How Can Publishers And Webmasters Avoid Google Penalties?

To beat the competition, publishers and webmasters often engage in several SEO practices that may violate Google’s quality standards or trigger algorithms such as Penguin. This ultimately results in penalties, which could range from a website demotion to a complete ban. Shall you forget about sound SEO optimization and traffic boosting techniques, then? Of course not! You need to keep at hand all possible ban reasons to avoid and handle Google penalties.

In this post, we will walk through how to avoid getting Google penalties, how to monitor your website’s health, and how to fix a penalty (if you’ve already been slammed with one)! But first, let’s build a solid foundation to start off.

Google penalty explained

Google penalties are actions to block your website from search results or demote rankings. These actions are taken both manually and via algorithms. If you boost traffic in an unfair way (or Google suspects you in using shady methods), you will be penalized and lose your website traffic.

Google algorithmic filtering

The search platform applies two major algorithms—Panda and Penguin. These filtering scripts find and devalue websites that break regulations, particularly relating to content or backlinks. Google takes these practices to curb irrelevant and artificial site boosts, which result in unnatural ranking.

Penalties and algorithms publishers and webmasters may face

While penalties may be automatic and manual, Panda and Penguin are algorithmic filters that flag an erring website. Since the search engine constantly updates its algorithmic filters and the reviewers don’t take their job lightly, one is ultimately guaranteed to affect your site.

An example is the latest Chrome 86 aimed at detecting malicious content on the crawlable internet. Before we shed some light on the recent Chrome updates, let’s answer the big question: What can you do to avoid Google penalties?

8 best website practices to avoid Google penalties

1. Focus on your LDR

As part of its continuous change in policies, the search giant now places less value on authority signals (like PageRank) and more attention to Linking Domain Relevancy (LDR).

For instance, say your website is about cat food. It would make a lot of sense if a large part of your linking profile consists of links from sites about cats, cat food, and pets. Sure, there’s going to be a small percentage of links from unrelated and general sites, like news hubs or directories.
Any cat food website with a natural link profile is going to have more links from other cat food pages. This is what Linking Domain Relevancy is all about. Your backlinks are essentially considered more relevant and natural if they come from sites that deal in similar niches, contents, and/or products.

So, websites with tons of unrelated links will surely get the biggest blow when the Google storm comes on. Manual actions aside, sites without relevant links have a 50% probability of getting flagged by the Penguin algorithm filter.

Action: Ensure that at least 30% of your links are relevant to your audience and come from sites with similar niches.

2. Write smart anchor texts

An anchor is a clickable text that carries the link to another web page. The words are presented in another color (usually blue), and they’re important for ranking because they should contain keywords of the pages being linked to. According to the company, anchor texts affect about 3.1% of search results and ranking.

It didn’t take long for publishers to start manipulating these texts, so Google had to pay more attention flagging irrelevant anchor texts with precision.

To avoid falling victim, use the recommended anchor text types and generic anchors such as ‘this site’ or ‘click here.’ SEO experts have come up with an anchor text distribution ratio. However, the formula varies depending on the source. SEMrush, for instance, recommends keeping your branded anchors at 30% to 40% level while Serpstat advises on 50%.

By digging through a couple of reputable articles, you will come up with your perfect anchor distribution formula. It will contain:

  • Money keyword anchor text (link building)
  • Generic anchors
  • Domain name anchors
  • Bare URLs
  • Webmaster’s name anchor text
  • Branded anchor text
  • Exact match anchor text
  • Partial match anchor text

Action: Use unique and branded anchor texts while avoiding misleading links.

3. Regulate guest posting

Guest posting is one of the most effective strategies for building an authoritative link profile, but it could also be your website’s undoing. Excessive guest-posting, or guest-posting from an untrusted source, will raise some dust with the search engine.

Seeing that guest posts are important for website authority and a concrete link profile, your goal is to keep them as natural as possible to the risk of having your links devalued.

Action: Limit guest post links to 20% of your link profile.

4. Build your brand signals

Branding says a lot about credibility.

That’s why Google is quicker to penalize websites that lack branding than their identified peers. In the same vein, a penalized branded website also stands the chance of faster recovery.

Ergo, you need to start looking like a brand. Here’s what to do:

Build solid social media presence

Google can use social media statistics to decide whether you are a brand or not, and that comes down to your followings and engagements. This says to the search giant that your website belongs to a brand they can trust. So if you want to appear as a brand, you should start building a strong social media presence.

However, ensure your social media accounts and engagements are valid. Google goes after sites linked to social media pages with fake followers, and they’re quite easy to spot. For example, a Twitter account with 12 tweets and 8,000 followers looks suspicious.

Don’t build an unnatural number of likes, views, comments, retweets, etc. Just as backlinks are about quality, so are social links.

Design a professional site

To avoid Google penalties, your website needs to be designed to look professional. Take extra steps to build trust in your brand, like having a physical address or phone number available.

5. Build trust and credibility

Most site owners tend to put 100 of their time and energy into relevancy and authority, completely ignoring trust.

When Google rolls out updates, this is your trump card for penalty-dodging. That’s why tons of websites with an influx of keyword-rich anchor texts were able to survive the latest Penguin update. They had built up so much trust that Google simply looked the other way.

Relevancy + Authority + Trust = Rank by Majestic SEO

Action: Check out your Trust Flow with Majestic SEO. The goal is to make the trust flow at least half of your citation flow. Get as many links as you can from websites; remember to include many .gov and .edu links.

Since Google constantly updates its algorithms, the game is always to stay one step ahead. Don’t sit back and wait until your link profile becomes so difficult to repair. Constantly monitor your website’s health and watch against bad links, untrusted websites, and avoid link schemes.

