SEO is like rope walking, you must have complete control of your body and be patient enough to keep yourself from falling. Not only that, you also need to balance both of those things. Overdo one thing and you’ll see yourself on the ground.
In SEO, if you overdo one thing, you will see yourself get penalized by Google. And you never want that to happen to you.
There are entire website dedicated to just this topic, but I believe that I can sum up the whole thing in just one post. That is because it is not that hard to avoid a penalty. You just need to make sure that you are not doing anything drastic, and also following these 18 rules of avoiding a Google penalty. And you’ll be good.
So, let’s dive into it, shall we?
Never Purchase Backlinks
Once you walk into the stores of online link purchasing, you will find thousands of people willing to sell links from their so-called “safe” private blog network (PBN). If you are not familiar with this concept, we will be covering in our next post.
I’m neither for nor against PBN links.
Well that’s because most people selling those PBN links have no idea how to safely set up their PBNs. And that’s what leads to them getting slapped by Google.
They leave an entire trail for Google to follow and get caught. And the worst part about that is that you are paying for those links.
The best alternative to that is to either set up your own PBN in the safest way possible. This way, not only will you control the links on your website, you will also be able to take the website down if it gets penalized.
Remember, you need to have balance, and getting rid of a penalized PBN will help restore that balance.
Never Stuff Keywords
This was the oldest trick in the book to let Google know what keywords you want to rank for. Not anymore.
In fact, do this and there’s no doubt that your website will get penalized.
These days SEO wizards have created a new buzzword: keyword density. But that’s just the same thing.
How many times should the keyword be repeated in the content to let Google know what your article is about?
There’s no right answer to that. The best way to stay safe is to only use the keyword if it looks naturally appearing in the content. If you have to force it, then it’s probably not a good idea.
Always Check Your Backlinks
Once you start getting into the world of SEO, you will notice that you are getting a lot of links from spammy websites. Well, that’s because your competitors do not want you to rank above them.
So, it’s always a good habit to check your backlinks every now and then and just disavow the bad links that might be hurting your website.
The best and the easiest way to do this is through the Google Search Console.
Over-Promoting Your App On Your Mobile Site
It’s great that you have an app for your brand. And I totally understand that you need to promote it to get as many people to download it as possible.
But here’s the problem with that. If you are promoting the app too hard on your mobile-optimized site, then you will start losing your SERP rankings.
Let’s think about it from Google’s perspective.
Google is sending traffic to your website that it thinks is mobile-optimized and that it might provide a better user experience than your competitors. Suddenly they see a pop up on your website telling visitors to download your mobile app.
What you’re saying from those annoying pop-ups is that your mobile app is much better optimized than your mobile-optimized website.
So, it is better to avoid that and just include a link to your app in the sidebar, the header or the footer area of your website.
People will still easily find it, but it won’t be seen as a mark down when it comes to SERP.
Never Use Mobile Redirects
What I mean by that is there are people who misuse the redirects thing but only for mobile users.
Let’s say that you are visiting a website from your mobile device. As soon as you click on the link, you are redirected to a website that is completely unrelated to the topic that you were searching for.
That’s called unwanted mobile redirects.
But, if you visit the same website through your desktop, you are not redirected anywhere.
That’s the reason why Google hates these kinds of websites. So, the better option is to not go the unwanted mobile redirects route and just let the visitors read/see what they were searching for.
You have much more important things to worry about.
Oh, this is so cringe-worthy.
I hate it when people install an amazing looking theme, design an innovative logo for their website and then fill up the whole website with spun content.
I get where you’re coming from. Maybe you are a very busy person and you just do not have enough time to rewrite content in your own words. And you also don’t want to repost the same content from another website because you know that Google will penalize your website.
But you read on that website that this new article spinner AI creates amazingly spun articles that have human readability.
You will be laughing at your own website if you just read the spun content that you post.
If you’re a busy person, the best thing you can do, is hire someone to manually rewrite the content for you. This will safeguard your website from getting a duplicate penalty.
Because even if the spun article looks fresh and new, there is a chance that it might still be detected as duplicate by Google.
Link Exchange Never Works
We have seen the rise and fall of the link exchange strategy. This is where people exchange links on each other’s websites as a form of goodwill and help each other climb SERPs.
While that might be an amazing thought, Google does not like that.
And rest assured that Google will penalize your website if it finds you engaging in such practices.
You’ll Be Damned If You Sell Links
We talked about buying links, but what about selling links? Seems like a viable money making option doesn’t it?
You have spent all this time and resources to rank your website on page 1. And now you start receiving all these attractive emails about people willing spend so much money to get links from your website.
