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Updated: July 2020.
When you do illegal activities to get top ranking on Google’s SERP, they may recognize it and and you may incur in algorithmic and manual penalties. This can deindex your site completely or just the affected pages.
Algorithmic and Manual Penalties
There are two types of penalties:
Manual penalties are given by Google workers who audit your site against their quality parameters and deem that you are violating at least one of them.
Algorithmic penalties are given by the algorithms which regularly check all the websites for some predefined rules, and penalize you if you are against any one of them.
It does not matter, whether you have a small site or large, Google doesn’t discriminate on the popularity of the sites, if it finds something suspicious then it can affect both small and large sites.
After the Panda 4.0 update, eBay faced the algorithmic penalty. One more example, Thumbtack was also penalized. Thumbtack is a company into which Google invested $100 million, and they still got penalized. Read here more about Panda 4.0 update: https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnrampton/2016/11/29/everything-you-need-to-know-about-panda-4-0/#2dedbea933e9
You can face various types of manual actions, but two of them are common:
- Unnatural Links or Spam Links
- Thin Content
Unnatural Links/ Spam Links
One of the most effective ranking factors for many years is backlinks. We can say that the more backlinks a site has, the better it ranks.
Most of the SEO experts started creating backlinks as soon as they learned about this.
If the reviewer sees that your website has a large number of paid links/spam links/ unnatural links, you will be hit with this manual action.
You can check it through Google Webmaster Tools (Search Console), whether you have got any manual penalty. (Learn how to use Webmasters tools, https://blog.kissmetrics.com/beginners-guide-to-google-webmaster-tools/ )
Although having a penalty is never a good thing, manual penalties are better than algorithmic. Once you fix the issue, you can apply for reconsideration immediately. If you really fixed the problem, the manual action will be lifted by the auditor.
You can read here more about unnatural backlinks: https://moz.com/ugc/what-is-an-unnatural-link-an-in-depth-look-at-the-google-quality-guidelines
Google may hit you with a manual review for having thin content or duplicate content on your webpage.
It consists of information that is copied from any other site.
If a manual reviewer finds that most of your content is derived from somewhere else, you can get hit with this penalty, and your traffic graph will take a dive.
How to stay away from Algorithmic and Manual Penalties?
If you already run the site, make sure to always stay updated. Rules may be changing. Have them in mind, and follow them. Challenging at first, as you get used to playing by Google’s laws, it would be way easier than recovering from algorithmic and manual penalties when the mess is already made.
Algorithms presented below gives penalty if it finds something illegal.
Panda is a well-known algorithm. It affects any website more than other algorithms. The first Panda algorithm was established in 2011 and it decreased the traffic of a lot of low-quality websites. The purpose of the update is to keep low-quality content out from the top results on SERPs.
Panda is an algorithmic penalty. This means, after solving the issue causing the hit, you have to wait for the algorithm to be run again to get your rankings and traffics back.
You can also read about Google’s Panda on Wikipedia here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Panda
While Panda focuses mainly on on-page factors, Penguin focuses on unnatural links or spam links to your website. The Penguin was found in 2012 and affected over 3% of all queries since.
Google never releases the full details of the algorithms, but as the many SEO experts believe, there are three main factors that can be used to identify unnatural links:
- Link quality – In general, we can say that if a site contains natural links only, then it will have the links of both low and high quality. If it is made unnaturally, then they are all of the same nature- either low or high-quality authority links.
- Link growth – If you look at the backlinks’ growth of any large site, then you will find that it gains links at an increased rate over time. Unnatural sites often get a lot of links in a short period.
- Link diversity – The legitimate site gets links from all sources (blogs, articles, blog comments, forums, etc.). However, bad SEOs often create links only from one source (like blog comments). Links should have varied anchor text. Too many links with the same anchor text may raise the issue.
Penguin does not affect the whole site at once, rather some specific pages. It affects those web pages that have the most unnatural backlinks pointing to them, but if those are responsible for most of your traffic, you will face serious problems in your business.
Recovering from a Penguin penalty is possible, but difficult. The process is similar to Panda, which means that after solving the issue, you have to wait for the algorithm to run again to get your rankings and traffics back.
Learn in detail about Penguin here: https://moz.com/learn/seo/google-penguin
The Pirate algorithm works on copyright issues. If a site has a considerable amount of copyright infringement, this algorithm will punish the website by bringing down its rankings.
If you want to stay away from the Pirate, it’s simple: don’t steal content.
Learn more about algorithmic and manual penalties here, https://en.ryte.com/wiki/Pirate_Update
Algorithmic and Manual Penalties are part of every SEO’s life. Understanding the root causes of the above-described punishments is the initial step to keeping them from happening and fixing them as soon as possible if you do get hit. Read also our previous post https://www.seoliquido.com/on-page-off-page-search-engine-optimizations/ for more information about good SEO.
If you found that you’ve been executing something that may get your site punished, stop it and correct it. Hopefully, you’ll get it in time to avoid a penalty.