How to Tell if There is a Google Penalty Against Your Website

Ever wondered why your site suddenly drops in the rankings in Google and your traffic dries up?  You were making good money from a first page position and now you’re making squat.  In this post I talked about how to check if your site got deindexed from Google.  If your site is not deindexed you may have been assessed a penalty by Google.  And there is one surefire way that I believe you can identify this.  If your subpages are ranking higher than your homepage for the main keywords you are trying to promote your site for.

To make it clear, let’s say I wanted to rank for the keyword “SEO”.  Let’s pretend that it did, but then my homepage URL took a nasty drop in the SERPS and this article right here was higher than my homepage in the SERPS for this keyword.  To me, this signifies that my homepage URL has been hit with a Google penalty.  What is the penalty?  Hard to tell, Google usually will not give you any information.  The most common penalties are keyword stuffing, spam backlinking, or over optimization of your site.

How to check?  Well, if you’ve been running your site you should have a pretty good feel if you were trying to slide anything by the good ol’ big G.  If you were, try undoing it.  And sometimes it might not even be something you did.  One of my websites is a forum about a certain sport.  When that sport is not in season I don’t visit my site often.  I was checking my rankings in Google with my rank tracking tool one day and I noticed that my site (which had good rankings for a variety of keywords) had fallen off the map.  I was very surprised because there was nothing that I was doing for this site.  I’ve never done any SEO work for it, never tried to do any onsite SEO work, it may be one of the only sites that I’ve literally let grow naturally.  So I went over to my site and noticed that someone, probably using a tool like Xrumer, posted about 20 spam threads within the forum.  And they were not short threads, the posts were friggin long and filled with hundreds of backlinks.  I spent some time cleaning up the forum, adding a new captcha tool, and check my rankings over the next two weeks.  A little over a week in my rankings returned and they held there for another week (I stopped checking).  So, Google detected something was fishy with my site, they penalized it, but when I cleaned it up they returned my site to its old position.  I’m wondering if this was a manual penalty because it seems like my rankings returned pretty quickly relative to when I removed the spam forum posts.

The long and the short of it is if your site takes a large drop in the SERPS and you have an established site (meaning not something you just created a few weeks ago and the position in Google can be attributed to the Google dance) then think about what you’ve done recently to the site, or possibly what someone else could have done to your site.  If you fix the problem you may get regain that Google love and move back to where you belong.

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