Google Penalty Basics
This section mainly applies to Google as they have been quite transparent with how they target low quality pages in their index as well as how they handle different types of manipulation. Going back a few years websites would simply vanish from the top ten search results leaving the webmaster confused and angry with no idea what went wrong. In many cases, these penalties were impossible to fix and business owners would have to consider moving their information to a new domain to recover traffic levels. This is not so easy with a well known brand!
Over the years Google recognized the need for transparency to help SEO professionals and webmasters figure out why their sites were penalized. The last couple of years have seen some major new penalty algorithms developed and they may well be affecting your website right now.
Panda was first launched in Feb 2011 and affected 12% of search results. It hit many sites hard and caused a massive stir in the SEO industry due to the major damage it caused. Panda ran every few months initially but Google have now confirmed it is automated and normally runs around once a month. Panda hits low quality websites, sites with bad metrics (high bounce rates) and looks for other on page quality problems. The effect of Panda can be devastating for search traffic and can send your site way down the search results. Natural recovery is unlikely unless you have an expert who can run a full analysis on your site and see where the potential problems are. The good news is that many sites do recover once they have fixed the problem areas.
Penguin was launched in April 2012 and was just as devastating as Panda. Although Google uses hundreds of signals to determine the order of their search results the most important signal was derived from the amount (and quality) of links coming into to a website from other sites. This was the core of their algorithm from the very beginning and how they took the market share from Yahoo. This created a whole industry with many websites building and buying thousands of links to try and improve their search positions, it worked well for many years. According to the Google Quality Guidelines links should be gained naturally because other websites think your website is useful. Links are often earned naturally for interesting websites but earning them for standard businesses is quite difficult and rarely occurs naturally. Penguin currently runs a couple of times a year which makes it harder to fix, there is no recovery once you are hit until the next update.
Penguin can be fixed by cleaning up your external link profile and adjusting various on page elements. Considering you need some links to rank well it is a balancing act between getting rid of the lower quality links and keeping the higher quality links. Gecko Marketing can help you run a full analysis and ensure you remove all the problematic links in order to completely clean up your profile. It is important that you get professional help with this as removing high quality links will ensure your site does not return to previous positions once the Penguin penalty is removed. Google launched a new tool last year which allows site owners to upload an excel spreadsheet of bad links that are pointing to their sites, if the upload is approved then these links will be discounted in the future giving you every opportunity to escape Penguin.
Manual penalties come in various forms and usually the webmaster will receive a message in their Webmaster Tools account with specific information. These are penalties given out when a real human being from Google has looked at a site and found problems. Generally the message will explain what the problems are and once they are fixed you can send in a request asking them to remove it. These are not always successful and it often takes 4-6 weeks for a response. If the request is unsuccessful the first time then more site adjustments can be made before trying again.
How We Can Help
If you think you may have been affected by a Google penalty then Gecko Marketing can help you figure out which algorithm is most likely responsible and implement a plan to fix it. Please contact us for more information.