Penalized by Google? There’s no need to jump to conclusions and dump your website. There’s actually a way to fix it and get back in. Sure, it will take some hard work, but in the long run it’s better to fix your website than it is to start all over again with a brand new domain.
Before I get into how you can get your website out of the penalty box, I’m going to go over the most common situations that first got you into the penalty box.
Don’t worry, I won’t use animals like Panda to describe your penalization. Instead, I’ll go over what you did to get penalized and how to fix it.
Here are the most common tactics that caused your site to get penalized, and here is how you fix it:
Tactic #1: Over-optimized anchor text
If you want to get ranked for a keyword like “dog food”, you should get sites to link to you with the anchor text “dog food”, right? And although that’s correct to some extent, if too many people link to you with that anchor text, it will actually decrease your rankings.
So what should you do? Remove the links?
Assuming you’ve built relevant links from authoritative sites and they weren’t paid for, you shouldn’t remove them. But if you built over-optimized anchor text links from irrelevant or spammy sites, try to get the webmasters to remove the links.
If you built good links, keep them even if your anchor text is over-optimized. Over time you need to continually build more and more non-rich anchor text links from authoritative sites. Here are some of the anchor text variations you should use:
- The text of your title tag
- Click here
- Learn more
Don’t just stop with the anchor text examples from above…keep rotating them with other variations. Ideally, the keyword you are trying to rank for shouldn’t be more than 10% of your anchor text links.
Tactic #2: Spammy links
Building spammy links from irrelevant sites used to help boost your rankings, but they don’t anymore. If you have hundreds of these links pointing to your website, you need to remove them.
If you aren’t sure what a spammy link is, they are usually links from:
- Sites that are link farms
- Sites that don’t have high quality content or have duplicate content
- Sites that link out to gambling, Viagra or even adult sites.
- Sites that are penalized in Google (if you type a site name into Google and it doesn’t show up in number one spot, it is typically penalized)
If you have spammy links coming to your site, go out there and contact every one of those sites and ask them to remove the link. If they don’t remove them, try to send them a generic legal notice that a lawyer drafts for you. That should help motivate them to remove the link.
After you reach out to all of the sites multiple times, Disavow the remaining links through Google’s Webmaster Tools. Disavowing the links isn’t as good as removing them, which is why you want to do that first. Use this tool for the links you can’t get removed.
Tactic #3: Build too many links too fast
Have you noticed that when you build too many links too fast, you tend to lose most of your rankings…even if those links are high in authority and natural?
This happens with many startups that get a lot of buzz and links form hundreds of sites too quickly. So what do you do in this case? You wait it out and just keep operating your business as if nothing is wrong because over time your rankings will come back and be stronger than before.
On the other hand, if you artificially inflated your link count too fast you’ll have to adjust your link building strategy. If those inflated links where spammy, remove them just like how I described in Tactic #2.
If you built high quality links too fast that weren’t paid for, don’t remove the links. Just keep building more links from authority sites, and overtime your rankings will continue to go back to where they where if not even higher.
If you built high quality links too fast and the links are too rich anchor text, don’t remove the links. Just continue building more high quality links from relevant sites and rotate your anchor text as I described in Tactic #1.
Tactic #4: Junk or duplicate content
In the early days of SEO, you could throw up thousands of pages filled with junk or duplicate content and rank well, especially if you had authoritative links pointing to your domain.
Nowadays, throwing up thousands of pages filled with junk content will hurt you. It’s not about creating a large volume of content, it’s about creating high quality content.
It’s much better to have a hundred pages of high quality content with thousands of unique links and hundreds of social shares, versus having a million pieces of content that no one wants to read.
If you have junk content on your site, try transforming it into cornerstone content pieces that everyone wants to read, link to and share via the social web. If you can’t do that, you have two options:
- Remove the content from your website.
- Block those pieces of content from being indexed through your robots.txt file.
Tactic #5: User-generated content
Not always, but in many cases, sites with user-generated content have been hit hard over the years. It’s not because Google hates user generated content, it’s due to the fact that most user-generated content is low in quality.
The biggest reason I’ve seen user-generated sites being penalized is because people are slipping in content or links to Viagra, adult or gambling sites. When your user-generated site has millions of pages, these little things tend to slip through the cracks.
Do searches on your site and see if you have any spammy content. If so, remove it.
If you have low quality content pages, the easiest route for you to take is to block those pages from being indexed through your robots.txt file. Once users build up those low quality pages and turn them into high quality ones, you can then remove them from your robots.txt file, which will allow search engines to crawl those pages.
Tactic #6: Building all-page links
Have you ever had one website put a link to your website on every one of their web pages? That’s an all-page link. People try to build all-page links to boost their Google PageRank and rankings. In most cases, Google hates all-page links.
I’ve actually experienced this penalty on NeilPatel.com because I built all-page links to it from Quick Sprout. I noticed that a week after I built the links, the rankings tanked.
I could have removed the links, but I kept them because I never created them with the intention of gaming Google. The links were created to drive traffic over to my site.
After six months, the site return back to normal because other sites naturally linked to NeilPatel.com over time. But the quicker route of getting unpenalized would have been to remove the all-page links.
In most cases, if you built all-page links to your site, it’s because you were trying to game Google. If that’s the case, remove them. On the other hand, if you have all-page links due to adverting, you should consider no-following the links…which is what I should have done with my site.
Don’t take the easy route of just trashing your domain and starting a new one if you get penalized. Work through the motions to build your site back up and get in Google’s good graces.
If you apply the fixes after being penalized, typically you’ll get back within three or four months. If it takes you longer to fix the issues, it will take you longer to get back in. If you are extra fast to fix the issues, still assume that it will take three months before things go back to normal.
If you haven’t been penalized, do yourself a favor by avoiding tactics that provide short-term gains. For example, buying links may sound smart, but it will bite you in the butt in the long run.
What other ways can you get out of the Google penalty box?