Action: Google examines your link profile as a whole, and you should, too. Pay special attention to anchor text distribution, trust metrics, link types, deep links, etc.

7. Place user-friendly ads

When it comes to managing passive income, websites are at the heart of traffic monetization. Many website owners and publishers put ads on their websites to get highly paid. Sometimes, the effect of their efforts is the opposite: users churn, rates drop, penalties are here, right on cue. Why so?

Users come for valuable content while multiple ads (e.g., when publishers oversaturate pages with banners) look like clutter and make it hard to navigate. Users are even more intolerant while surfing on mobiles. That’s why we don’t recommend using pop-ups as they’re very intrusive. However, several ad types are friendly and totally safe.

Types of user-friendly ad formats that are compatible with Google

Push Ads and Social Bar. Built like the next-gen replacements of web push notifications, these formats rub on all OS (incl iOS) and comply with Google requirements. Lightweight and neat, they don’t overload websites and don’t affect the page download speed.

Native Banners. In addition to the size customization option, this ad format seems to be one of the least intrusive. Readers willingly consume ads like they do with the editorial content.

Popunders. Despite being large-sized ads, pounders are less intrusive than, say, multiple banners, as they open in the new tab/window of a user’s browser. The only warning here is not to put a higher frequency so as not to frustrate users and make your CPM drop.

Google has become smarter with its BERT algorithm on board. This algorithm can be applied to a large body of content. What BERT does is understands human search queries to help in providing users with the best-matching web pages. It works with the context and user intents, not with keywords. So if the article is shallow or containing the appropriate keywords without being related to the topic/niche, Google probably will cut its scores.

Now, let’s move on to the common pitfalls publishers should avoid managing their websites’ content.

Common Google violations/schemes to avoid

The Google Webmaster Guidelines are set (and steadily refreshed) to give web users a fine experience while using Google services. The release of Chrome 84 and 86, which penalize websites that use abusive push notifications and flag sites that post malicious content, are examples of efforts toward this end. These actions might lead to a downward of the web push ad industry. What are these?

Typical mistakes webmasters make while boosting their websites

As a web publisher, you should be well informed on the common actions that violate the Google Webmaster Guidelines. These include:

  • Abusing push notifications
  • *Scraped content 
  • **Cloaking images and texts
  • Keyword stuffing
  • ***Thin content
  • Spamming
  • Free hosting spams
  • Unnatural links
  • User-generated spam
  • Irrelevant backlinks

While most of the actions appear to be clear, some need deeper explanations.

*Scraped content
According to Google, scraped content doesn’t belong to this particular website; it was literally stolen from another, more authoritative web source. Publishers scrape whole articles, reproduce other sites’ content feed, or stream videos from donor websites. To avoid getting Google penalties, you should never practice content scraping.

Cloaking is another way to get banned by search engines. It’s a practice of showing different URLs or content to search engines and real visitors. Cheating on Google won’t end up well, so avoid using this technique.

***Thin content
Google strives to deliver valuable content, so it demands the very same intent from the publishers. Thin content is a repetitive copy that appears on multiple pages with no or slight changes. That’s a point of concern for affiliate marketers who use a copy/paste method to refer to merchants’ products.

Monitoring your website’s health to avoid Google penalties

As part of your measures against any Google sanction, you need to monitor the status of your website regularly and deliberately.

  • Get necessary tools such as Google Search Console, eRanker, or Bing Webmaster Tools
  • Download all links to your site
  • Trace low-quality links
  • Completely delete such links or add the tag rel=”nofollow”

How to get notified of a Google penalty

Google team manually warns suspicious websites. And when this happens, you’ll get a notification from Google employees telling you what unusual activities they found on your website that brought the action.

They also offer suggestions on how to fix the penalty, after which you can submit a reconsideration request. This could take about three to six months, depending on the kind of sanction in question.

On the other hand, an action on your website could trigger an algorithm. When this happens, your website gets blacklisted without a notification. However, if you monitor the web health and performance closely enough, you’ll soon see a dip in traffic.

Summing up, an equally effective way to detect penalties is to use the Search Console.

Removing Google penalty

So you’ve been slammed with a penalty and don’t know how to go about recovery. First, Google has sent you a notification, and you now have an idea of what the problem is. You’re now faced with the challenge of fixing it and convincing the moderators to lift the ban as soon as possible.

Penalty removal calls for a calculated and careful process. It could take from a few days to about a year, or even more than that in very rare cases. Here’s how to go about your Google penalty recovery.

Steps to remove Google penalty:

  1. Download all your backlinks.
  2. Analyze them one after the other.
  3. Classify all links accordingly.
  4. Trace links to their direct sources.
    * Be careful with suspicious referral domains as they might be a source of bot traffic. Read our guide on how to detect bot and fake traffic.
  5. Remove bad links or add them to the disavow files.

Use this function with caution, as it may affect your website performance. It is worth reading a manual from Google on how to disavow links before you start.

  1. File a reconsideration request.
  2. Segment all your recovery attempts into 3 or more recovery requests.
  3. Constantly monitor your link profile.
  4. Wait patiently.

Stay safe and earn more from your website traffic

As we could make sure, Google penalties could be disastrous to your web performance, but that’s far from the end of the road. You could still fix it! As always, you need to identify the source of the problem. That’s the first step.

Regularly monitor your website’s health, check unnatural links, partner with trusted ad networks that can take care of your web content safety. These activities, when done regularly, help avoid Google penalties and prevent traffic losses.


This article was originally published on Adsterra.