What Makes a Website Vulnerable to a Google Penalty?

Have you been trying to make sense of Google’s “pet” updates and how they may positively or negatively impact your website’s quality perception? Before you can fully understand the factors that make a site vulnerable to a Google penalty, it’s important to better understand the full cast of characters.

Penguin – Holds websites accountable for search spamming behaviors. This update particularly attacks sites that have paid for high quantities of links or obtained them from low quality link networks designed to increase Google ranking. It also penalizes sites with over-saturation of specific anchor text and little link diversity.

Panda – Penalizes websites with low content quantity, poor quality content, and duplicated content. Unofficially targeted at content farms and scraper sites, this update has also impacted small business websites with low site content and unknown duplication.

Hummingbird – Refines query meaning by recognizing and making connections to common attributes contained within searches to existing data. Google then applies this context to the search query results adding in relevant resources concerning related who, where, when, how, and what in addition to the user’s original search.

Now with this cast of characters in mind, it may be easier to understand how each personality can affect your website’s success. There are many common problems that make a site more vulnerable to penalty from a Google update. Here are the some of the most popular issues we encounter.

Duplication on a website is a big problem and one that more companies must cope with every day. It doesn’t really matter if the duplication is occurring internally (repeated text throughout a website) or externally (copied from an external website). Google doesn’t always understand where such text originated initially and penalizes copy-cats as it deems fit. The problem here is that sometimes a website is completely unaware of this problem and can create their own problems. Here are a few examples: Have you ever copied and pasted key text from your “About Us” page to fill in background information on a relevant public or industry directory? Perhaps you’ve pasted in some text from your website to a LinkedIn company page or some other resource. (This is often detected as duplication.) Additionally, some companies are distributors that share marketing information, including manufacturer-supplied advertising copy and specifications, verbatim on their own website. If you’ve ever done this then you might be found guilty by Google of duplication – despite the honorable and innocent intentions. Finally, there are also cases where competing companies plagiarize a website’s text using it on their own website. All of these scenarios may cause problems with Panda updates and unfortunately the fastest and most effective solution involves re-writing all suspect content to become 100% original. If you’d like to check a webpage for duplication, you can use Copyscape.com to monitor any potential instances of plagiarism. Establishing an account will enable you to complete more thorough searches for a very low cost.

Over-optimization of anchor text
A healthy website should use a diverse range of anchor text when building high quality links. This anchor text should consist of relevant keyword phrases, branded terms, and generic text. Often, many websites focus too much on one particular keyword phrase or rely solely on branded anchor text. This can create problems stemming from Penguin updates that penalize a site that appears to offer low quality back links from websites with poor trust and relevance. It’s easy to check a website’s anchor text distribution using MajesticSEO. This resource will enable users to sign up for free and complete a few searches each day at no cost. Simply visit Majestic, and use their Site Explorer to enter your web address for a full profile of your website’s back link health including anchor text distribution. Scrolling down mid-way through the first page of analysis will show a simple pie chart breakdown of existing anchor text distribution. Examine the overall allocation of terms and see if any area is over-saturated.

Distribution of Deep versus Shallow Links
Penguin also assesses the value of a website in terms of its back link profile. Are incoming links directing visitors to a diverse range of pages on your website? Or, are they primarily driving traffic to just the home page? Are you establishing links to deeper, internal web pages – or sticking to main web pages? Diversity is a key factor in SEO success today. Make sure you’re linking to a variety of meaningful pages throughout a website.

Low Content or Poor Quality Content
Panda is largely responsible for penalizing websites determined to possessing little content of value. This may mean that a website simply does not present much in the way of text content on a site. (Ideally, it’s best to present a minimum of 200 words per web page.) It can also mean that the content located on a website is not very relevant to target subjects of focus, is over-stuffed with keyword phrases, or may even be poorly written. Today, quality content is one of the most important factors to a website’s success. If Google perceives your website to possess poor quality content, then you may need to revamp your entire strategy to regain ground.

What does the fox say

These are just a few of the issues we’ve encountered with struggling websites. We would love the opportunity to provide a detailed and customized assessment of your website’s vulnerability to future Google updates. Contact us today to discuss a free report on expert suggestions to improve your site’s overall health.