You've created a website for your company, great! But on which page does it appear on Google? On Page 1 or on Page 25? After putting your heart and soul into creating the most amazing website, you might be disappointed to find it placed at the end of search results. This will affect your online presence, which, in turn, could result in losing out a section of your potential customers. In order to optimize your website strategically, you need to first understand how Google's algorithm works, on what grounds does Google penalize you, and what you can do to improve your website.
There are many search engines available today, but why do people still search for products and services on Google? It's been 20 years since Google came into existence, and throughout these 2 decades, Google has proven to be leaders in website search engines. As of 2015, Google owns 65% of the search engine market. It provides appropriate results quickly, relevant to what people are looking for. Unlike most search engines with irrelevant ads and pictures slowing down the speed, Google's homepage is very simplistic, reliable, and user-friendly. In fact, the word 'Google' has even officially become a verb for 'searching something on the internet'!
Understanding how Google ranking works
Thousands of websites are created on a daily basis. So how will you become one of the lucky ten to appear on Google's first page? First of all, you need to learn more about PageRank (PR), the algorithm Google uses to rank websites. Named after one of Google's founding members, Larry Page, PageRank has proven to be a very mysterious algorithm, as the rules are not known to the common man. Even though Google has announced in the recent past that the PageRank toolbar won't be updated anymore, Google might be considering other factors to determine rankings, which nobody is aware of. Think about it; if everyone knew how it worked, then there would be a constant competition to be in the top 5 results on Page 1. Hackers could even create weak websites with not-so-great content and be on the top of the search game. It's a trade secret, which will remain a mystery.
How does Google give relevant searches?
Google has a reputation of providing the most reliable and relevant searches, which makes it a highly powerful tool. Googlebot -the search software used by Google - is instrumental in providing appropriate results. Googlebot collects information from millions of pages available on the internet and creates a large index of keywords. If there are any updated pages or new websites, Googlebot also goes through them and include them in the SERPS.
On what grounds Google can penalize your website?
If you do not follow Google's stringent webmaster guidelines, you could be penalized. And this could land you in trouble. When Google rolled out the Penguin update, millions of websites were affected all over the world. As a result of this update, many websites were pushed to the last few pages and many didn't even appear in the search results. Not appearing on SERPS can seriously affect your business. If you intend to keep your site ranking high, it's important that you understand some of the key factors that contribute to a Google penalty. Some of these techniques are called black hat SEO practices, which are used by spammers to decrease their competitor's ranking.
- Buying and renting out links -When people started understanding the importance of links in a website and how Page Rank works, they started the trend of buying and renting out links. This prompted many SEO agencies to create excessive links, which reached a limit. That's when Google decided to penalize websites. Even today, Google has been constantly providing updates about its link building schemes. If you're caught buying or renting out links, Google will inform you about the penalty via the Google Webmaster Tools. But you don't have to worry if you're using hyperlinks to give a good user experience.
- Ineffective links -Sometimes external links can be the reason for the penalty. Imagine that you are adding a link from your official website to your sister concern website, but if the latter is under construction, it could give the user a bad experience. This, consequently, will adversely impact your site's SEO even though you have a content-rich site. Likewise, if your web designer has added footer links or hidden links anywhere on your website, this could also land you in a penalty.
- Suspicious and malicious links - Do you have external links on your websites leading to pornographic or gambling sites? Google gives the utmost importance to ensure that only relevant searches appear on the first pages of SERPS. Links redirecting to malware, porn sites, and hacking sites can badly affect your site ranking.
- Excessive use of anchor texts - Gone are the days when almost every page had a couple of anchor texts redirecting to various external sites. Google penalizes the overuse of anchor texts as it is bad for SEO.
- Excessive use of the header tags - A webpage's header tags or H1 tags is the text that is a part of the HTML in order to create your webpage header. Lengthy H1 tags can affect your site ranking performance.
- Plagiarized content - Sometimes you're in a hurry to build your website, and you end up copying content from another site. This will not only result in a Google penalty, but you could also be sued for copyright infringement. Content theft is a serious offence which can attract legal consequences.
- Duplication of content - Do you have the same content appearing on two pages of your website? Google considers this as lack of interest on your part to rectify the same and can penalize you.
- Keyword stuffing -'If you're looking for bathroom installers to install a bathroom, then call our bathroom installers today.' Doesn't this context read oddly? Imagine a whole page overusing the phrase 'bathroom installers'. The excessive use of keywords is called keyword stuffing. Many websites use this technique to gain the attention of potential customers. When keywords are excessively used on a page, it affects the readability of the website.
- Poor speed - If you're browsing the web to read reviews of a new product, and it takes forever to load, what do you do? Close the tab and move on to the next website giving you the information you want. Low speed can negatively impact SEO. There are many tools available on the internet where you can check how long it takes to load your website. If it is too slow, consider using cashing plugins or a CDN.
- Spammy comments -Even if you own a happening beauty blog with decent site traffic, your site may not appear on SERPS due to the presence of spam in the comments section of any of your posts.
How could you recover from a penalty?
If your site does not comply with the guidelines set by Google Webmaster, you will receive a manual penalty. You will be notified by email regarding this. In the case of algorithm penalties, Google will not notify you if your site has moved up or down, or even has disappeared from the rankings. You need to keep yourself constantly updated to look out for new updates from Google's algorithm.
If you have been penalized, you don't have to worry. There are a lot of things you can do to fix the situation. Many websites have recovered from penalties, especially after adopting best SEO practices. The following tips could help you ensure that you're not manipulating Google's algorithm in any way.
- Subscribing to email alerts by Google Webmaster Tools will notify you if there are any problems with your website. You will be alerted when you get a manual penalty from Google.
- If you've been penalized in the past, go through what went wrong and what you can do to rectify it
- It is important to have unique, original content for your website. Hiring an experienced copywriter could help you fix the issues of plagiarism and keyword stuffing. If you're working on your site's content, ensure that your H1 tags and meta keywords are not overused.
- Ensure your website is SEO optimized. Incorporate the right keywords with the right density, effective Meta tags, Alt tags, title tags etc.
- Examine your website's backlinks to identify which one resulted in the penalty. Remove broken links, suspicious links, and other ineffective links.
- If you're adding external links, ensure those links are relevant pages.
- It is important to go through each comment added to your website. If there are links that's not related to your website in any way, mark those comments as spam. This will give Google the impression that you're working towards maintaining best SEO practices.