So, you used to have a high ranking website on Google SERPs. However, you have noticed lately that you can’t find your site on the first page of search results. You browse through the second and third page but you still can’t spot it.
Hmm, what could be the problem?
Well, it is likely that your website may be penalised.
Have you heard of Google’s algorithm changes? Surely, you are aware of the Panda and Penguin updates. But if you have been off to another universe the past year, you can have a quick look into this topic by going over Google Algorithm Change History.
Now, how exactly would you know if your site is under punishment for having spammy links or duplicate content? Or, if that is truly the case, since some low-quality websites may have just copied your posts or linked to you.
No matter what the situation is, whether it is entirely your fault or not, you can watch out for the following indications.
1. Drop in Ranking
Well, this is the most obvious. If your webpages are constantly on the top SERP and they suddenly plummet to the bottom pages, it can be a sign. Then again, you won’t know for sure if you don’t have the next identification.
Another apparent clue is checking if the spiders have de-indexed your site. To know this, you can type in your URL on Google Search. If your website does not appear in the results pages, then you have been penalised.
3. Penalty Notification
Yes, Google lets you know if it has punished your site. You didn’t expect that the search giant would take your pages down without informing you, right?
Receiving a notice is the easiest means of diagnosis. To determine if you have one, you can access your Webmaster Tools (GWT) account. Then, look for a message, which may contain the following words (that is, in a gist):
“Dear site owner or webmaster of http://www.
We’ve detected that some of your site’s pages may be using techniques that are outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
Specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site that could be intended to manipulate PageRank. Examples of unnatural linking could include buying links to pass PageRank or participating in link schemes.”
Now, this is only half of the notification’s content. The next part of it advises you to make changes in order to meet Google’s quality guidelines. When you are done, you can send your website for reconsideration in SERPs.
The note also recommends you to provide details on natural links that you cannot remove or control. Finally, it tells you to check out the Webmaster Help Forum if you have enquiries regarding solutions to certain issues.
You may dread getting this message; however, it beats not being aware of your mistakes as a webmaster.
Additionally, you can use a detailed investigation using the next tactics.
4. Lesser Organic Traffic
Do you remember the Penguin Update? Well, it can affect the amount of visits your website gets. You will know if there is indeed an impact by logging in to your Google Analytics account and following these steps.
- Go to “Traffic Sources”
- Click on “Sources”
- Choose “Search”
- Proceed to “Organic”
- Remove the traffic coming from other search engines
- Hit on “Source” and then, “Google”
When you observe that your organic traffic has declined over the past months, this is an indication that Google’s algorithm changes have an effect on your site.
5. Unnatural Anchor Text Distribution
How do you determine this?
You can carry out a quick check on your top 20 links using Open Site Explorer. To perform the test, you can do these steps.
- Log on to opensiteexplorer.org
- Type in your website URL and click “Search”
- Format the drop down box settings to: Show—followed +301—links from—only external—pages to—pages on this root domain—and—group by domain
- Hit on “Filter”
Afterwards, you will see all the links to your website. Concentrate on the “Anchor Text” section to verify its distribution. If you notice more than 50% of the leading links have similar or nearly the same anchor texts, this is a warning of an unnatural link profile.
Of course, these are not the only indications of a penalty. If you want to discover more warning signs, you can always perform a deeper check with the help of an expert.
So, do you think that your website could be affected by Google’s algorithm changes? Or, has your ranking dwindled considerably already? Don’t hesitate to tell us your insights about search engine penalties.
About the Author: Emma Tomlinson is the Head of Retail at Smart Traffic SEO company, which provides clients from all over the world with technical resources and solutions.