If you were going to color a picture, you could do one of two things. First, you could color outside the lines, be a rebel, and get your picture done in half the time. You don’t like the lines anyways. You wish they weren’t there, so you decide to just ignore them. Second, you could color inside the lines and take your time. It would take you longer and it would be a little bit more difficult, but in the end your picture would look much nicer. Why? Because you stayed inside the lines, despite your hatred for them being there in the first place.

On a less childish note, you probably caught onto the fact that I was talking about SEO. The lines are Google, you are the coloring master, and the marks you make are the choices you make when it comes to SEO. Cutting corners is usually the easiest and quickest way to get ahead, but it’s important that you follow the rules Google has set in place if you want your website to succeed in the long run. If not, you cxould possible be hit with a Google penalty.

How to Avoid Being Penalized

In order to avoid being penalized by Google, there are a few simple guidelines you must follow:

  • Publish only original content. Do not duplicate content or scrape content.
  • Your content must be of high quality. An article with a bunch of keywords won’t cut it.
  • You do not want to have broken links, or 404 errors, on your page.
  • Do not create pages just for SEO. These are sometimes called “doorway pages.”
  • Do not hide links on your webpage that only search engines can find. Your links must add value to the reader.
  • On that same note, you do not want too many links in your content. This is called “keyword stuffing” and is seen as a way to try and trick search engines.
  • You do not want to gain too many backlinks too fast. This will look like you are buying links and will surely look like a red flag in the eyes of Google.
  • Keep your ads to a minimum.

If you follow the tips above, there is no reason your website should be penalized. However, mistakes happen and occasionally your site will likely break the rules. This happens most often when a website or domain name is acquired by another company. The website was likely for sale in the first place because they were penalized by Google. It’s the job of the new owner to discover why and how the site was penalized.

Unfortunately, nine times out of ten Google does not tell you that you have been penalized. This is something that businesses and website simply need to figure out on their own, and this can be difficult if you are learning how to start your own business. Fortunately, there are quite a few different ways you can be penalized for “shady” SEO tactics and quite a few different ways to tell if you’ve been penalized. Consider the three most “popular” penalties below:

3 SEO Penalties You Want to Avoid

1.    Google Ban – This occurs when you include links and/or pages that only search engines can find. This is seen as a form of tricking search engines and ignoring readers.

This is the harshest punishment a website can receive. This means that your website has been removed from Google’s index. In other words, there is no possible way for anyone to find your website on Google if it has been banned. This isn’t permanent and can be fixed, but it’s tough to recover. You can tell if you have been banned by typing in “site:yourdomain.com” into the search box and seeing if your website pops up.

2.    PageRank Penalty – This occurs most often when a site has an overabundance of links; particularly links that give no value to a reader. Sites who sell links on their site are also often hit with this penalty.

This penalty means that your PageRank has suddenly dropped. For example, if you used to be considered a PageRank 6 and then suddenly drop to a PageRank 5, there is a change that you have been penalized. The PageRank of a site lets users know whether or not your site is authoritative, so this penalty is a big deal. You can check and see if you have been hit with a penalty by visiting the Google PR Checker. If you suspect it was because of a penalty, go back and check your inbound links and see if you lost any since the drop. Also make sure that you check all of your pages. PR changes from webpage to webpage. In general, your homepage should be the highest.

3.    -30/-40 Ranking Penalty – This generally occurs when sites have poor quality content.

This penalty affects an entire website (as opposed to individual web pages) and often occurs with the more minor rule breaking actions. This penalty causes your site to drop about 30 or 40 places on a Google search engine query.  Fortunately, this is the easiest penalty to bounce back from—all you have to do is reverse whatever minor offense you caused. You can tell if you have been penalized by simply typing in your domain name without the “www” or “.com, .net, .org,” etc. If your site doesn’t show up in one of the first positions, you’ve probably been penalized.

Because Google doesn’t always explain their penalties or the changes made to their algorithms, many business owners are forced to speculate first if they have been hit with a penalty and second how to fix it. For this reason, it is extremely important to understand the rules Google has placed on SEO and just as important to understand the consequences for not following those rules. At the very least, you will not have a pretty SEO picture.