Does your business rely on search engines? Are you even aware how much your business relies on search engines?
Google hit the forum headlines this month, when the company penalised itself for its own search marketing activities.
I would suggest that ALL businesses rely on search engines, and I would put money on it that some business owners don’t even realise that customers/clients have found then through Google. Do you know how much revenue search engines bring to your business? Do you know what a Google penalty is? Are you ready for it?
Google Chrome employed a search marketing company to act on its behalf to promote the service, and the company used a paid link strategy that Google itself condemns as underhand SEO. As a result, Google Chrome was issued with a penalty, preventing it from ranking as highly on Google for the fixed penalty period. As the penalty coincides with a large-scale Google Chrome advertising campaign, the mistake has been not only highly embarrassing, but extremely costly.
And despite Google Chrome insisting the paid links strategy was not what they asked for, they were still issued with a Google Penalty from Google Search, resulting in a low PageRank for a period of 60 days.
- Try searching for “browser” in google. At the time of writing Google Chrome is still not on page 1 ( except for a PPC advert!)
Many conversations have ensued around this case, including a debate on the fairness of paid links.
(Don’t have sound too loud, background noise terrible!)
This story raises the question: if Google itself can get a penalty, how sure can other businesses be that they aren’t susceptible to Google Penalties, too?
How much revenue would you lose if your website wasn’t listed by Google?
It’s now difficult for many of us to remember a time before the internet, when you couldn’t simply type a question into a search engine and get an instant answer. For today’s college students, this time has never even existed.
It is easy, therefore, to take for granted the role of search engines in delivering new customers to us. But what if you were suddenly, and without warning, removed from search engine listings. Have you ever quantified how much revenue you would lose, simply from people searching for you or your products online, not being to find them, and presuming you were no longer operating so going elsewhere for those products or services? Surprisingly, many online business owners have never done this, and very few have a policy in place for dealing with such scenarios. A simple first step would be to set up Google analytics correctly so you can get a real feel for revenue that search brings.
The scenario above can, and has, happened to many businesses. I know, because I was one of them back in 2004 and we lost 40% of our turnover over an 18 month period! The reason behind the sudden loss in online revenue is due to something called the Google Penalty. Regular readers will know this is an area I specialise in, as I’ve written about it many times before, in articles about duplicate content and about Google Penalties incurred by J C Penney and BMW.
The Google Penalty: Death by Search Engine
Google is the most popular search engine. So while it is important to ensure your SEO policy takes into account other search engines, falling foul of Google Guidelines will have the single biggest impact by far. It’s worth mentioning that google’s guidelines are just that, guidelines, the actual rules are completely secret and more so change all the time!
As everyone knows, Google ranks each website on its credibility, relevance and a whole host of other factors (around 200 in total), knocking points off here and there for bad coding, broken links and duplicate content.
But if Google deems a website to have participated in underhand SEO activities in order to gain artificially high or top ranking on search terms, it more than likely will issue a Google Penalty. In most cases a Google Penalty will supress your normal position by around 50-70 positions, i.e. taking you from page 1 to page 7 and in some cases can prevent the website from ranking at all. It requires a lot of time, effort and very careful dedicated SEO activity to regain a worthy page ranking position after the ban/penalty is removed. Some penalties consist of a fixed period, others are until the issues are resolved. Some penalties are automated by Google and some are humanly applied.
It’s like the effect that applying for too many loans or credit cards has on your credit score.
And the worst thing is, it could happen to you without your knowledge, like a kind of SEO identity theft. In nearly all cases google will not advise you of the penalty! A simple solution would be to add an alert in Google analytics, for example you can get it to alert you if your traffic drops by more than 50%.
Are You Safe from Google Penalties?
If Google itself isn’t safe from them, nobody is!
If your company outsources SEO or search marketing, or you engage in any kind of affiliate marketing, you could potentially leave yourself open to a Google Penalty due to the activities of those working to promote your website online on your behalf.
Devious SEO tactics may not only land you with a Google Penalty, they could also seriously affect the value of your brand. And short-term page ranking wins are certainly not worth the long term hassle of repairing your SEO and your brand, if bad PR arises from the SEO activities that won them.
Google Penalties are something that every business owner should be aware of, and should take steps to prevent. As explained above, the impact of a Google Penalty can be devastating, and take a long time recitify.
Prevention is better than cure.
- Part 1: Stuffing Keywords into multiple domain names – why advice like this shows you which SEO agencies to avoid
- Part 2: Stuffing Keywords into multiple domain names – Tesco can do it sho why can’t I
- Protecting your blog content
- Google Penalty Unwinding
- John Lewis in potential deep water with their affiliate marketing