It seems like everybody is talking about Google penalties, but there is a lot of commonly accepted information that is simply not true. Staying ahead of the SEO game is not that hard, if you know which practices to follow. One of the most common mistakes we see is when people confuse a manual penalty to a website devaluation.
Rest assured as none of Google’s algorithm updates will drastically change an SEO strategy from white hat to black hat. Sure, reading the latest algorithm adjustments is a good thing, but you shouldn’t suddenly terminate an effective SEO strategy just because a so-called SEO expert wrote an “SEO is officially dead” type of article.
We deal with a lot of clients that are immediately worried about a manual penalty whenever their traffic has a sudden drop. But the truth is, you need to be into some seriously shady black hat SEO practices in order to “earn” yourself a manual penalty from Google. That’s probably not the case for small business owners that are managing the website themselves. Most of the time, the traffic drop is triggered because your website got devalued.
Checking for a manual penalty
If you did something sneaky, you can investigate for a Google penalty by seeing if there’s any manual action against your website. In order to do this, hold your breath and log in to your Google Search Console. Once you’re there, expand the drop-down menu associated with Search Traffic and click on Manual Actions.
If you see no manual webspam actions, you’re in the clear. Most likely, the traffic drop is likely due to some of your website content getting devalued after Google pushed an algorithm update. Keep in mind that Google regularly releases multiple algorithm updates daily, and the vast majority of them aren’t announced.
However, if you find that your website just had a sudden traffic drop, there are a few common things that you should investigate. It could be anything from your loading page speed to the quality of your content. Here’s a list of the most common things that contributed to your website getting devalued.
1. Weak Content
I know this might be hard to admit, but you might be suffering from a traffic drop because some of your content suddenly sucks in comparison with the competition.
Just take the time and analyze which pages have dropped in rankings and check up the competition pages that rank at the top. Are they doing stuff better than you? Are they providing solutions to searched questions while your pages sound like a sales copy? Do they feature more content than you?
Try to do an objective analysis, figure out what needs to be improved and operate the changes as soon as possible. You can make things easier by using a tool like Authority Labs, Moz or SEMrush to see where you rank with a particular URL.
You can then use the same tools to check up the competition that outranks you for a particular search phrase and see what needs to be improved.
2. Duplicate Content
Most website devaluations happen because the body copy and the metadata are exactly the same on multiple pages within the same website.
This problem is extremely frequent with a small business who own an e-commerce website. Some of them fail to create unique content for the hundreds or thousands of product listing pages. However, Google sees duplicate content as low-quality content and will rank it accordingly.
You can easily search your website for duplicate content by using Deep Crawl or a similar tool.
3. Abusing Link Building though Press Kits
Link building is a great way to build your site’s authority and boost your search traffic, but you can easily overdo it to the point where you’ll make Google angry. Although there’s no official confirmation, it’s clear that this strategy is now a devalued factor for Google and most of the other search engines.
If you buy press releases kits frequently, maybe tone them down for a while. Oh, and keep in mind that Google won’t penalize you for overdoing it since they represent an important PR strategy for most online companies. It will only remove any SEO value from your money-earned links.
4. Poor Website security
Google is very serious about its security, and it expects the same from the websites that are ranking on the first pages. This doesn’t mean you’ll have to implement a two-factor authentication method for your blog posts, but you definitely need to secure your assets.
Make sure you’re using the latest security packages and start using a reputable hosting company if you don’t already. Here’s a great structured list (or not) of security requirements that Google asks of webmasters.
5. Using Black Hat SEO
This is probably obvious, but Google would very much like you to stay away from black hat SEO practices like cloaking, keyword stuffing, hidden text and link farms. Google has successfully discouraged black hat SEO practices in the past couple of years, but some companies are still engaged in those practices.
While using black hat SEO will most likely boost your ranking in the short term, you’ll likely get caught and penalized sooner or later. And keep in mind that deploying back hat SEO tactics will not just get your website devalued. You also run the risk of being manually adjusted – which is much, much worse.
6. Ignoring your Pages Loading Speed
Adding interactive backgrounds and awesome animations to your websites can give it a great artistic touch, but Google is not a big fan of that. Google and all the other search engines are putting enormous value on how quick your web pages load.
Loading times are thoroughly analyzed by all crawlers, and Google is even more attentive to them in its push to optimize web content for mobile pages. You can use the Google-developed PageSpeed Insights tool to see whether your web pages need to be optimized for speed or not.
Now that you’re certain that your website wasn’t manually adjusted, it’s time to start working on getting your old ranking back. Use the pointers above to identify the areas where your website suffers and patch things up as soon as possible.