure you keep on top of them.
5. Keyword Stuffing
This is probably one of the most common black hat SEO tactics, and one of the most frowned upon things by Google. Using an unnatural amount of keywords in content will very quickly get you penalized by Google. Not only will it get you penalized, it also doesn’t benefit a website. Google doesn’t care how many times a keyword appears on a site. It’s also unnatural for users to read, which is a big reason why Google punished sites that do it.
6. Viruses, Hacks, Breaches and Phising
Cybersecurity is a hot topic these days, especially after the Facebook data breach. Google works hard to make sure that their users aren’t putting themselves or their online data in danger when visiting sites. Websites that have been hacked, are contaminated with viruses, or are being used to phish (using a fake identity to get users to hand over sensitive data) will be banned.
Google has a number of other reasons besides the ones above for why the ban or penalize websites. However, those are the most common ones. Many website owners end up getting penalized due to ignorance or trying to game the algorithm by implementing black-hat SEO tactics. Google almost always catches these websites, so it’s best to create an honest, quality website from the start. Contact us if you have any questions or want help with your websites SEO!