For years, you’ve been steadily building a website that not only effectively represents your business’ products/services to your audience, but has also earned the trust of Google as an authoritative online presence. As a result, you’ve gained a solid foothold in organic first page rankings for a number of your targeted keywords. Then, without warning, your website has lost some of its enviable page one rankings, or in an extreme case, your website can no longer be found.
Why Google Penalizes Websites
As the World’s leading search engine, Google regularly updates its search algorithms in an effort to provide the best search results to its users. This can result in partially or entirely removing from the search results, website pages that have utilized questionable optimization practices (i.e. Black Hat SEO).
Google penalizes website for many reasons. Here are just a few reasons why your website might be penalized by Google.
Your Website Has Duplicate Content
Having content that is copied from another website is a huge “no-no”. So, for example, say you are a dermatologist starting a new practice in Philadelphia and copy your web page content from a dermatologist in Miami because it’s easier than writing your own, unique web page content. This is a bad idea because copying content from another website (even if it is in a different part of the country) would be considered duplicate content and as a result, your website should be penalized by Google. There may also be legal consequences of copying (without permission) content from another website, but that is another topic altogether.
Unnatural Number, Pattern and/or Quality of Links to Your Website
Let’s say that your website has been around a few years, and has periodically accumulated some inbound links. Then, you unwittingly hire a shady SEO company, who “buys” several hundred or thousands of inbound links to your website. Moreover, these large number of paid inbound links to your website come from “bad neighborhoods” (poor quality, spam websites) and appear over a very short period of time which is completely unnatural/unusual given the previous history of your website’s inbound link activity. Google will detect this unnatural “pattern” and number of inbound links. They may also conclude that these inbound links are paid (which is in direct violation of Google guidelines) because they are from known spam websites. To address this penalty, you may want to “disavow” all of these bad inbound links within your Google Search Console, which can be quite a tedious process.
Your Website has Low Quality Content
Your website is deemed to have content that does not provide legitimate, keyword relevant information about a topic, has numerous spelling and grammatical errors and is not well-organized or easy to understand (or makes sense).
Your Website has been Hacked
If Google has determined that your website has been hacked and infected with malware, they may immediately penalize it. Why? Because they want to prevent any of their users from being harmed by visiting your website.