Did I Just Get a Google Penalty?

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To watch the on-demand webinar, just click the slide.

Recently I did a webinar called “Did Google Just Penalize Me?” for Website Magazine. We didn’t have enough time to answer all the great questions we got about how you might get a Google penalty, so I’m recapping a few of the most interesting here. If you’d like to watch the webinar, please click the image to the right.

If you’d like to ask a question, just use the comment box at the end of the post.

“Does duplicate content apply to the same or similar content if it’s all on the same domain?”

The issue of duplicate content indeed can apply on your own site as well as on other sites. Panda is a Google algorithm update which is designed to affect low-quality content and has had many iterative updates over the past few years. Duplicate content is often seen as low-quality, when done in an effort to garner more traffic for search engines. It’s important to look for signs of duplicate content that are spammy and could be seen as low-quality. Here are a few quick and easy checks you can try:

  1. Copy a sentence or two from content pages on your site. Paste into Google search and “put a quote” around it, at the beginning and end of the text. This search will look for that exact text on the web. If you find multiple pages on your site (or on another site) with that text you may have a duplicate content issue.
  2. Use tools like PlagSpotter.com or Copyscape to test content published on and off your site. Reach out to any sites scraping your content or using it without permission or attributes.
  3. Make sure you are using proper SEO best practices on paginated pages and category pages of your site; these are often the culprits behind duplicate content on WordPress blogs. Yoast has a great guide to figuring out duplicate content issues on WordPress domains here.
  4. WWW vs non-WWW versions of your site resolving is a problem. As an example, if you have www.yoursite.com and also use http://yoursite.com, you could easily have duplicate copy between them. Set your preferred domain in Google and ensure that URL canonicalization reflects your preferred domain.

Additional resources:

“How do you know which links are good or bad?”

This is a great question but a very subjective one. There are certain types of links that search engines, more specifically Google, don’t like. Look for links that are irrelevant or unrelated in nature. (You might ask yourself why the link is there.) These are links that often aren’t good to have associated with your site.

Irrelevant directories, article sites and pages are suspect too. So too blog comments or forum posts which aren’t genuine in nature, or pages that have links to other irrelevant sites. Site-wide links are often a big red flag to look out for also. Profile links on sites you aren’t active on look iffy. This informative article by Search Engine Land helps identify everything you need to know about bad links.

Tools exist to help in identifying quality links at the site and page level. Moz, ahrefs, Majestic SEO and Link Detox are just a few that can help.

“Can you give an example of what bad anchor text is?”

Bad anchor text, in essence, is anchor text which is unnatural and used in an effort to manipulate search engines. The text is a keyword that you want to rank for, often referenced as a “money keyword”, “optimized keyword”, or even “spam phrase”.

A site that sells shoes would likely want to rank for a very high volume phrase like “buy shoes” or “women’s high heels” or maybe “kids tennis shoes in Phoenix”. When inserted into content about shoes, these phrases as hyperlinks are very noticeable and not likely to be used as anchor text naturally. That’s an example of bad anchor text.

To learn more read my posts on the Act On blog, “Five Reasons Why Exact Match Anchor Text is Bad” and “Ten Ways to Vary Anchor Text”. Proceed with caution when choosing the right anchor text; these posts should help get you on the right path.

Google algorithm characters

“They say content is king; where are the limits between shallow and cluttered content?”

Another great question! There’s no defined length, amount or publishing limit on content on the web. I hate to say it, but it all depends. It can depend on your industry, what resonates with your audience, and how much value your content provides. It depends on the cost of that content and the return on the investment, the performance. It depends on your team and their quality, creativity, and availability.

Many sites on the web have thrived by being producers of short content. Others have seen success by publishing regularly – in either case, producing what some may consider “cluttered”. The key lies in using that content effectively. Content is still king. Worrying about shallow vs. cluttered is certainly important, but should not stop you from getting started. Monitor your own progress and determine success for your site, paying close attention to quality, measurement and sticking to an established strategy.

“Can I get a Google penalty for having more than one Google Plus page that contains different information? For example a Google Plus page I made and the page that Google created?”

The penalty you could get for making a Google Plus page would probably not be a search penalty. Google search engine penalties are largely reserved for activities related to manipulating search rankings themselves. Some companies have used Google Plus to try to manipulate local search rankings, hoping a new Google Plus page will rank in the local map. Activities like these will likely result in your Google Plus page being taken down, and you losing the opportunity to have one in the future for your company or site. You might then be limited in your success with local maps as well if you try to manipulate Google Plus.

Generally, the terms of service on Google Plus reserve manipulating pages for Google Plus, meaning that you do not have that right. Bear in mind that being careful to meet the terms of service with any Google property (e.g. Google Plus, YouTube, etc.) is important; the last thing you want to do is make the giant mad. Things like posting duplicate profiles, ignoring image restrictions, and even running a social media contest have to be done with caution. Violating the terms of service on any social profile, including Google Plus, is serious and may throw all your hard work building a profile down the drain.

Having two profiles – a Google Plus profile and one you created – is a problem to rectify. Google now has a feature that will allow you to merge the data from a verified profile to a Google Plus page. More information can be found in this article on Local U. The feature was just added in June of this year, due to the overwhelming demand from businesses owners like yourself that wish to have one profile instead of the dreaded duplicate (which often has misinformation!). Take the time to merge profiles and get rid of duplicates.

Click the link to watch the “Did Google Just Penalize me?” on-demand webinar.