As the world’s most used search engine, Google is integral to your marketing strategy, no matter what your business niche. The technology giant has its own, complex and ever-changing rules when it comes to penalizing sites and falling foul to these can mean a considerable drop in rankings. Essentially, if Google considers your site to be full of duplicate, poor quality or badly presented content, they will enforce sanctions that mean you appear much further down the rankings than you would like. “Manual action” is quite problematic as this means that the company has taken a look at your site and decided that something you’ve done or indeed, omitted, warrants a more severe penalty.
Though the world of SEO and analytics can still be something of a dark art to those who aren’t experienced in it, there are a number of things you can do to make sure that you don’t fall foul of the ever-present and ever watchful eye of the Google gatekeepers.
Despite what your marketing agency guru may tell you, the sheer volume of content and keyword density is never enough to make a significant difference to the way your website performs in the long term. Though this may have been the case in the past, Google is now more concerned with the quality of websites than ever before. Even if you enjoy a small boost in rankings based on a few hastily written and heavily stuffed blog posts or articles, if they are full of spelling and grammar mistakes or are seen to blatantly copy content from other sites, sooner or later, they will cause problems for you. Though many people only skim read articles while at work or while casually browsing, those who do read them in detail will notice if you’ve recycled too much or tried to stuff the space for the sake of forcing your chosen keywords into the text. Similarly, images that are grainy, the wrong size or simply of poor quality will be treated in the same way. Time, effort and attention to detail can’t be replaced by volume or seemingly clever workarounds. In simple terms, if you put in the effort to create or gather quality content for your site, the chances are that you will be rewarded with a decent place in the rankings. If you cheap out or try to cut corners, you will most likely be punished.
- Avoid Black Hat SEO Practices
This term essentially relates to any SEO practices that are considered unethical or potentially illegal. Though unfortunately quite common in digital marketing, Google has begun rigorously cracking down on those who try to circumnavigate their rules with this type of technique. An example is using things like “cloaking pages” which are written specifically for bots to read, rather than humans. This will drive up the rankings but also means that when human users search for certain keywords or specific pieces of information, they will be unable to find it on your site. Ultimately, it is human users who can become customers, so though you may experience a short term boost, your real world reputation will suffer. Now Google are aware of this practice, they will rightly penalize it quite heavily. Similarly, indiscriminate linking for its own sake will create more problems. Though having hundreds of links may seem great, if more than half of them are to dummy sites or even irrelevant content, they won’t be of any help to you in the long term. Always try to use white hat SEO practices where possible. There are many grey areas and in some cases, it can be unavoidable to use certain techniques, but willingly adopting practices that are frowned upon by Google is one of the fastest ways to ensure your site suffers heavy sanctions and consequently, a significantly reduced ranking.
- Try not to use paid links
We understand, link building takes time and that’s something you probably don’t have in abundance but Google is very clear on their stance when it comes to websites who use paid links to boost their traffic. They are 100% against it. This may seem a little idealistic in a world where paying for links seems commonplace but as things continue to shift towards more organic content and away from bot-driven traffic boosting schemes, avoiding paid links is basically best practice. Though some people might argue with this due to the capacity for very quick, very noticeable results, what you achieve through paid links is essentially a false front for your website. You’re convincing web users that you are more successful and popular than you really are, which will ultimately backfire when you get found out and penalized. If you absolutely have to buy links, always try to do this in small doses and don’t do it too often. Sooner or later this practice will become obsolete anyway, so the most logical thing to do would be to try and ignore it if you can.
Make Use of the Google Search Console
SEO and rankings don’t have to be a total mystery. Signing up to use this service means you can find out when Google has issued you with a penalty or imposed any kind of sanction. This means you can do something about the issue before letting them know you have fixed it. This way, you can stay on top of how your site is performing and address problems as they arise, rather than waiting to discover them months later. This software also emails you when it detects problems such as broken links, so in many ways, it does a lot of the hard work for you. It makes sense to try and do everything you can to stay on side with Google, considering their influence and they have provided this tool to allow you to do just that. There are rarely any quick fixes and workarounds, but at the very least, you can find out whether your site is of a good enough standard to rise through the ranks.