The Google Penalty You Never Knew About!

Carl is our analytics guru, tech specialist, data miner...He pretty much does everything we need to keep running smoothly! He's an expert on computer hardware and software, and even brings design skills to our team.

Most of us know about the common Google penalties. The ones that focus on: paid or bad quality links, thin content, comment spam, blog networks and guest blog posts, etc. There have been a lot of them, as well as negative SEO where competitors target each other in an attempt to drag down their competitor.

For the sake of this post, let’s not focus on the common ways a site loses its competitive edge in Google’s ranking. Let’s be positive. If we understand that Google’s ranking algorithm is nothing more then a complicated equation, then we can start to improve our situation. If you just want to think of Google updates as penalties where Matt Cutts slaps around the little guy, then this post is not really for you. Not to mention, if you just fix your site based on “penalties”, then you will always be a step or two behind the market. You are just reacting rather than being proactive and making sure your site is sound regardless of future Google updates.

Remember for every Google update (i.e. penalty), there is an equal amount of people benefiting. If you lose ranking, someone else gains. You want to be the person/company that benefits.  If we accept at this point that Google updates are just algorithm tweaks, and not penalties, we can start to see that the updated algorithm is just the adding up of items that Google finds valuable. That should be our outlook.

The real penalty is actually not knowing the things Google values.

Here’s my take. There are six new ways Google is valuing your site or digital property. If you think your company won’t act unless there is a penalty involved, then feel free to call the sum of these six the “lack of innovation” penalty. Here we go:

Site Speed

No one likes to wait for a slow site, not even Google. A slow site might not even index as the Google bot is too busy to waste time waiting. You can view your Webmaster Tools Account to recognize if Google is working too hard to crawl your slow site. Or use this great site speed checker.

Mobile Friendly

This might not be a surprise to some, but remember, Google has made three updates in the past two years showing preference to mobile friendly sites. Not only have they made it apparent that mobile friendly sites will be favored, but that also means that non-mobile-friendly sites will be replaced in rankings. Test your site with Google’s mobile tester or use the tool below.

Rich Snippets or Structured Data

Think SEO tags are just titles, descriptions, H1, and alt tags? Though those are important, that’s not all! There are over 150 different SEO tags Google looks at. Take a closer look at the rich snippets and other structured data markup on your pages and consider adding them for authors, product, reviews, recipes, events, etc. Here’s more information on rich snippets from Google.

App Indexing

Do you have a mobile phone? Of course you do. And you probably do a lot with it – from gaming to social media to mobile searching. Did you know that Google is directly indexing mobile apps and you can install Google Analytics for them? It’s a great way for companies to get more bang for their buck with the investment they have made into developing Android and iOS apps.

Secure Sites

Safety and security is very important. Google has made a big push for this in recent years to avoid scrutiny over privacy concerns. They want everyone to have an SSL secure site. If you don’t, you are being penalized! It’s an easy way to get a boost in rankings. Google has announced that sites with SSL will be rewarded.

Usability

When was the last time you looked at Google Webmaster Tools?  It shows everything from 404 errors to how many time someone clicks on your listing. Think you need to rank better to get more traffic? What would you think if only 3% of the people who saw your ranking clicked it? What does your SEO plan look like? If you don’t have good usability stats, Google will not rank you as high. WMT is a great online resource, and it’s free! Use it to explore the usability of your site and make improvements, as needed.

In summary, to make sure you are not losing ranking, make sure you are complying with the positive items Google has stated as being valuable. Produce great content, do the things above, and stop focusing on the negative. Be proactive. Be on the innovative side where you will more likely be awarded as opposed to penalized. Over time, you will see growth in your organic numbers. Don’t wait to react. Google doesn’t like a slacker!

Curious if your site is mobile-friendly? Test it now!