Last week, we hosted AffiliateFEST in London and over the coming weeks, we’ll be bringing you a snapshot of each session we attended on the day. SEO is always the most popular topic and Fili Weise (Search Brothers) gave AffiliateFEST delegates the low down on Google penalties, how they happen and what to do to overcome them.

Understanding Why Penalties occur

The first pain point for a lot of people impacted by a Google penalty is finding out why it’s occured. This kind of investigation can be hindered by the small amount of information given by the search engine when the penalty is raised. Google tells us to focus on the user and the rest will follow, but this isn’t always helpful when it comes to figuring out where you might have gone wrong. You have to find the cause before you can enact a solution. There are many different types of penalties that can be enacted on a site and Fili’s session ran through some of the most common one’s to watch out for.

These can include the likes of spam content, which can cover a load of different violations of the terms. These can come as the result of the content you use, the way you phrase your keywords and a host of other violations. In this case, Google will just point you to the guidelines and send you on your way. 

You might also receive a penalty due to outside forces, like user generated content. In this case, you may have to do more in terms of moderation, in order to battle this. There are plugins that you can use to detect and block this spam, which helps you to get to the root of the problem. You might feel like it’s not fair that you have had this penalty levied because of outside users, but you have to take steps to make your site better. 

There can also be penalties for sites that have been hacked. This is something of a precautionary measure that puts your site out of the running for users until you’ve had a chance to take control of it once more. 

Unnatural linking, either to or from your site can also put a downer on your SERPs. If you’re undertaking unnatural link building campaigns or paying for spammy links, this can be a serious concern. Linking techniques are hotly debated among SEO experts, but if Google catches a whiff of bad behaviour , then you can expect quite a serious penalty. 

Coming back from a penalty inclusion

Once you’ve worked out where the penalty has come from, it’s time to fix it. You’ve got to take serious steps to get to the root of the issue, before you try to get it removed. Don’t just scratch the surface, you’ve really got to change your site dramatically in order to come back from this. 

Then, it’s time to craft you response to Google to explain why you should have your penalty removed. Fili’s advice was first and foremost to start with a ‘sorry’. Then, move onto a description of what you’ve done to improve your site keeping the content clear, concise and easy for the user to read and interpret or see on your site. You can use the guidelines as something of a cheat sheet to help you understand what changes they need to see.

Take your time and ensure that your response for appeal covers everything that it needs to. If you don’t do so you’ll be slowing down the process and giving yourself more time at the bottom of the rankings. Crafting this response can be as important as the changes you’ve made to the site, as you have to convince them to remove your penalty.

We’d like to extend a massive thanks to Search Brothers and Fili Wiese for explaining penalties in such detail for our delegates over the course of this session. If you want to get help with your SEO be sure to sign up to our newsletters to be kept up to date with our upcoming training events.