Google Link Penalty: Now What?

Broken ChainEvery website owner should applaud Google’s ongoing efforts to rid the world of spam, low-quality content, and poorly designed websites. Theoretically. In reality, though, some very good sites can get caught up in the search giant’s many algorithm updates. Because Google is the gateway to your website, getting knocked out of the SERPs can have a devastating effect. One area that Google is targeting with both algorithmic updates and manual penalties is links. Many people feel that the penalties imposed by Google are so severe that it is best to abandon your site and start over. That, too, can have negative effects. What can you do to reclaim your good name – and your good rank?

There are two types of link “penalty” that can impact your site:

  • Algorithmic. The Penguin Update targeted, among other things, link schemes. Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team tweeted that “Certainly links are a primary area to monitor.” These penalties are delivered algorithmically. That is, they are not subjective.  Google’s algorithm reads signals, and, for whatever reason, your site is sending a signal that external links are “unnatural.”  Sites affected will experience a precipitous drop in traffic and ranking for formerly strong keywords.
  • Manual. These penalties are assessed by a human when it is believed that a site is trying to manipulate search rankings by creating unnatural links. Google sends a notice, beginning, “We’ve detected that some of your site’s pages may be using techniques that are outside Google’s webmaster guidelines.”

Let’s back up for a moment. If Penguin has affected your site, it is not a “penalty,” per se. Links are a ranking factor, and if Google’s bots detect “bad” links, it is factored into your rank. It can be factored quite heavily too! But there is good news. An algorithmic “penalty” is easier to overcome. Sites can conduct a thorough link audit and worked to remove poor-quality links. The Link Disavow tool can be a site-saver.

Here’s what you do:

  • After your link audit, use the Link Disavow tool to tell Google that specific links to your site should not be used to determine your ranking. It is like saying of the obnoxious guests at your party, “We don’t know those people; we don’t associate with them!”
  • Wait for Google to process your request. This is frustrating as it is just a waiting game now. According to Danny Sullivan at SearchEngineLand, “Even if you’ve cleaned up your links with disavow, you have to wait until the Penguin Update is run again before you’ll see an impact.”

Waiting is difficult, but if you have disavowed and/or cleaned troublesome links, you will start to see a change for the better.

What about manual penalties, you ask? That can be a trickier process. Anything involving humans tends to be more complicated, doesn’t it?  Look for our upcoming whitepaper on removing Google penalties for “unnatural links.” You do not have to go to the extreme of abandoning your site to reclaim your reputation with Google.

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