Archive for February, 2021

How to Safeguard Your Website Against Manual Google Penalties in 2021

Friday, February 26th, 2021

There’s nothing worse than discovering that your website has been penalized by the world’s largest search engine. Google has been penalizing websites for decades. Some of these penalties are performed automatically via its algorithm, whereas others are performed manually.

Manual penalties are typically more destructive than their automated counterparts. Not only can they wipe out your website’s rankings; they can prevent your website from reclaiming its lost rankings. To successfully rank your website on Google in 2021, you must safeguard it from manual penalties.

An Introduction to Manual Penalties

Also known as a manual action, a manual penalty is a type of ranking penalty that’s imposed by a human worker. Google has a team of workers who visit and evaluate websites for violations of its guidelines. If a worker identifies a violation with your website, he or she may impose a manual penalty on it. According to Matt Cutts, Google imposes nearly a half-million manual penalties per month.

Manual penalties aren’t triggered by Google’s algorithm. While Google’s algorithm may flag websites for one or more potential violations, manual penalties are explicitly imposed by a human worker.

Learn the Causes

To safeguard your website against manual penalties, you must know what causes them. Google doesn’t impose manual penalties for poor or nonexistent search engine optimization (SEO). Rather, it imposes them for violations of its guidelines.

Available to view at developers.google.com/search/docs/advanced/guidelines/webmaster-guidelines, these guidelines reveal how webmasters should build and optimize their websites for Google’s search engine. It explains what practices are allowed and what practices are prohibited. Using a prohibited practice to build or optimize your website may result in a manual penalty.

Common causes of manual penalties include:

• Pure spam

• Unnatural links to your website

• Unnatural links from your website

• Thin content

• Misleading structured data

• Hacked or compromised website

• User-generated spam

• Cloaking

• Hidden text

• Mismatch between Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) and their canonical versions

• Keyword stuffing

Sign Up for Search Console

Signing up for Google Search Console can better protect your website against manual penalties. Search Console is a free analytics service that provides insight into your website’s rankings on Google. In Search Console, you’ll find a tab for manual penalties. Accessing this tab will reveal whether your website has received a manual penalty, and if so, the type of manual penalty or penalties from which it’s suffering.

Google uses Search Console to notify webmasters about manual penalties. All manual penalties come with a notification. If your website has been struck with a manual penalty, Google will notify you in Search Console.

Use a White-Hat SEO Strategy

Avoid using a black-hat SEO strategy. Instead, use a white-hat SEO strategy. Most manual penalties are caused by black-hat SEO practices. The most common cause of manual penalties, in fact, is pure spam. Pure spam, as defined by Google, encompasses several black-hat SEO practices, such as scraping content off the internet, automatically generating content and showing different content to search engines than visitors. If you use pure spam on your website, you will get punished by Google.

A white-hat SEO strategy doesn’t include prohibited SEO practices. It only includes SEO practices that are allowed under Google’s guidelines. Therefore, it won’t make your website a target for manual penalties. As long as your SEO strategy complies with Google’s guidelines, your website will remain safe and protected against manual penalties.

Don’t Forget Google News and Discover

Google may impose manual penalties for News- and Discover-optimized pages as well. If you’re trying to rank your website on Google News or Google Discover, you should visit Google’s help page on manual penalties at support.google.com/webmasters/answer/9044175. In February 2021, Google updated this help page to include a new section specifically for News- and Discover-optimized pages.

Google’s help page on manual penalties now has a tab for News and Discover violations. There are about a dozen violations listed under this tab. Failure to include dates and author bylines in articles, for example, can lead to a transparency violation. Google requires all News and Discover content to feature these transparency elements. Manipulated media is another violation that can prevent your website from ranking on Google News and Google Discover. Manipulated media refers to audio clips, videos or images that have been altered to deceive visitors.

Depending on the type of violation, your website may still rank in Google’s search results; it just won’t rank on Google News or Google Discover.

