Search Engine Penalty: Manual or Algorithmic?
If you’ve noticed a significant dip in traffic to your website that spans a substantial amount of time (more than just a few days or weeks) and you haven’t scaled back any of your marketing efforts and can’t attribute it to external factors like the seasonality of your product or service your website may have incurred a penalty. The first thing to do is to check your Google Webmaster Tools account to see if there have been any notifications. Google may have sent a warning explaining what happened. Then again, maybe they didn’t, so just because there aren’t any notifications it doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a penalty.
There are two different types of search engine penalties. The first is an algorithmic penalty, which means that the penalty is a result of a search engine wide algorithm update. The search spiders now view your website differently, and when a penalty occurs, it means that it didn’t work out in your favor. Something about your website or your SEO activities is no longer in line with what the search engines approve of. For example, the Google Panda and Penguin updates targeted websites that had low quality content and spammy inbound links.
The second type of search engine penalty is a manual penalty. Contrary to popular belief, actual humans do review websites and look for infractions that go against the outlined Webmaster Guidelines. It’s not just the search spiders doing the work. Sometimes a human can catch an issue that might go unnoticed by the search spiders, like when JCPenney got in trouble for buying links. When this happens, a manual penalty is incurred.
One way to determine whether the penalty was algorithmic or manual is to pay close attention to search engine news. Google has become much more transparent about its practices in recent years in hopes that webmasters will follow the guidelines set forth. Google now announces whenever there is going to be an algorithm change and this applies to both major and minor changes. Take a look at the search engine blogs to see if the dip in traffic correlates with when a search engine algorithm change was made. It could happen on a delay, not necessarily the day that the algorithm change was announced. If it doesn’t seem like the penalty was due to any algorithm change, it could be manual.
The way to go about fixing the issue depends on the type of penalty it was. For an algorithmic penalty, recovering is often trickier and takes some time because you need to pinpoint exactly what went wrong. Penguin went after sites that had bad links and overused keyword anchor text linking. Which were you guilty of? One or the other? Both? Not sure? It’s recommended to take action quickly, but by making one change at a time. If you go making all sorts of changes things could get disorganized quickly and you’ll never really know what it was that you were doing wrong. It could even make it worse. Sites that suffer from a manual penalty can address the issue and then submit a reconsideration form.
Penalties are extremely frustrating. In order to avoid them, be sure to follow the search engine Webmaster Guidelines at all times. The “right way” to do things may take longer (sometimes a lot longer) but at least you know that you are safe.
Categorized in: Search Engines
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