Penalty Recovery

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Google Penalty Recovery Service

If you’ve identified a drop in your website’s SEO performance and would like some assistance identifying the cause and developing a recovery plan, reach out today to see how Optiminder can help.

We can look at your historic SEO data, as well as conducting a thorough audit and benchmarking of your website, to establish a comprehensive backlog of the SEO tasks you need to carry out (and their relative priorities).

If you’d like, we can also help you execute this backlog of tasks, and get your SEO results back on track. By adopting a user-focused, data-driven approach, we can work together to ensure that you come back from this performance hit even stronger than before. Get in touch today to find out more.

What is the Google algorithm?

Unfortunately (or perhaps not), the exact algorithm is a closely guarded secret, and for understandable reason. Since the inception of search engines, there have been attempts to manipulate and abuse the results for financial gain. As soon as Google reveal their algorithm, countless businesses and SEOs would drop everything they were doing and embark upon ill-fated attempts to over-optimise for the algorithm, at the expense of quality and user experience.

Obviously, this would not be great for the internet as a whole. As such, Google’s policy (especially in recent times) has been to tell businesses and SEOs to focus on prioritising user experience, security, accessibility and - of course - producing unique, quality content.

However, many SEOs consider this stance on over-correction from Google. Of course, placing high importance on things like user experience and content quality will lead to an improved web experience for your users, which in turn should help your business perform. However, without offering more detail, these factors (and especially the relative tradeoffs between them that you may find yourself forced to make) can be quite subjective.

So how can we know what to optimise for?

Consequently, by conducting large-scale studies of the search results for different queries, and analysing the impact of various official and unofficial algorithm updates, SEOs have come up with a degree of understanding of at least some of the numerous ranking factors at play, at their relative importance within the wider Google algorithm. By engaging with other SEOs, and monitoring how these analyses change over time, we can get some idea of what exactly the various official (and unofficial) Google algorithm updates are punishing or rewarding.

Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that a lot of the information circulating about these Google updates and penalties will always be inference and conjecture. In fact, even in the unlikely occasions in which Google does provide specifics, it’s always wise to take these with a pinch of salt, as they don’t always align with data examined by the SEO community. In short, take on board all the advice you can, but if you want to be sure, you have to test!

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What if your SEO traffic has dropped!

So, you’ve looked at your data analytics platform, and it looks like your SEO traffic has fallen off a cliff. What do you do now?

Well, first and foremost, you need to ensure that you don’t panic. There could be any number of things at play here. This could be a case of standard fluctuation. You could have simply ‘lost out’ in the course of a standard algorithm update. You could have been hit with a penalty.

This last option instills fear in the hearts of SEOs everywhere, and it’s understandable. A Google penalty can be sudden, and the impact can be substantial. But if this has happened, it can’t be “reversed” per se, so there’s absolutely no point in panicking. That’s not to say that you can’t get your SEO performance back to where it was before, by any means. What I mean is just that there’s no single, time-sensitive action you can take to “undo” this performance hit.

A far better option would be to take a step back, take some time to gather and analyse the necessary data, and confirm that this does indeed look like the effects of a penalty at work, as opposed to standard fluctuation, or the latest in a series of downward trends. In fact, it’s almost always pertinent to wait a little while, to allow you to collect more data, so that you can make a more educated assessment of the results you’re seeing.

If you’re still sure that your seeing the impact of a penalty, then it’s probably a good idea to look at chatter from the broader SEO community. See if other businesses are reporting similar hits - and pay extra attention to the industries of any affected websites. Recent Google updates have targeted certain industries (such as Health and Finance) more than others. Some SEOs may have already established an idea of what has changed, if there has in fact been a significant recent change.

Of course, it’s also frequently the case that a performance hit a website receives isn’t a case of Google “moving the goalposts”, but rather them correcting an oversight. By this we mean, it might be that your site isn’t being newly penalised, per se, but rather Google gaining a better understanding of your site, and finding that you may have been over-rewarded in search results for various queries. On the other side of the same coin, it might be nothing specific to your site at all, but rather that Google realised they had been under-rewarding your competitors’ websites for certain queries, meaning that as a result, your website will be receiving less SEO traffic for those queries.

SERP Volatility Trackers

There are a number of tools you can use that measure the volatility of the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) to help you discern whether there’s been a significant update, or whether any fluctuations you’re seeing are just part of the day-to-day variations that we see in the SERPs.

These tools vary in the features and the levels of detail that they offer, but two that we’d recommend are:

  • Mozcast: a simple, free tool from the team at Moz. This tool displays SERP volatility (or ‘turbulence’) as a weather report, and offers a 30 day backwards look. It’s fairly basic compared to some of the other tools that are available, but can give you a quick indication of whether the results you’ve seen are standard SERP deviation or part of something bigger.
  • SEMRush Sensor: SEMRush Sensor is another great tool for more advanced users, that’s available to use for free (while SEMRush itself requires a paid subscription to access many of its features, the Sensor can be used without an account).

    SEMRush Sensor is an incredibly powerful and detailed tool, enabling you to examine SERP Volatility for Mobile and Desktop results separately, as well as allowing you to select which country’s database you want to see results for.

    In addition, SEMRush Sensor also breaks down the overall score into scores for different categories. So, for example, you can see if SERPs in the Health industry have been disproportionately volatile.

    This tool also shows the relative prevalence of various SERP Features (such as Featured Snippets, Knowledge Panels, Instant Answers, Google Shopping Panels) as well as certain technical attributes like the prevalence of AMP and HTTPS results.