Search Engine Penalties
Common search engine penalties and how they work
There are a vast range of penalties that search engines will place on websites. The reasons for these penalties vary, but generally they are used to ensure when users perform a search they find the most relevant websites. Below is a list of common practices that will result in penalties and how you can avoid them.
Duplicate Content Penalty
Unintentional duplicate content on a single domain rarely results in a penalty as many sites unwittingly allow multiple urls to point to the same page. However, having content or articles on your site that are available on other websites will cause a duplicate content penalty. These penalties can effect only a single page or an entire domain.
Common Cause: Copying content from another website.
How to avoid it: Write unique articles for your website, don’t have large amounts of text displayed on all of your sites pages, and use Canonical URL’s.
Cloaking, Doorway Pages, and Spamdexing
All too common, the above methods are used to trick search robots by displaying different content than is displayed to website visitors. These methods are generally easy to detect for the robots. The page may quickly redirect the user to another page, have hidden text, or be full of keyword stuffing of little value to the visitor. Read this Wikipedia article on Spamdexing for more information. People did this because it worked then, but now any site that is still around using these methods will suffer greatly. Our job is to PREDICT the future of search engines algorithms, and ensure that our methods will not result in penalties in the future.
Modern Example: Many companies have a list of cities or zipcodes that they provide service in. Each page has practically duplicate content except for small changes to make the page appear relevant for a specific city.
How to fix it: Remove doorway pages and irrelevant pages from your website as they are discovered. If your website no longer displays in search engines you will need to fix every instance of this violation and submit a reindexing request.
An old, black hat seo technique was to create invisible text on web pages in an effort to increase rankings. You may unknowingly have hidden text on your website, so it is a good idea to look over your website or have a professional perform an assessment.
Common Cause: Working with Black Hat SEO’s.
How to fix it: Remove any hidden text the moment it is discovered.
Spammy Link Building
If your website has a large number of low quality links or paid links from unfavorable websites, then you are likely to face penalties. Most SEO’s concentrate on only high quality link building, but many inexperienced SEO’s can wreak havoc on a websites rankings by building and purchasing bad links.
Common Cause: Low quality link buys, blog comment spamming, link farms.
How to avoid it: A handful of high quality links are far more valuable than thousands of low quality links – build only quality links to your site!
How can I avoid penalties altogether? It sounds like it’s easy to be penalized?
It is far from easy to receive a penalty from search engines! I would estimate that 80% or more of websites online are created by amateurs, and these amateur webmasters do create excellent content. Search engines have to be very patient, like a proud parent, and take into account common mistakes and errors amateurs will make or they will eliminate millions of relevant, useful websites from their index. For every penalty a Search Engine creates, they probably spend 10000% more effort ensuring that quality websites are not accidentally penalized!
There’s a simple formula to follow to avoid penalties: DO NOT do anything you think is an attempt to trick search engines! Playing by the rules is the best rule of thumb, and will ensure your efforts last for the long term. Working with legitimate, experienced SEO’s is another surefire method to ensure your not asking for penalties. Your goal should be to generate traffic that is relevant to your website and your company, through linking from sites where your target audience is and paying for advertising on sites that follow search engines guidelines for paid advertise.
The goal of SEO is to fully optimize your website and increase your rankings for relevant terms. Targeting keywords you should not be ranking for is pointless, and will be of little benefit to a legitimate company.