HOW TO AVOID BEING PENALIZED BY GOOGLE
The new Panda and Penguin updates Google made in the past couple of years have some site owners thinking that the world's biggest search engine is out to get them. Several once popular sites suffered from drastically lowered rankings, and some even went out of business entirely. Fortunately, the search engines aren’t trying to get you. In fact, if you play by the rules, Google can become your best friend.
To fully understand how to avoid being penalized when the next round of changes are unveiled you have to realize that Google is out to serve its customers. It’s not in business to serve website owners. That’s not what it was designed for. Google is there to serve people who need to look up information. What’s more, it’s there to give those people the best and most relevant information it can based on what they’re looking for. In order to do that, it has to create algorithms that are capable of weeding through the crap and finding the best sites to meet customer demand.
So that brings me to the number one rule--it's simple but harsh--for staying on Google’s good side: Don't have crap on your site. It's really (almost) as simple as that. If you consistently provide writing, videos, and other content that is interesting, relevant, and well constructed, then you won't have any trouble with Google.
The question is, who gets to decide what constitutes “crap?” Google does, for one, but readers and web searchers also play a large role in deciding which sites get placed on the good list, and which ones are doomed to a lifetime of obscurity. To begin with, Google has a list of things you should avoid when creating content. You'll find some of their guidelines below, so use them as a starting point for creating people-friendly content.
Don't duplicate content. That means no plagiarism! Even a few words, if copied verbatim from another site, is considered plagiarism, and Google will slap your wrist hard. Use your own content, or have someone who knows what they're doing create it for you. Just make sure you run it through Copyscape or a similar plagiarism detection software to ensure the person you hire is honest.
Offer content that's worth reading/watching. That's right! Not only does your content have to be original, but it also has to be quality. To know if your content is good or not, you only have to consider whether it offers something of value to your target audience. Obviously, not everyone will like the same thing, but if you've thrown something together without a thought about who you're throwing it together for, there's a good chance it's going to, well, suck.
Don't overdo it with the keywords. I can't say this one enough. Put a keyword in the title, in the first and last paragraphs, and then write for your readers.
Aside from these things, you should also pay close attention to your site stats. If you add something, or change something, and your views go down, you might want to reconsider.
It's also important that you keep up to date with your email inbox. Sometimes if there is an issue on your website, Google will send you a friendly reminder that it isn't cool with what you're doing. Change whatever it is immediately, and watch for the same mistake on other web pages you may have. Search engines aren't tyrants. They aren't out to make you suffer. They just want to ensure that their customers are getting the best possible search results. That means you need to design and fill up your site with writing, images, and videos that will make their users happy. The bottom line is that writing for Google is the wrong idea. Write for the people Google serves instead.
Another factor you might want to consider when trying to keep your site out of Google's doghouse is staying up to date on algorithm changes. Most major changes are announced ahead of time, and you can get a general idea of the type of issues you might have. Doing so may not save you from being impacted by such changes, but it will give you a head start on working on any problems before things get out of hand.
What to do if you are penalized:
The most obvious way to overcome a Google penalty is to fix whatever you were penalized for. If you aren't clear on what the issue was, send the company an email and find out. Keep the guidelines for effective content in mind as you go through your web pages to find the problem. If you have older pages that don't adhere to the rules, get rid of them. You'll probably already know if your content is REALLY bad, but even a few missteps here and there can lower your rankings, so search the site carefully for errors.
If you really can't find anything you believe should have impacted the site's search rankings, you can send an email to Google asking for your rank to be manually reinstated. Keep in mind that this can take awhile, and that if you've overlooked anything, your request may not be granted.
Even design elements can impact search ranking. Having user friendly navigation is one way to enhance rankings. You may also be negatively impacted if your content isn't being shared online via social networks and similar sites, since a recent update made it so that comments on posts, “likes” and “re-tweets,” all have an impact on site ranking. The only way to encourage viewers to share your stuff is to create stuff worth sharing. It's as simple (and as hard) as that.
Finding the perfect middle ground is not always easy. You have to balance the amount of money you put into content with what you expect to see in return. If you aren't the creative type, hiring those who are can be beneficial, but this option isn't always budget friendly.
On a final note, keep the following in mind when creating content. They aren't all on Google's list of things to remember, but they are equally important for engaging an audience.
Don't try too hard. Readers can tell when you're desperately seeking approval, or writing to try and sound smart. Be real. Be conversational. Pretend you're talking to a friend.
Get your facts straight. It may take Google awhile to determine if you have blatantly ridiculous information on your site, but your visitors will find you out in a hurry. Bet on that.
Don't assume hiring a writer is best. Hiring the right writer or content creator can be a great investment, but if you can't afford somebody who knows what he's doing, you're better off doing it yourself. Trust me. Your work will not be any worse than that of some of the so called “professionals” floating around.