Page-Level Ranking Penalties on the Rise from Google?

Tue, Mar 31, 2009

Black Hat & Spamming

It can be frustrating trying to track down why suddenly a page (or even an entire site) that ranked well falls in the rankings or worse yet drops off Google’s radar completely. Is it because a competitor has done a better job, because Google changed their search algorithm yet again, or because you have been given a penalty by Google? Lately it seems the answer to this question has all too often been the third choice – and today I’m here to talk a little bit about what we are seeing and how as an SEO professional you can be prepared and try and take action before it hits.

First, let’s talk about Google penalties. Unfortunately, they don’t like to talk much about them or why they give them. However, historically, there has been a pattern to when and why these happen.

First, make sure that your site has simply not lost ranking to a competitor. Sometimes the simplest thing is the answer! Next, check to see if your site is still being indexed by Google using the moniker in the search box. If it comes back negative then Google has removed (banned) you from search. Start working to cleanup your site and file a re-inclusion request with Google once you have your act back together.

Check to see if your site is still ranking for its domain name or other unique branded terms? If not, then you’ve probably been hit with a penalty because you are linking to bad sites, are engaging in paid link schemes or have on-site spam such as keyword stuffing or cloaking going on. Clean all of that mess up and then file a re-inclusion request and don’t do it again!

Try searching for some terms that appear in your title tags and see where you land. If you aren’t in the top 10-20 (and you were before) then most likely what has happened is that Google has wiped a lot of your links of their value. This happens pretty frequently, so you aren’t alone in this regard. The best thing here is to get more natural links from quality sites and build your site that way – it isn’t worth the time or trouble to get links from the “here today, gone tomorrow” sites.

Normally, if you get through this then you don’t have a penalty, but rather you just lost rank. It’s time to put some of those SEO skills to use to get that rank back up!

Now, before you get too excited, let me warn you. Recently Google has been applying algorithms to how they apply penalties and we’ve seen some additional behavior taking place. Let me explain what is going on best that I can.

First, in the past penalties usually affected an entire site. However, recently we’ve been seeing more and more penalties affecting only a single page. Now this is better than having your entire site banned – but it makes you wonder what they are looking for!

Keyword specific penalties are on the upswing as well. These are a pain to track down sometimes because they can be so narrowly focused. This usually occurs because you have paid links pointing to a page and they all have the same anchor text. However, the pain in tracking this down comes from the fact that long tail searches will work just fine, it’s only the very specific exact keywords that will be penalized.

The algorithmic penalties can be difficult to track down, but there are some tell tale signs it might be taking place: the page selling links are constantly being crawled by Google, and the penalty might appear one day and be gone the next as Google fine tunes their detection mechanism.

To detect such behavior, the following information might be useful:

  • Do you have paid links from a link network that Google can detect automatically? If so, get rid of them!
  • Paid links are all using the same anchor text and linking to the same page.
  • The page being linked to doesn’t rank well for the target keyphrase.
  • The page in question does rank well for the long-tailed searches, but not for the specific ones.

We’re still watching what Google is doing and this information is subject to change, but there is no doubt that Google is taking more automated, aggressive approach to keeping rank and search as natural as they can.

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This post was written by:

Cassiano Travareli - who has written 90 posts on SEO Blog | SEO Marketing World.

SEO Specialist! Loves everything about Search Engine Marketing.