Fix Any Manual Penalties

If you find a manual penalty notification in Search Console, don’t panic. Manual penalties aren’t permanent. They’ll only remain active until you’ve corrected the violation or violations that caused them. Once you’ve made the necessary correction, you can ask Google to lift the manual penalty.

You can find out what caused a manual penalty in Search Console. The notification you receive should state the cause, such as pure spam or cloaking, and the pages of your website that are being affected. You’ll need to fix the violation on all affected pages. You can then go back to the Search Console notification and select the “Request Review” option.

When you ask Google to review your website, you should include some basic information about the steps you took to correct the violation or violations. For a pure spam penalty, you can explain that you deleted the spammy content on the affected pages and replaced it with original, high-quality content. For an unnatural links penalty, you can explain that you disavowed your website’s low-quality or otherwise unnatural backlinks.

It can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks for Google to review your website. If you’ve corrected the violation on all affected pages, though, Google should lift the manual penalty. Your website’s rankings will return, and you can improve them with on-page and off-page SEO.

Manual penalties are more than frustrating; they can cripple your website’s rankings, as well as its traffic, on the world’s largest search engine. Fortunately, manual penalties are preventable. You can prevent manual penalties by learning the causes, signing up for Search Console and using a white-hat SEO strategy.

4 SEO Tips to Optimize Your Site for Bing

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

When it comes to search engine optimization, many bloggers and website owners invest all of their time, effort, and money into pleasing Google. In fact, most webmasters pay little-to-no attention to other search engines – like Bing. However, not only is Bing the second largest search engine in the world, its algorithm also powers Yahoo – which still has a major online presence. Therefore, if your SEO strategy only focuses on high Google search rankings, then you will likely miss out on reaching all of your target audience. Since search engines use different algorithms to determine website rankings, here are some tips to optimize your site to achieve higher Bing search rankings.

1. Register Your Business on Bing Places

You might have heard of Google’s business directory, known as Google My Business. Well, Bing has its only its own business directory called Bing Places. Both have the same goal: provide users with the best and most useful local search results. Therefore, you can improve your site’s local SEO on Bing by claiming your business and creating a listing on Bing Places. Also, make sure that your company’s address is prominently displayed on your website.

2. Use Bing Webmaster Tools URL Indexing

You can also improve your website’s SEO on Bing by ensuring that the search engine indexes your entire site so that it will discover all of your content. You can do that by submitting an XML sitemap using your Bing Webmaster Tools account. You can access your webmaster tools by signing into your Bing Business Account. Then, you will just follow the instructions to verify ownership of your website and submit an XML sitemap.

3. Focus on Content and Keywords

When it comes to ranking well on Bing, you should focus more on on-page SEO – especially your site’s content and keywords – rather than off-page SEO. For example, Bing’s search engine algorithm places greater value on content that includes exact match keywords that your audience uses in their search queries. Make sure that you use your exact match target keywords in page titles, headings and meta descriptions as well. Therefore, you will want to conduct a lot of in-depth keyword research to determine which keywords and phrases that your audience is using in their search queries.

4. Be Active on Social Media

Finally, according to Bing’s webmaster guidelines, the search engine’s ranking algorithm focuses heavily on social signals. Social signals are things like when users like, comment, and share your content on social media platforms. Therefore, your brand’s social media presence – especially on popular platforms like Facebook and Twitter – matters a lot more to Bing than it does to Google.

In short, you can’t assume that ranking well on Google means that you will automatically rank well on Bing. In addition to differences in their ranking algorithms, Bing might not even know that your blog or website exists. Therefore, make sure that you claim your business on Bing Places, as well as submit your XML sitemap via your Bing Webmaster Tools account. That way the search engine will be able to discover and index all of your website’s content. Speaking of content, should use exact match keywords naturally throughout your text – especially in page titles and headings.

Lastly, since Google’s algorithm doesn’t put a lot of emphases on search signals, you might (mistakenly) assume that your social media presence has no bearing on your site’s SEO. However, Bing does take your social signals into account when determining your site’s rankings.