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SEO Mistakes that May Lead to a Google Penalty

SEO is a complex and ever-evolving process. