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Google Manual Penalties and Fixes

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Any person or business that begins the process of SEO needs to understand the pitfalls of running afoul to Google guidelines. The following post goes over a list of violations to webmaster guidelines. I will then explore fixes to these issues and ways to recover. There is also the situation in which your hiring came after the damage has been done to search results. The key is to remember that not all is lost and there is a way to recover a website’s search engine authority.

Keyword Stuffing

A common mistake by content creators who try to incorporate SEO without advance knowledge is keyword stuffing.

Fixing Keyword Stuffing

You can use SEO software or the Google Search Console to identify pages that have instances of this violation. You should via a site audit find any paragraphs or repeated words and have them removed. Once you clean up these issues, you need to submit a reconsideration request.

Hidden Text

Hidden text is an absolute no-no and considered a form of black-hat SEO. The act is when you engage in adding words to a page that is not visible by making then the same color as the background. You should never hire anyone that would blatantly engage in this act.

Fixing Hidden Text

You can use SEO software or the Google Search Console to identify pages that have instances of this violation. Remove all hidden text! The hidden text violation does not include accordions or dropdown menus; this specifically refers to text that has no visibility. Once you clean up these issues, you need to submit a reconsideration request.


Cloaking is a devious tactic used to attract visitors by showing them one page in a Google search only to redirect them to another page. The tactic is used to drive more traffic to a particular page or a call to action. Some websites are bold enough to show one link and then redirect to a completely different website. Sometimes these websites are NSFW and perform undesirable behavior to a potential site visitor. There is no reason to do this under any circumstance.

Fixing Cloaking Violation

If you have a link you are retiring then the redirect should have similar content, but also should not be permanent. After a maximum of 90 days, that type of redirect should end as the spiders should have found the new page by then. Another option is to leave the page live and turn into a 404 page with links to other pertinent content and a paragraph explaining the decision to discontinue the page or product. Once again, this should only be temporary, and eventually, the link’s removal should happen in 90 days.

You can use SEO software or the Google Search Console to identify these errors and then move swiftly to correct. Once you clean up these issues, you need to submit a reconsideration request.

Subscription and Paywalled Content

A lot of content websites are moving towards the creation of subscription and paywalled content. A violation is when the full page content is accessible by Google, but that information is not available to users. The act is considered another form of cloaking and is a violation.

Fixing Content Violation

Any content you share with Google a user should have viewable rights. You can still execute a subscription or paywall service be careful that the set up is correct. A site like WordPress has plugins available to initiate this service on your website or blog. You need to make sure plugins are working correctly during site audits. A side note – site audits should be performed regularly. Once you clean up these issues, you need to submit a reconsideration request.

Cloaked Images

Here are different types of cloaked images violations:

  • The redirection of users away from an image that is clicked on to enlarge.
  • Images hidden behind other images.
  • Or the image clicked on in Google images leads to a completely different image.

Fixing Cloaked Images

Show the exact image and do not redirect to a different link if there is an ability to enlarge the photo. Once you clean up these issues, you need to submit a reconsideration request.

Website Hacked

Every day thousands of websites are hacked. Hackers break into content management systems to inject malicious content and links. The hack leads to a demotion in organic search results once identified by Google.

Site Hacked Fix

You know what they say the best prevention is not to allow this to happen. If a third party manages your server like GoDaddy or a server farm than make sure they have the necessary fail-safes in place to ensure against a hack. If your service provider is not communicating with you on possible issues at least monthly, that is a problem. This communication can be in the form of a newsletter, but at least you have peace of mind of possible issues that may arise.

Open-source platforms like Drupal, Joomla, Typo3, WordPress, and others usually have developers that have worked on and continue to work on security patches. In the form of Drupal, this would consist of a module. Since these additions are outside the core framework of the software you need to keep track of how often additions are kept up to date and whether they are working correctly.

Make sure you backup your website and database if not daily at least every week to offer an ability to restore the site quickly. A high traffic eCommerce site should have a site and database backup daily. A smaller, more static business-to-business site or a restaurant site should receive a backup every week.

Your site security is paramount. A hacker can not only take down your site; they could steal your customer information, and leave you liable. If your site is hacked immediately contact you hosting provider and have your site quarantined. You should work with your service provider to identify the issue and find a resolution. If you host your website in-house make sure you hire an IT manager with a lot of experience and that there is consistent communication between the two of you.

After you have a clean site and server, you need to request a review to have your site unflagged as dangerous or possibly deceptive to users.

Unnatural Links

You should stay away from link farms or any scheme used to increase links to your website unnaturally. You should also not link to sites from your website to deceive your users; this is also considered a violation.

Fixing Unnatural Links

You should remove or add a rel=” nofollow” attribute to non-conforming links. Then you need to disavow any links that you are unable to get removed or no-followed.

From your website, remove or modify these links by adding a rel=” nofollow” attribute.

Forum or Blog Spam

If you have users that can comment to your blog or you host a forum or any other way users can generate content beware. There will always be users out there that will attempt to take advantage of this and add links to promote their won websites. There are site visitors that in many cases, use fraudulent and spam links.

Fixing Forum or Blog Spam

You need to daily and in some cases hourly moderate comments on your website and remove those malicious accounts that attempt to spam. We have witnessed the issues of large sites like Facebook and Twitter have had by not doing enough to monitor comments. These places are breeding grounds at times to hate, homophobic, and socially unacceptable rhetoric that can damage your brand. Never let any user-generated content appear on your website without moderation.

Many of these issues are easily preventable and many times if you are in violation of Google you or someone you hired has deliberately attempted to deceive the search engine. More importantly these type of acts deceive your users and give your brand little credibility. If you have any questions on SEO or looking for someone to help contact us.

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