The world of SEO can be confusing if you’re doing it all by yourself. A lot of small businesses – if they realize how important SEO is, but can’t afford a professional service, will do it all by themselves. A lot of the times this will work out well for them – sometimes it might not.
One of the obvious setbacks in taking care of your own SEO is comparable to any other service you might need as a business – be it garbage collection, plumbing, graphic design or servicing your own computers.
Even if you chose to do so to cut down costs, sometimes the costs of doing it yourself are actually more than paying a professional – namely, when it comes to sacrificing the time you should be spending on your business. Time is money after all.
If you have nevertheless decided to brave it on your own, or are in between SEO companies – here are a few tips in case of an emergency. Using tools that are easy to use, like Google PageSpeed Insights, ProRank Tracker, Moz, Google Analytics is cheap and a must for amateurs as well as pros. If you got hit by a Google penalty and aren’t sure what to do next, here are some tips to help you get started:
What’s a Google Penalty Anyway?
Sometimes, trying to make your website popular and rank well is like playing a very complicated game where only the referee knows the rules. In fact, it’s a sport where the referee seems to own the stadium and the ticket stand too.
In this game, penalties get passed out very much like in soccer or football. Even if you don’t know the rules. This means that sometimes you break the rules without even meaning to. In a better scenario, a penalty may alert you to a problem with your site that you didn’t even know you had.
Penalties are there for a good reason – after all, Google is there to provide you with the most relevant answers. Since Google launched, it has been perfecting this system by evolving their algorithms and rules. They don’t publicise them because they want you to concentrate on how to make your site more useful – not on how to please them. This in turn has helped greatly with the quality of the content that ranks high in the SERPs. Win – win.
Sometimes the penalty is actually handed down by a real, live, breathing Google employee. How to tell which one is which and how to recover? Read on:
Some of the most common penalty triggers can be
- Keyword abuse – remember way back when, when you typed “Why are Cuban cigars illegal” you got something like “We sell cuban cigars. Our Cuban cigars are handmade. If you’re thinking of buying a Cuban cigar, please contact our Cuban cigar specialist at our big Cuban cigars company” and so on and so forth. This actually used to work. There are many reasons it doesn’t anymore. Don’t even try it.
- Hidden links or text – again – why would you even try?
- Duplicate content – nobody likes a copycat, and if you display duplicate content – that means something that’s been plagiarized from another website or even re-written to sound just a little bit different, Google will flag it. A good idea is to use tools like Grammarly in order to check for plagiarism before you publish. Sometimes, even the best articles will get flagged for duplicate content if they haven’t used quotations properly, or if they reworded some of their research.
- Deceptive redirects and cloaking – when you make the user do something they don’t want to, like redirecting them to another website without clicking (some people will remember cascades of rapidly opening windows flooding their screen), or making your website look different than it actually is. This is a deceptive tactic, and most legitimate business owners won’t think of doing so, unless they are the kind of person who would kidnap someone off the street only to let them out in their trinket store.
If you are guilty of any of these trespasses, it’s time to admit you were naughty and move on to make your website better, cleaner and more helpful to your target audience.
A manual penalty usually results from someone at Google going over your backlink profile and being horrified. Don’t worry – there’s a few easy ways you can get rid of a manual penalty:
You will probably get an email from the Google Search Console if you have a manual penalty. This will alert you that you’ve been flagged.
This is helpful because in that email, they will actually send you tools with which you can fix this problem. You will get an option to “disavow links” – a chance to cut yourself off from any toxic sites that are linking to you.
You will also get an option to argue your case with a “Reconsideration Request”. This means trying to convince the humans of Google why they are wrong. It’s a long shot but definitely not impossible.
Often, it’s a great red flag that you should take a closer look at the health of your backlinks – while a few specific ones might have gotten you flagged, this is often a symptom of a wider problem and a cue for you to do some house cleaning, so you won’t get flagged again.
You might also check if the toxic backlinks aren’t a direct result of an attack from your competitors. Hey – it happens, all is fair in war and business. This is a good reason to keep track of your backlinks at all times.
In the end, if you do your own SEO – think of it like maintaining a garden. There will be branches and fast growing vines you need to prune, weeds you have to rip out and fertilizer you have to put in in order for your plants to grow. Also, planting new plants is great from time to time.
In layman’s terms: clean up your backlinks, take care of your content and keep an eye on what your competition is doing. Above all, play fair and remember you are there for your readers, clients and consumers, and so is Google.