Google have a search engine, which is nothing more than a very large program. A program runs on an algorithm (technically it is one). Google keep updating their program a little like how you may update a house with a new bathroom or by turning the attic into a new bedroom. People call these changes algorithms. Two of the most famous updates (in recent years) are called Panda and Penguin. They were updates that installed new rules for bloggers and web designers. People who broke these rules were said to have been penalized by the algorithm.
Why does Google have rules regarding SEO?
The rules that Google keep installing are based around SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Being on the top spot of the Google search engine results is a favorable and profitable place to be, so people manipulate the system in order to push themselves up the results artificially. This is what Google try to stop so they create rules. When you break these rules it is called “Black Hat SEO”. For example, one rule is that you cannot hide text on your website; it has to all be easy to read by human eyes.
How do you know if you are being penalized by Google?
If you have signed up for the Google webmaster tools then you will probably receive an email if you have broken their rules and been penalized. In many cases, Google will give you some hint at what you have done wrong. If you were not signed up for the Google webmaster tools before being penalized, then the task becomes a little more difficult.
Your first job may be to look over your recent SEO campaign to see if anything on there may have trigged it. You may also look over your recent website updates to see if you have made any Black-hat SEO changes on there. You may also wish to check for any recent Google updates. It may be that a new update has flagged something of yours as Black-Hat SEO.
The main indicator that your website has been penalized is if your website is suddenly unavailable on Google, or if your pages have dropped down in significantly in the search engine results. These are indicators that you have been punished by Google.
Look over your old traffic reports
You may be able to see where the problem started. Google does not release the dates of all of its updates, but it does release some of them. You should look them over to see which ones might have affected you. Many times, you may see a direct correlation between your loss of traffic and the updates on Google. In this way, you can see which updates have affected your website. They may be a penalization, or they may be part of the Google dance (also known as the Google shuffle).
The Google dance happens when Google release an update for their search engine algorithm. In a sense, the update will change the goal posts. Things that used to matter a lot may not matter as much anymore. The things that did not used to matter may now matter more. This results in some websites moving up the search engine results and some moving down. This is not actually a penalization; it is just Google changing its guidelines a little bit.
How do you avoid the Google dance?
Like dancing with grandma at a wedding, the Google dance is unavoidable. The only thing you can do is lessen its affect. You do this by creating a very broad and diverse SEO campaign. Instead of relying heavily on backlinks from blogs, or keywords in your website, you spread the weight of your SEO more evenly.
For example, you would spend some time updating keywords, time working with social media, time with articles site, time with blogs, etc. Instead of weighting your SEO on one factor, you “dip your toe” in them all. That way, when Google changes the rules for your particular brand of SEO, you will not find yourself at the tail end of their search engine results. You may also like to keep in mind that Google is always going to optimize its algorithm to make search engine results for useful for users. Use this fact to improve your website for future updates.
Kate Funk is an expert in coaching individuals in SEO and business networking skills at tutorleader.com.