In spite of its prevalence, the term “Google Penalties” is something of a misnomer. Website owners, digital marketers, and search engine optimizers often feel penalized by Google’s algorithm changes. However, Google updates are only meant to prevent search engine manipulations leading to unfair rankings.
With this in mind, the way to avoid Google “penalties,” and rank well, should be obvious. Commission professional web developers to create a good website for you. Create good content for internet users. Persevere. And most importantly – don’t use manipulative, underhanded tactics to try to get ahead in the SEO game.
Don’t Use Content Farms
“Content farms”, or “content mills” are a dishonest method of gaining traction online that was extremely prevalent a decade ago. It involved publishing vast amounts of poorly written materials, lazy copy-paste rewrites, or bot-spun articles. In spite of the poor quality, this content could nevertheless do a decent job of pushing you to the top of the results page.
Google put a serious spanner in the works of content farms with its 2011 update called Panda. Panda demolished the effectiveness of the content mills and ensured that low-effort, bottom-tier content wasn’t promoted by the algorithm. So if you want to do SEO, focus on content quality and polish.
Stay Away From Link Schemes
Link schemes are a big no-no when it comes to SEO. Google’s first major offensive in the ongoing war with them came in the form of the Penguin update, which was implemented way back in 2012.
So what are link schemes? Simply put, they are efforts to artificially inflate a site’s rankings by having other sites link to it inorganically. Usually, the owners of the site pay link scheme artists for their services. The link scheme creators, in turn ensure that a large number of low-quality or unrelated websites backlink to the recipient of the “service.”
Alternatively, a tech-savvy site owner can bypass the middleman and just use a private blog network – a series of sites that they own themselves – and set up their own link scheme.
Regardless of the details surrounding them, all link schemes aim to create the appearance of popularity and relevance of a site. Suffice it to say that Google takes a very dim view of this sort of search engine manipulation, and has taken every possible step to ensure that it’s ineffective.
This is why it’s generally a good idea for website owners to avoid anything that resembles a link scheme like the plague.
Don’t Use “Bad” Links
If your aim is to create lasting growth for your website and do SEO properly, curating the links you use and those that link to your site should be high on your list of priorities. Unfortunately, there is no all-encompassing definition of what a “bad” link is. What we do have are a few examples of things that you should definitely avoid if you want your pages to rank well.
Links from and to sites with content of obscene or sexual nature can ruin your SEO efforts really quickly. Links to lots of foreign sites are also often frowned upon. Building links on hacked sites is a horrible idea – not only is it unreliable, and potentially dangerous, but it’s almost certainly against the law.
Beware of the Two-Click Penalty
Google’s two-click penalty for publishers is a contentious issue in SEO circles – not least because no one seems to know what causes sites to suffer the “penalty”, or how to resolve it.
To date, Google representatives have not named the exact reasons why the measure is imposed. Sometimes, something just happens, and from that point onwards, users need to confirm their ad-clicks with a further click. Interestingly enough, it only seems to affect mobile environments, where it can run click-through rates into the ground.
If that happens to your website, the best course of action seems to be to get your house in order. Make sure you do your best to adhere to industry best practices and wait for the problem to go away by itself.
Avoid Keyword Stuffing
Keyword stuffing is another practice that was remedied way back in the day when Google rolled out the Penguin update. While not as toxic as content farms and link schemes, this practice still represented a problem that Google needed to overcome in order to improve user experience.
Back when keyword stuffing was still possible, it was standard procedure to “stuff” a webpage with vast amounts of keywords that were not actually relevant to the subject of the content. This practice could be used to manipulate page ranking, because it made certain pages appear relevant to specific search phrases.
Currently over-optimization, inorganic, unnatural or nonsensical use of keywords is counterproductive for SEO purposes. Doing some proper keyword research is more time-consuming, but it yields much better results.
Make Sure You Don’t Duplicate Content
Since Google doesn’t want the Internet to be swamped with copy-pasted content, it’s made absolutely sure that content that’s identical to something else doesn’t rank well. However, it’s important to note that even sites whose purpose is not deceptive or malicious can still end up suffering due to duplicate content.
For instance, poorly designed discussion forums can generate both a regular and mobile version of pages, which counts as duplicate content. Printer-friendly versions of web pages can also create redundancy in content that is frowned upon, even though it’s not actually harmful. Poorly designed or managed online stores are notorious for having multiple identical entries for the same item – which all get deranked. You’d do well to avoid all of those things if you want your content to rank well.
Make Your Site is Mobile-friendly
Back in 2018, Google announced its intention to more actively cater to an important part of its user base – the mobile market. Its search algorithms were modified to reflect this, and as a result, mobile-friendly pages got a leg up when it comes to ranking. This is something you should definitely take into consideration when you plan your SEO.