Do You Recognize The Early Warning Signs Of Google Penalties?
In the SEO world, achieving top rankings in Google can be a bit of a puzzle. Actually keeping those high rankings is a problem all its own. Even sites that play by the rules may eventually find that their rankings begin to slip. At times, it may be stiffer competition. Other times, you may be hit with a penalty.
The good news is that you may be able to spot the early warning signs of a penalty. Here are a few tips to help you spot an impending drop in your rankings, and what you can do to stop or reverse it.
Warning Sign One: A Slow Slip down The Page
One of the first signs of an impending penalty is that your rankings begin fluctuating more than usual. There is always going to be some variation in rankings. These may have to do with personalized results, the geographic location of a searcher, or a hyper competitive market where competing sites work to outdo one another.
The thing to watch is the slow slide. A common theme on various webmaster forums is that a number one ranking slips to number two. After additional SEO work, usually link building, the rankings do not come back. They continue to slide. Your number two ranking becomes a number five ranking and continues sliding.
This is often followed with a message in Google Webmaster Tools of unnatural links or some other problem.
Warning Sign Two: Head Terms Still Rank, But Search Traffic Still Drops
The main focus of SEO is to target “head terms”. These terms have the largest individual traffic, but most search traffic is comprised of the long tail. Long tail keywords represent a very small amount of traffic on their own, but when added together, they make up far more traffic than head terms.
If your rankings for head terms still look good, but your traffic is declining, you are likely losing out on the long tail traffic you once had.
A penalty may be on the way.
This is a good time to also note that thin content pages and pages with stuffed keywords are also a target. This can result in a penalty of its own, but it will be swift and will usually come with no warning of any kind.
Warning Sign Three: You Stop Ranking for Your Brand Name
Brand identifiers are a powerful signal in Google’s efforts to rank websites. A strong and powerful brand is more likely to rank highly for target keywords. If you perform a Google search for your brand name and do not come up at number one, you are in trouble.
teIn very few instances, other rankings may remain, but this is not the case. Regardless, it is important to perform periodic brand queries.
What You Can Do
First, clean up your site. Ensure that the architecture is easy for search engines to crawl. Improve or remove thin pages. Make sure your site is valuable and well developed for both users and search engines alike.
Second, take a look at your inbound links. Too many links with the same anchor text, from low authority domains, and site wide links in the footer and sidebar are the culprit of many algorithmic penalties. Remove as many of these as you can. For those you cannot remove, use the Link Disavow Tool from Google.
Third, take ownership of your content. Implement the rel=”canonical” tag to show Google you are the original source. Google Authorship is important here as well. Implement it on your sites to show that the work is yours.
Finally, get better links. Link building is hard. The easy to get links are low value and are likely to be a problem later. A link from Forbes is a great link. A link from a little known forum is not.
Stopping a penalty can be difficult. Reversing one can seem impossible. Both can be done, but the key to both is vigilance. Do things the right way, and if you have broken the rules, stop doing so. Check your traffic every day, and take steps to reverse a probable penalty as quickly as you can.