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They’re the three words no web marketer ever wants to hear: Google.Algorithm.Penalty.

To make matters worse, you won’t really “hear” about this type of penalty so much as you’ll just happen to notice it. In fact, algorithm penalties can be challenging to manage since they are typically not accompanied by any type of notification (thanks, Google).

Regardless of whether you get an email or not, however, you’ll know you’ve been hit when you see the sudden drop in your organic search traffic.

So, if you’ve been unlucky enough to get hit with an algorithm penalty, what can you do to minimize the impact and make a quick recovery?

First, Identify the Problem

Before you can begin the process of recovering from a penalty, you’ll have to determine which type you’ve been hit with: Panda or Penguin. In simplest terms, Panda penalties focus on parts of your website that may be hindering usability, while Penguin targets suspicious inbound links coming to your website.

If it’s not immediately obvious (remember those shady inbound links you paid for…oops…), you can usually determine which penalty you’re dealing with by checking for known algorithm updates. Simply match up the dates of recent algorithm changes with the timing of the drop in your organic search traffic, and you should have the answer you’re looking for. (Moz provides an excellent resource that highlights all of Google’s algorithm changes, including the dates of each, to help you pinpoint which may have impacted your site.)

Then, Address the Cause

Once you’ve successfully used your detective skills to determine whether your algorithm penalty was Panda or Penguin related, the next step is addressing the issue that triggered the penalty in the first place.

If it’s Panda, that means your site has usability issues. This could include a number of things such as duplicate content, too many ads, poor navigation or slow site speed. To begin the recovery process, you’ll need to conduct a complete assessment of your current site. Consider the following guidelines:

  • Ideally, there should be no more than two ads per page
  • Ads should not all be clustered “above the fold”
  • Your site should contain unique content that is relevant and of good quality (no duplicates!)
  • Blog posts should be updated regularly

You’ll also need to assess the speed of your site. There are a number of free online tools to help you do so, including this one by Pingdom. If your site is not measuring up to par, you may want to consider switching web hosts. Finally, evaluate the navigation of your site. Is it easy to get around? User-friendly? (Be honest!)

Penguin penalties are a lot more straightforward, since they are triggered by inbound links. If you’re dealing with this type of penalty, you’ll need to spend some time auditing your existing links and removing those that may be considered suspicious.

Redesign and Execute a New Strategy

Once you’ve gone through the hassle of determining what type of algorithm penalty you were hit with, followed by the painstaking task of identifying and correcting what caused the problem in the first place, it’s pretty safe to say you’ll never want to go through that again. That’s why it’s so important to stay on top of the changes that Google is implementing on a regular basis and ensure that you’re in compliance beforehand.

Perhaps the most important thing to note when avoiding future penalties is the changing face of SEO. Times, they are a ‘changin’ and what used to be considered the Holy Grail of search engine optimization has begun to shift. For instance, instead of focusing on keywords, emphasis is now being placed on quality content (where it should have been all along, but I digress…) As long as you keep up with these changes, your site will be in a much better position to stay in Google’s good graces going forward.

If you’ve found your website in the penalty box with Google or any of the search engines, contact us at 615-241-2278 or email us at doug@dialedinlocal.com today!

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