Have you noticed a sudden drop in your website traffic? Check your Google Webmaster account for any flags or warnings. You may have had your virtual wrists slapped by the search engine giant, otherwise known as a Google penalty.

Google is the internet search giant, commanding something like 60-80% of all search engine traffic daily, depending on which survey or study you read. That’s a lot of internet searches. Search engine optimization experts (SEO) look for ways to help their web pages rise in the search engine ranks because other studies show that people searching for information online are more likely to click website results when they’re among the first page of results. Few people exhibit the patience necessary to dig deeper into the search engine results, even though some great content may be hidden there. (Source: Search Engine Watch).

Google Penalties and How They Affect Your Website Visibility

What are penalties, and why should you worry about them?

Websites may be hit with one or two types of penalties:

  • Manual penalties, which occur when a website doesn’t meet Google’s standards for quality. An example of a manual penalty is an assessment of inbound links to a website. If Google spots a number of reciprocal (“I’ll link to your web page if you link to mine”) or paid inbound links, it may penalize a website. Spam content may also earn a manual penalty, as will numerous broken links, missing pages, or general technical flaws on a website.
  • Algorithmic penalties, which occur when Google’s automated method of calculating position (algorithm) changes due to an update. Panda and Penguin updates, which impacted many websites, is an example of an algorithmic penalty.

It can be difficult to tell exactly why your site is penalize. One day, it’s chugging along, finding its way among the top 10 results, and the next day – poof! It’s dropped to page 10 for the same search term. Did Google tweaks it algorithm? Or did you miss something on your website?

You can’t please the Google gods all the time, and chasing Google’s frequent updates is futile. You can, however, flag problems on your own website that you can correct and fix them to prevent manual penalties.

Do’s and Don’ts to Avoid Manual Search Engine Penalties

Much of this is common sense, but you’d be surprised at how many search engine firms still recommend some of these techniques to their unsuspecting clients. Check your website against the list of don’ts…


  • Include extraneous or irrelevant content on your website. If your website is about bird watching, including random articles about your favorite sports car may get the site flagged as spam content. Website content should focus around a central topic.
  • Scraping content is a huge no-no.  If you’re doing it, stop it right now.
  • Ditto for cloaking or other tricks.
  • Buy links


  • Include your website on Google’s webmaster tools, and check it for flags or helpful tips
  • Include rich, interesting, engaging and original content on your website.
  • Update your website with content as frequently as you can.
  • Fix broken links and 404 errors.
  • Check for malware or malicious links in your website.

Common sense, right?

If you were inviting guests to your home, you’d take care to clean your house. You’d scrub the bathrooms and vacuum the carpet. You’d buy festive decorations and serve your best food and drink. You’d welcome guests your home.

Your website is your virtual ‘home’ and should be just as welcoming to online guests. Freshen up the links, update the content, and check it for problems.  Hopefully, you’ll fix any potential Google penalties, and welcome more ‘guests’ to your website to acquire, retain and create loyal customers.


Jeanne Grunert is the president of Seven Oaks Consulting, a marketing and writing services firm in Prospect, Virginia. She offers creative, engaging content marketing, expert writing services, and marketing consulting to businesses. She is the author of Pricing Your Services: 21 Tips for More Profit.  Follow her on Twitter @jeannegrunert.

© 2014 by Grunert Family Holdings, Inc. DBA Seven Oaks Consulting. All rights reserved.