If you run an e-commerce business or any other kind of site, you probably already know the importance of SEO efforts and gaining traffic from search engines. The fact is that getting a high ranking is constantly changing and is no longer as simple as it once was.

The effort to get websites high on SERPs is often a cause of problems. The reason is the fact that many marketers and SEOs are taking the process of link building to its limit. In return, their websites tend to get penalized for not adhering to the guidelines prescribed by Google. In this article, we are going to discuss how to determine why you’ve been penalized and how to recover from it.

Why am I being penalized?

There are two main types of possible penalties. The first is manual action that Google’s spam team has taken against your website, and the second one is the penalty that you get from Google’s algorithm. If you notice that your traffic has decreased, then you’ve probably undergone one of these penalties.

When it comes to manual action, you can find out why it happened by checking your Google Webmaster Tools account. If there are new notifications about unnatural links, then you know what’s going on. If there is no notification, then you might have to look deeper for the reason.

As for the algorithmic penalty, you will have to determine the connection between the date of a new algorithmic update and the time that you lost traffic. To do this, you can check the Google Algorithm Change History.

The penalties that you have suffered can be either from Penguin or from Panda. Penguin concentrates on the “naturalness” of backlinks and the optimization of the anchor text. Panda focuses on whether your content is low quality or duplicate.

What backlinks are bad for my website?

Bad backlinks are one of the most common reasons for a Google penalty. There are various kinds of websites that you should pay attention to.

For starters, if a website isn’t related to your niche, it is an issue, because Google values relevancy a lot. The next thing to look out for are websites with duplicate content. These are low quality websites that you should avoid. There are also websites that are penalized or banned from Google, which can only do harm. The same goes for spammy comments and forum posts that are there only for the purpose of linking.

Site-wide backlinks, such as links from sidebars and widgets, should be avoided. Google also has an issue with sponsored content that passes PageRank. If you are promoting via a blog, a nofollow attribute will make sure your ranking is intact. Don’t hide text from CSS users, and stay away from links from adult and gambling websites at all cost.

How to recover from a Panda penalty?

The Panda penalty focuses on websites that offer low quality content, or have on-page issues like an abundance of ads, weak navigation structure, and low site speed. In your Google Webmaster Tools account, you can go to “search appearance” and then “HTML improvements”. This is the place where you can check out whether you have duplicate or bad quality pages. Pages like this need to be either deleted or set as nofollow.

You can make use of a service such as Siteliner, which can help you to easily see whether you have any of the previously mentioned on-page problems. What this service also offers is a percentage score on how similar the content is on your entire website.

How do I recover from a Penguin penalty?

The first step is to check the distribution of your anchor text. You can create a free account on Ahrefs and check the backlinks report tab. Here you have a great overview of potential problems. According to Nirmal, an experienced WordPress developer team from Sydney, you should be aiming for naturally distributed anchor text with variations of targeted keywords, brand name keywords, etc. Penguin will most probably hit you if all that it can find is exact match keywords in the anchor text distribution. You can find the source of this anchor text in the backlinks tab, where you can locate a list of referring domains, including the inbound anchor text that links to your website from them.

As previously mentioned, relevancy is an important factor. A great number of unrelated, low quality sites is something Penguin is bound to notice. What you can do is reach out to the webmasters and ask for the backlinks to be removed. Compile a list of those that don’t respond, and submit it to Google’s disavow tool.

Over-optimization of your homepage is an issue as well. Links should lead to all pages on your website, or else Google will find it unnatural.

In summation

Doing all this will help you determine which algorithm update has penalized you. After you have established that, you can come up with a recovery plan. If you have been penalized by Panda, check your entire site for duplicate content and structural problems. If, on the other hand, Penguin is in question, then you should use Ahrefs to check your backlink profile and how your anchor text is distributed. When all this is done, send a reconsideration request to Google. A Google penalty may look scary, but it’s not something that you can’t recuperate from.


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