How To Avoid Getting Banned or Penalized
I get many people contacting me asking, “Why is my site not listed in Google?” or “Why am I ranked 387th in Google for my most popular search term when I've been optimizing my site relentlessly?”. More often than not the reason is because the website in question is suffering a penalty of some sort.
Search Engines Don’t Like SEO
It’s no secret that search engine operators don’t like people manipulating the results through optimization, but this is exactly what search engine optimizers (SEO’s) do. So if you make it blatantly obvious that you are performing SEO on your website then the search engines are going to penalize your website. Therefore when performing SEO for your website you must always make sure what you're doing is not frowned upon by the search engines.
If your website gets banned by the search engines then it means you've probably done something drastically bad to the extent where they don’t want to list your website at all.
So how do you know if your website is banned?
So how can you check whether your website is banned by a search engine?
Check the search results
If you go to Google and simply type the URL of your website you should be presented with something similar to below: -
If you enter your domain and you get a message saying “Sorry, no information is available for the URL: xyz” then chances are your site is banned.
The only other time you may receive this message is if your website is brand new and hasn't been crawled by the search engines yet.
Check the PageRank Bar
If you download the Google Toolbar (http://toolbar.google.com) then you can view the PageRank of every website you visit. If you navigate to your website and you see a gray bar where your PageRank would normally be displayed (as the graph above displays), then this is a very strong indication that your website has been banned.
Check Google Webmaster Tools
Google provides Webmaster Tools,which is a free service that enables you to check for potential problems with your website. It details the number of errors it encountered while crawling your website, and also any on-page problems, such a duplicated page title and descriptions that are defined in the <head></head> section of your webpages.
You can also upload sitemaps of your website to ensure that Google knows about, and spiders all of the pages of your website.
How to Avoid Being Banned or Penalized
When you optimize your website you should always think about how your website will appear from the point of view of your visitors and the search engines. There are six common pitfalls that people fall into when optimizing their websites, and will usually account for 99% of all problems:
No diversity in Anchor Text
Search Engines like natural linking, that is where a website links to another out of choice, so if a website has 100 inbound links that all have exactly the same anchor text, is that natural? No, quite the opposite, it’s highly unnatural. In order to avoid this pitfall, you should vary your link anchor text for each link partnership you set-up, or each time you submit to a web directory. If you’re smart about your link anchor text then there is no way your linking strategy will look unnatural
Getting Backlinks Too Quickly
If you operate a new website and you get backlinks too quickly then this is often a clear sign of optimization tactics. Even worse, is the situation where all of these backlinks contain exactly the same anchor text (as previously mentioned). If you operate a new website you should build links slowly. As I've mentioned already, the search engines like to see natural linking, if your website is only a week old and already has 200 backlinks, is that natural? Link building should be a gradual process, and you should resist the urge to try to get thousands of links as soon as you launch your site. Although your intentions may be well intended, you may actually be doing more harm than good.
Another important step to prevent being your website being penalized is to ensure you don’t over-optimize your website. That is to say don’t ‘keyword stuff’. Keyword stuffing is a form of spamming where you use your keyword or keyphrase over-and-over again in your web page in order to increase the keyword’s weighting in the body text. The search engines can spot deliberate spamming quite easily, and as a result, should be avoided.
Usually if you write a well written, informative web page then there is no need to ‘optimize’ a web page, as you will have naturally mentioned your keyword/phrase in the text. The only thing you should consider optimizing is the Title tag, this should always contain your primary keyword or phrase.
Title Tag, Meta Tag , Image Alt Tag Spamming
In addition to over-optimization of your body text, you can also be penalized for spamming your tag attributes. For example if you create a title tag that looks like
<title>Doughnuts, DOUGHTNUTS, Doughnut, Doughnut flavors, doughnuts doughnuts doughnuts, Doughnuts, DOUGHTNUTS, Doughnut, Doughnut flavors, doughnuts doughnuts doughnuts</title>
Then the search engines are likely to take a dislike to this and may penalize your website.
Search engines like unique content; they don’t like seeing the same information being duplicated across multiple websites. I have seen instances where websites have been dropped from the search engines for doing exactly this. If you must insist on duplicating content from other web pages then you should disallow access to it using your robots.txt file to avoid any potential problems. To do this create a file in the root of your website so that it can be access by going to http://www.mydomain.com/robots.txt
In the robots.txt file your can disallow access to particular files on your website
Or you may also specify directories:
Hidden text is where you create text on your web page that is the same color as the background color, so it is in effect hidden. This allows you to enter your target keywords and phrases without the viewer of the website aware that the text is there.
In this example I've gone to a website that has hidden text (I'll keep their identity secret)
If I then select all of the text on the website by pressing ctrl-a I can see that the website has a lot of hidden text at the top of the page
Drastically Changing Your File Structure
By drastically changing the file structure or filenames of your website, you run the risk of damaging your search engine rankings. The reason you may get penalized for this is because it will leave a large number of 'bad' URLs in the search engine's index, and the search engines of course don't like referring their visitors to '404 Page Not Found' resources as it reflect badly on them.
One way around this is to redirect your old pages to your new pages, in time the search engines will update their listings and you will not suffer any adverse affects. This is done using your .htaccess file, where you can issue a 301 permanent redirect, so when someone accesses that URL it will redirect the visitor to the new location. The search engines will also update their indexes with the new URLs.