Again, think about this from Google’s perspective.
Up until this point, the Big G thought that your website was credible enough to rank on page 1. And now suddenly it sees a new page on your website where you are asking people to fill out a form if they want to get a link from your website.
Heck, even if you don’t put up a form if you just deal through emails and suddenly start putting up a lot of articles with outbound links to a ton of low authority websites, you are still in trouble.
That’s because now your website looks like a link farm. And all the hard work you put into your website will go down the drain. Be smart my friend.
Widgets That Link Back To Your Website
Maybe you’re a savvy developer. And you’re doing the work of your dreams. And now you are creating widgets that automatically link back to your website whenever someone installs them on their website.
Google doesn’t like that because that is not a natural way of receiving backlinks. Unless they are strictly nofollow links.
This is not the cloaking thing like you saw in the Harry Potter movies (I miss them so much).
In this context, cloaking refers to a practice in which you are showing your content to the visitor in a certain way, while the search engines are seeing a completely different version of the content.
If you thought Google wouldn’t find that out, you are wrong.
Instead, try to have amazing content on your website and let the users tell Google that you should be ranking on page 1.
Never Offer Pirated Content
Oh, the piracy thing.
Now you might say that there are still thousands of websites that offer pirated content on the internet and they still haven’t been penalized.
True. But you always see them disappearing from the search results on a daily basis.
Do you want to spend all that time and money and risk it all?
Do you really want to always be in fear that your website might not be ranking in the search results the next day you wake up?
Probably not because that’s definitely not going to bring you happiness.
Avoid Subjects That You Won’t Talk About With Your Family
That’s the best way I could put it.
But yes. You want to avoid topics that your family would never talk about at the dinner table.
What are these topics?
Well here’s a short list: online gambling, male enhancements products, etc.
That’s not the entire list, but you get the gist of what I’m talking about here.
You want to avoid those topics unless that’s the exact market you’re trying to get into.
If you are, then good luck to you my friend.
Avoid Content That Is Heavy Above the Fold
What is characterized as “Top Heavy” content?
Let’s say that you visit a website and you see a plethora of ads instead of the content that you were searching. Now you have to scroll down to reach the content. That’s what is called as top-heavy content.
And it’s not just about ads, it can be anything that wouldn’t let the visitor get straight to the content without scrolling.
Google wants its users to get the answers to their queries straight away. And if you can do that, you will see your website on page 1 and not get penalized.
Have a Mobile Responsive Website
Google is now valuing its mobile visitors much more these days. That’s mainly because there are more people searching things from their mobile devices than people who use desktops to search things on Google.
It makes sense for Google to prefer websites that are mobile responsive instead of websites that just load a desktop version of the website for a mobile visitor.
Don’t Go Overboard With Search Engine Directories
It is a good habit of getting your website on certain directories. It’s like getting on the internet’s YellowPages. Not only that, you will also be getting some good quality links back to your website.
But you want to avoid overdoing it because there might be certain directories that get penalized down the line. And you do not want your website to be in one of those directories.
Again, remember the balance thing I mentioned at the start of this article. You want to use this technique, but only in moderation.
Never Use Hidden Text
If you’re a developer and you know how to use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), then you might have gotten the idea that maybe if you change the color of the text to match it as the background, Google won’t notice it.
And the visitor will see the amazing content that you are presenting them.
Google can see that text and also see the color codes that you used and compare that with the background color code. And that will most certainly get you the penalty hammer.
Say No to Comment Spam
Comment spam is a strategy used by black hat SEOs. They use a certain software to place comments on blogs and use tiered linking that links to different web properties and end with a link back to the money website.
They say that this is a filtration system to avoid penalties but I have seen thousands of websites get slapped by Google just because of using this strategy.
So avoid this.
Blog comments are a great way to get backlinks but only use this strategy if you are adding value to the original content.
Say No to Duplicate Content
We talked about spun content, but this is different. In the spun content example, at least you were trying to have some form of unique content on your website.
But with people who use duplicate content on their website, all the ethics and morals are thrown out the window.
Not only that, you will also be violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). And on top of that you might hurt your rankings as well.
So, let’s recap this point:
You might get sued for using duplicate content on your website.
You throw away all your moral and ethics by doing this.
And you might also hurt your rankings.
This is an all-around bad idea if you are thinking about doing this.
At the end of the day, it is all about not stealing and not manipulating the search engines. If you are adding value to the lives of people that visit your website, you will most definitely see increments in your SERPs.
So, make sure that you are following these 18 rules to the T and you will be safe from any Google penalties.