SEO Guide on How to Identify Link Penalties

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Published: 29th October 2012
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With the latest batch of search engine penalties rolling out recently, from Panda to Penguin and its babies, this year 2012 has become a very chaotic times for SEO experts and webmasters. Some websites have found a significant and surprising drop in SERPs as Google has penalized them.

The recent released of Penguin Update which penalized manipulative links has even made some to seriously suggest the solution of abandoning the affected site and starting a new one.

But don’t panic as not all search engine penalties are permanent, you could still be able to do some actions to restore your previous rankings and rebuild your site’s flow of organic traffic.
Here are the steps for identifying link penalties recommended by professional SEOs:

1. Look for Notifications from your Google Webmaster Tools Account

The easiest way to identify if you are penalized is when Google will inform you they have penalized your site for manipulative links. Immediately after noticing a potential search engine penalty, you should log into your Webmaster Tools account and look into your message page from Google. In many cases, when there is an automatic or manual penalty issued to your website, you will receive a message which includes the specific rationale behind the penalty. According to Matt Cutts, there are about 25,000 webmasters who have already received similar notices earlier this year.

2. Keep on Reading Reliable SEO Blogs for Recent Google Updates

Because there are times that sites received “penalties” that weren’t really penalties at all, in order to determine if an algorithm change is the culprit for your diminished search results, you can go to some authority SEO blogs such as SearchEngingeLand.com, SERoundTable.com, SEOMOz Blog, Google Webmaster Central blog and other SEO Webmaster Forums like V7n and check out for information about potential penalty rollouts.

3. Determine the Coverage or Reach of Penalty

While you are checking your Google Webmaster Tools account and reading reliable SEO blogs for information about what led to your search engine penalty, you should also assess the extent of the penalty’s impact as well.

Here are a few things that you should check:

Check if your site is still indexed. To check whether or not your site is still indexed, type site: www(dot)yoursite.com into Google’s search bar. If there is no result that appears, it’s possible that Google has deindexed your site.

Check the extent of the changes of your traffic or rankings. Is there a drop in rankings for all of your target keywords or just a few? Did your traffic decline drastically or you only lost volume slightly? By determining the level of your search engine penalty, you will be able to see whether you’ve been hit with a site-wide penalty or total ban (in which case all traffic would be affected) or a smaller penalty affecting a single keyword.

4. Perform a Review of Your Site Against Search Engine TOS

Regardless of the size or scope of your search engine penalty, you should review your website and your backlinking practices against the Terms of Service (TOS) issued by the search engines.
For Google Webmaster Guidelines, you can read it here: support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=35769

5. Fix and Improve your SEO Strategies

Once you’ve identified any areas of weakness within your site or your chosen link building strategies, you should fix them and improve your SEO Strategies.

Although all of these steps may take time and require a lot of patience and effort in order to accomplish all of them, just remember that your time and effort will pay off in the long run, as Google will reward sites that provide the best user-experience for their readers.


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