Trying to increase your website’s ranking on Google? Heard horror stories of Google’s updates completely wiping sites off the search rankings? It happens, but not at random. Let’s have a look at what exactly a Google penalty is – and the reasons Google may drop your site in its rankings.
What is a Google Penalty?
Let’s start with Google’s goal: to eliminate poor-quality content to refine the quality of search results.
To do this, Google released their Penguin update in 2012, which wiped some sites out of search rankings altogether. This update downgrades site rankings based on many factors (which we will chat about shortly), forcing companies to change the way they look at SEO and prioritize the quality of their content.
Subsequent updates continue to sharpen the search engine’s ability to judge the quality of a site.
Why Does Google Penalize Websites?
1. Your Website is Outdated
The design of a website plays a large factor in its site ranking. Two main design concerns are whether the site is mobile-friendly or if it is new or up-to-date. According to Forbes, “you could lose anywhere from 5-30% of leads based on this factor alone”.
When you’re building your website design, make sure you also keep meta titles and meta descriptions in mind. They help Google understand what keywords your website wants to rank for; without them, Google may not recognize your site as relevant and penalize you.
2. Poor Link Structure
What makes up link structure? Let’s break it down:
- External links – these connect your content to other sites. You want to link to other high-ranking websites so that Google will associate your content with other high-quality sources. Additionally, these sites should be relevant – for example, if your website is fashion-themed and only links to sites about food or electronics, Google views this as a problem. Linking to low-quality or irrelevant content sites will put you straight on Google’s radar to drop down in ranking.
- Internal links – these connect your content to other pages within your website. It gives Google an idea of how your website is mapped out and what your overall site content is like. That being said, it’s important to interlink to relevant If you’re linking your blog post about saving money to your pricey gift shop, for example, you may get penalized.
- Backlinks – these are links from other sites that direct back to yours. The goal with backlinks is to get high-ranking websites to link back to you. It would be fantastic to have backlinks from CNN or New York Times. This is high-level, but the idea is you want to avoid fake or illegitimate websites to maintain a higher ranking.
When it comes to links, remember – quality over quantity.
3. Buying Links
Yes, some companies still buy links to their website to increase in ranking.
Google sees this as an attempt to deceive PageRank, which calculates where your site should appear in search engine results based on what content Google views as relevant and high-quality.
When you try to manipulate Google, they can catch this – and the bad links you have been buying. Buying links can even drop you off the rankings completely.
4. Your Content Has Little Value
This can be anything from not enough content, shallow content that your readers have already found on many other sites, or content obviously trying to rank for keywords. These are all the wrong way for your content to help rank your website.
Your site must offer significant content to readers. Google judges how users interact with your website. If people visit your site and immediately leave, Google will catch on that users don’t value your content and will penalize your site and it’s ranking.
5. Slow Speeds
How frustrated do you get when a page is taking 10 seconds to load? Do you abandon the page and move on?
A lot of people do – and Google notices. Neil Patel recommends using a caching plugin or a CDN right away to avoid this issue.
If you’re not sure how fast your existing site is, check out Google’s PageSpeed to see if you have room to improve on your desktop or mobile site load time.
In the end, you must always put the user experience at top-of-mind.
They’re the ones visiting your websites and, in turn, buying your products or services. The goal is to give them the most seamless experience, so they have no reason to exit your page.
Doing this will help avoid penalties, increase the quality of your traffic and number of conversions, and create a happy relationship between your website and Google.