Finding out that traffic to your website has dropped is disturbing. The consequences can be devastating in terms of lost revenue.
We all rely on search engines for traffic, so it’s important to stay up to date with the latest algorithm changes and try to fix problems if we’re subjected to a Google penalty.
Reasons for a drop in traffic
A number of reasons exist for a drop in traffic, some of which may be from technical problems you need to address.
If your website has been penalized by Google due to a manual review, you will receive a notification via the Google Search Console. It will give the reasons why you’ve been penalized, such as the fact that you have unnatural or artificial links pointing to your site that could be intended to manipulate page rank.
Elias Browne of EssayOnTime.co.uk says “When you think you’ve addressed the problem and submit a reconsideration request, the manual reviewer doesn’t just take your word for it. You should also offer proof that you really did what you said you did.” The main reasons why reconsideration requests are not accepted is because the problem is not understood and not all issues are fixed.
Algorithms rely on calculations and rules to automatically create an outcome. These aren’t penalties although they may feel like it because they can hugely impact your traffic.
The Penguin update in 2012 focused on rooting out keyword stuffing, link building, cloaking, and other “black hat” SEO techniques. The fourth version in 2016 was page-specific with a focus on bad backlinks and anchor text.
If your traffic drop occurs due to an algorithm change, you won’t receive a clear message from Google.It may be harder to find out what to fix. Google algorithms are designed to reward quality websites that keep to the webmaster guidelines in the search results.
Google algorithms are updated regularly to ensure that users continue to be satisfied with the results. If you do find you were harmed by a specific change, you have to find out all you can about the update to start resolving your issues.
Avoid being hit in the first place
The good news is that unless you’re using shady tactics on purpose, you may never have to face a manual penalty. It helps to consistently run SEO audits and make sure you do the following:
- Create high-quality content
- Diversify your anchor text
- Don’t use duplicate content
- Don’t overuse keywords
- Offer the best user experience
- Remove or disavow any bad backlinks manually
Cloaking and redirects
Cloaking is when different pages are shown to Google as to the viewer. A sneaky redirect sends viewers to a different page. These actions both violate the webmaster guidelines.
Cloaking can even apply to images where an image shown to Google is different to what viewers see. The penalty may come in the form of partial matches affecting only a portion of your website, or it may affect your whole website.
How to fix: Go to ‘crawl’ in the Google Search Console and ‘fetch’ the offending pages. Compare content on your page to the content Google fetches. Remove any variations. Check for any redirects that send users to another location and remove them. Once you have fixed the issues, submit a reconsideration request.
Keyword stuffing and hidden text
Hidden text and keyword stuffing are also penalized by Google.
How to fix: Once again you need to ‘fetch’ the offending pages. Look for any hidden text and restyle it, so it’s obvious to the user.
Remove any repeated words without context. Fix any alt text with strings of repeated words.
Deal with all instances of keyword stuffing before submitting a reconsideration request.
Thin content with little value
Low-quality pages that trigger this penalty come from automated content, scraped content from other websites, low-quality blog posts, doorway pages, and poor quality affiliate pages.
How to fix: Fetch the affected pages and identify the issues. Delete or improve poor quality content.Use duplicate content detection software to identify and remove duplicate content.
Spam comes in many different forms and sometimes it’s not your fault. User-generated spam can come from auto-approved spam comments, forums, user profiles, and guestbook pages.
How to fix: Fetch the affected pages, identify the spam and remove the links to it.
Low-quality backlinks are one of the main reasons for a Google penalty. Buying backlinks and participating in link schemes to boost your rankings is a clear violation.
How to fix:Export backlinks from the Google Search Console and import them to your SEO tool. Various SEO tools enable you to do a full site audit and analyze your backlinks.
The SEO tools ensure that you don’t have to go through your backlinks one by one. By using various filters, you can narrow down your search for offending backlinks.The first thing to look for is ‘do follow’ links as these are the ones that influence your PageRank. Manually identifying and fixing bad backlinks can be quite a process.
If you have control of the linking site, it is easy to remove the backlink or modify it to include a rel=”nofollow” attribute, so it no longer influences PageRank. In most cases, you have no control over the linking site, so you need to approach the owner to remove it for you.
Visit each offending site and find contact details.Send a polite email to the owner or the webmasterof the website requesting removal of the link. If your email is ignored, you have the option of submitting a disavow report to Google Disavow.
The best policy is to try and avoid getting any Google penalties in the first place. If you follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and conduct site audits frequently, you’re unlikely to receive any penalties. If you do receive a penalty, don’t despair. In many cases, it’s not that difficult to fix the problem, submit a reconsideration report and recover your rankings.
Terence Murray has been working as a professional editor in London publishing agency for 4 years. Now he is journalist-freelancer and wide ranged professional content developer.