Google is the internet’s biggest search engine right now, maintaining nearly 90% market share. The more visible your website is on Google, the more likely customers will click on the link and buy from you. However, to prevent abuse, Google also gives out penalties to offending websites. These Google penalties can and will significantly affect your search engine rankings as well as your potential sales.

Causes a Google Penalty?

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New Algorithms Aren’t Penalties

Most of the time, Google penalties happen because of algorithm changes. Since ranking shifts often coincide with an algorithm change, people incorrectly assume that when the algorithm changed, they got a penalty for something they weren’t even watching out for. What algorithms really do is change the criteria for ranking websites. So what used to work, doesn’t now.

Being on the south side of an algorithm change can decrease your ranking, but it isn’t exactly a penalty. If you change your approach and play nicely with the new criteria that the new update likes, you should be able to regain your old rankings.

You’ve Been Hacked

When your website is compromised, hackers take joy in messing with your site by showing their promotional content, or redirecting to their own websites for their gains. Once your website is marked as hacked, Google automatically adds a warning to your website, and all of your potential visitors coming from Google are cautioned about yoru hacked status.  Think many people will continue through to your site?  No.

The easy fix for this is to contact your web eveloper or host and see what they can do to prevent access from the hacker and repair the damage. You’re going to need to put in a little bit of elbow grease to strengthen your security.

Don’t Be Sneaky

A Google bot’s job is to scour your website and determine how relevant it is to certain keywords. A past trend was for people to stuff their websites with a whole bunch of keywords in an attempt to increase their search engine relevance and visibility. It may seem like an ingenious strategy, but Google has gotten wise to this practice and will slam down a penalty faster than you can say “web crawler.”

Keyword stuffing is against Google’s guidelines.  So don’t go there to begin with.  But, if you already started digging your grave, get out before you get buried.  The easiest solution to this is to remove the excess keywords and make sure that your high-quality content flows naturally.

The Long and Short

In the end, your best bet is to keep abreast of any new guidelines that Google introduces. It can seem daunting since they can have several hundred 600 updates a year, but only few of them are significant. If you notice that your site’s traffic has dropped, do your homework to see if the problem was due to an algorithm update or manual penalty. Updates just require you to modify your SEO strategies while violations necessitate deep cleaning of your site. Either way, don’t panic, do the work, and resubmit your website to Google.