Play the Game, Play by the Rules - Social Media Explorer
Play the Game, Play by the Rules
Play the Game, Play by the Rules

The basic SEO rule of thumb is keep Google happy. There are myriad reasons the internet giant will penalize a site within the SERPs. The terms are dictated and webmasters and SEO Companies alike are obliged to comply or risk having a domain completely removed from Google. The process is becoming more sophisticated as Google constantly updates their algorithm to punish new spam techniques. This means that specific problems rather than the domain itself should be penalised.

As an SEO agency it is fundamentally important that you keep up to date with Google’s changing algorithms in order to avoid being condemned for bad practice.

How to Spot Penalties

Google Webmaster manual actions page shows if you’ve been manually penalized. To stay ahead of the game you will need to keep track of your SEO efforts. You can use Google’s webmaster page to check for manual actions, but for automatic algorithmic penalties you’ll need to monitor your position on the SERPs month on month. By doing this you’ll be able to see any drastic changes. Moving a few positions is normal, but dropping out of the results all together isn’t. Your site should also appear in the cached search results, but if you’ve been penalized all your cached pages might be removed. If your page is no longer ranking for your brand name you should be concerned.


For a comprehensive list of reasons Google may penalize your site, I would recommend reading Claire Broadley’s article.

SEO agencies will be aware that new the risk of new penalties abounds constantly. The general premise is that if Google encourages cleaner, more usable websites, then their search results and overall user experience will be more beneficial to the user. Algorithmic updates and penalties are all implemented in an effort to reduce the amount of spam on Google and make the search experience better for users.

Here are some of the key points to consider:


Quality Content is KingIt is of greater value for your users to produce quality content less frequently. Avoid using content farms; well researched content will add value while relentlessly adding meaningless ‘shallow’ content will ensure that it won’t be engaged with.  Content theft penalization works both ways, so if you find another site passing off your work as their own report it to Google to try and get it removed.


Unnatural links and a high quantity of links are considered particularly problematic by Google and are likely to raise the red flag, SEO wise. Balance is paramount, because while Google wants sites to link to content of a similar standard and context, excessive reciprocal links will look like a black hat technique.

In extreme circumstances the Google Disavow tool can be used to let Google know you don’t want an external link associated with your site.

Hidden Text

If your SEO Company is concealing text off page with PHP, hiding links in script files or using a white text on a white background to keyword stuff, Google will pick up on it. Anything which a search engine can read should also be visible to site users.

If you’ve received a message about this you should be able to rectify the situation fairly easily by deleting the problem coding.

Back on the Straight and Narrow

Depending on how complex and widespread the penalty you have fallen victim to, you might need to seek professional SEO help, because the problem won’t just go away on its own.

You can request Google review your site, but make sure you’ve fixed any problems before you do this. It can take a while for Google to re-crawl your site and make sure it complies with all their policies and algorithms.

A lot of the reasons are fairly intuitive. Going forward it is best to bear in mind that there is no such thing as a quick fix when it comes to SEO. Ranking highly requires time and effort, a strong brand and a well-designed website. Some SEO Companies may tell you that they can get you to the top of the SERPs rapidly but be cautious of anything which seems too good to be true.

About the Author

Maddie Russell
Maddie Russell is a content creator at Square Social. Maddie also works as an SEO consultant at Models Direct, one of the UK’s  premier modelling agencies.

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