If you know anything about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), then you know it’s a rapidly-moving beast. There are constant updates to the space, which means web developers and digital marketing companies need to stay on top of the developments to ensure SEO rankings remain strong.
So why would your rankings take a hit? Well, if you haven’t updated your website in a long time, or if you are implementing bad SEO tactics, which we explain below, it could cause Google to penalise you.
If you have been penalised, there could be one of several reasons why. Firstly, Google is changing things so rapidly that you just might have been left behind. That’s not entirely your fault. Of course, there is also the notion of trying to cheat the system to improve your rankings, and this will cause you trouble sooner or later.
Not sure what could cause Google to penalise your site? Just take a look at some of the reasons below.
Google claims that in some shape or form, it updates it’s algorithm every day. But every now and then, you’ll see rankings fluctuate out of the blue, and it means Google is working on something big. In recent times, there has been the Medic update targeting health, wellness or finance websites, otherwise known as Your Money, Your Life (YMYL) sites. In the past, there’s been the notorious Hummingbird, Panda and Penguin updates, all focusing on different core elements of SEO.
So depending on what Google is trying to achieve – whether it is to penalise websites with poor or little content, or websites that have a large number of toxic backlinks pointing to them – this could be the reason for a significant change in your rankings. Ultimately, if you are optimising your website by following all of Google’s best practices, then these algorithm updates could also prove to be an opportunity to get a huge boost in your rankings if it rewards you for doing so.
Having the same content across different pages on your website, or across different domains, will result in the pages being de-indexed, your rankings dropping and then traffic decreasing as well. Google is making a concerted effort to eliminate duplicate content because it’s been a bad SEO tactic for many years.
If you do have legitimate reasons to have the same content across the site, then you could add a canonical tag to alert Google that there may be two or more pages with the same content on your site.
On the flip side, having very little or no content on your web pages suggests to Google that you’re not interested in informing users about your business, products and services. The same goes if you just scrape content from other websites or just post guest blogs without putting much thought into it. Sites with this type of content are often referred to as ‘spammy’. Ultimately, Google will reward sites that have valuable, relevant and informative content on their site, as per the Panda update.
This one is from the old textbook of ‘cheating the system’, by including dozens or more keywords all in the same body of text, with the idea to get that page rankings for the keywords used. Whilst in theory, it sounds like a plan that could still work, Google has developed technology to pick this up and will penalise you for it. It’s not to say that you can’t use multiple keywords on the same page, they just can’t be loaded together in the same slab of text without making any sense.
A similar ‘old-school’ tactic is to have hidden text or links, which would be achieved by placing them in white text on a white background, or the same way with other colours. Whilst some spammers do get away with this nowadays, it’s quite rare that you can get away with it for too long without getting caught by Google.
This sophisticated technique involves displaying two different version of your website – one that Google sees and then one that visitors see. The idea behind this is that you can manipulate the search results to show up as legitimate, but then the user is redirected to a link that displays something totally different. Again, this is something Google is now able to police.
Unnatural Links To/From Your Site:
As commonly known in the industry, this is one of the most popular penalties applied by Google, which will occur when a site buys or sells links or participates in link schemes in order to boost organic rankings. Google can typically identify links that are considered “unnatural, artificial, deceptive or manipulative”. If you create organic links that serve a purpose to both parties involved, then you’ve got nothing to worry about.
Although getting hacked is not your fault, unfortunately you will suffer the consequences of getting penalised should they implement any bad SEO tactics as mentioned above. Hackers will often try to incorporate malicious content and links on your website, most likely to benefit them, and when found by Google, will often result in a drop in rankings and traffic. Affected pages also often show “This site is hacked” in the search result, which will have the most negative impact on your results.
Of course, there are a number of other determining factors that could be the reason you have been penalised by Google, and we will be able to identify more as they come to light. In the meantime, these ones mentioned above are the most common reasons and can be easily fixed with a change in SEO tactics.
If you believe your website has been penalised by Google or you’re not sure why your rankings have severely dropped recently? Get in touch with our Digital Strategists today so we can help you get back on track!