I want to start by saying that I definitely know that a Google Penalty is big and scary thing, I am by no means belittling the consequences of attracting one. However all too often, there are some larger issues at play when that naughty word is banded around and the actual penalty, is probably the least of your worries. If there’s underlying issues that you are choosing to ignore, penalty recovery may just be another pointless task.

Without jumping straight in, first let’s cover penalty recovery and those pesky penalties, for those of you that haven’t quite caught up yet.

So, in short, penalties can be handed out for a number of different offenses, from stuffing your content with those super important key phrases, or buying 1,000 of their very best links from providers such as bestseonopenaltyguaranteed.com.

The main offending areas are on page (relating to content) and off page (relating to links).

Now for a quick breakdown of the two, just so we are all on the same page.

On Page Offenses

The most common and most obvious way to be ‘awarded’ the coveted Panda Penalty (this one is for on page content) is to have poorly written, thin and/or duplicate content proudly displayed on your site.

I could go into this and tell exactly what you will have read everywhere else, and that’s not what I’m here to do. However, should you need more advice about all things Panda, there is a great post from Amit Singhal at Google that explains it further. It’s from 2011, so it’s not new information, but I couldn’t have explained it better myself.

Ok, so if you receive the Panda treatment, it can have a pretty significant impact on the overall performance of your domain, but, I’d argue that if you are writing the type of content that attracts Pandas then it probably warrants the severity of it.

It’s pretty damn obvious when crappy content is in play.
…aren’t we past this crappy content?

I’d argue not, we still see a tremendous amount of waffle, drivel and content for content’s sake out in the wild and, do NOT for a second think that because your content isn’t thin or duplicate that you are immune from Panda.

The giant panda may have been downgraded from ‘Endangered’ to ‘Vulnerable’ on the global list of species at risk of extinction, however I can assure they are far from extinction on the Wild Wide Web.

If you want to survive and thrive, you need to give your users content that is actually useful.

Information should be useful throughout the journey that customers take while conducting business with you.

The important thing to note here is the ‘throughout the journey’ bit. It isn’t enough to just have fantastic content on your products and services, you NEED it at all of the stages that a customer might need you at. There is so much more information than I could ever cover in a few paragraphs in our Useful Content Checklist.

Off Page Offenses

The Penguin.
These guys scan the seas for linking patterns deemed unnatural.

Again, I could spend the next 300 words going into detail of what unnatural links look like, how penalties can be algorithmic or manual, but in the interest of being useful, it just isn’t worth covering the topic in depth because honestly that wasn’t why you clicked on this blog post title.

After all, we all know how to Google a query if that’s the need we are wanting to satisfy.

So, back on topic, yes, the impact of Penguin can be crippling, depending on the severity of your offence.

There are plenty of cases out there where a site has completely dropped off the face of the earth, there are many more where they have seen a percentage drop in organic performance, and there is the bottom line, these decisions and actions can have real business implications.

If your measurement of success is links, whether it be number or placement of them, then you are already playing with fire.

Links are not a measurement of success on their own, links are a by-product of GOOD, RELEVANT and TIMELY content.

Still need to get links?

That is more than understandable, but, stop and think, there is a much better way to do it.

As I mentioned just a few lines up, the best links come from relevant content that provides something useful, when you have an active targeting strategy for communicating and engaging with your top influencers and being smart, timely and relevant to those who actually want to engage with your content.

Yes, admittedly this is more time consuming, it takes research and actually needs a strategy. When you put the time into the right tasks (research, communications and damn good content) you get the best results!

Penalty Recovery and Removal

So how do you banish these penalties, never to be seen again?

As penalties come in numerous forms, penalty recovery and removal also holds quite a few options.

Whilst the individual removal tactics differ depending on how you attracted the penalty; from a content overhaul to a link disavow of epic proportions, there is one aspect that rings true for every site in this situation – your online marketing strategy either sucks or is wildly out-dated.

Sorry, not sorry.

Whilst penalty recovery is a huge priority for the overall success and performance online, again, the tactics of which are documented and tried and tested within the industry, the other priority has to be a total revision of the tactics and strategy deployed online.

Like I said, the penalty isn’t the main issue here. Your marketing strategy is.

If you are able to attract a penalty, then I would suggest that you seriously need to rethink what you are trying to do online.

In our opinion, penalty attracting tactics are right in the firing line of our #PointlessMarketing drive, you just shouldn’t be doing it!

You will only be worrying about penalty recovery, if you are employing risky tactics.

These tactics cost you money, lots of money.
They don’t provide any value for your users.
You are employing tactics from 3 years ago.
You end up pissing Google off (totally not a good idea by the way).
You employ a very tactical and short sighted approach.

There, I said it.

Let’s Rethink

If you are writing content with the sole intention of ranking, you really need to take a long hard look at your strategy and rethink.

If you are counting the number of links to each page as a measure of success, you need to rethink.

If you have to pay for organic links, you need to rethink. If you have a history of trying to ‘game’ the algorithm, you need to rethink.

Google is smart enough to notice these patterns, to weed out the weak and only serve users with websites that actually provide some value.

So let’s work on something that provides your users with some return on attention and you with some return on investment. Let’s work on something that is actually exciting, that your staff or agency will want to get behind. Let’s build a strategy that provides all of this, that integrates with your wider marketing activity and let’s stop talking about penalty recovery as you won’t be getting served with penalties.

If you are doing it right, you shouldn’t need to ever utter the words again.

Forward Thinkers, Apply Here

Anyone with their finger just about on the pulse, will know that Panda & Penguin are not new and they may not be something they might worrying about, but that does not mean we can break out the hammock, not now, not ever.

Whilst the fluffy pets are always going to be the big hitters, there are a whole host of just-as-important factors that contribute to organic performance and such is the way of things, there is a requirement to comply or die.

Secure connections (HTTPS) for all sites are needed NOW.

Users are mobile, so your online offering will die if you do not follow them into mobile territory.

Time is precious, making users wait will burn a hole in your profits.

User experience is the priority, not Google’s experience. Site and page quality can be determined clearer and quicker than ever, as our resident analytics wizard Stephen Shaw tells us about machine learning and the impact on search, Google can qualify sites better than its technicians, we need to be considering it as a user.

Couple all these aspects together and you can see that Panda/Penguin is just the tip of the iceberg. Don’t be fooled.

You have 3 things to consider – the user, the fact that Google is smarter than us all AND you need to be constantly providing your users with a ‘best in class solutions to their needs’, on a platform that facilitates it quickly, securely and simply.

If you consider all of this in your approach to search, then success – whatever that may mean to you – will be attainable, it won’t be easy but at least it will be within reach.

The main thing that you have hopefully taken away from reading this, is that after all the penalties and penalty recovery, it is your user’s experience that is crucial. If you could do with a helping hand putting your user first, you should download our free insight piece that covers all things customer-centric marketing and personalisation.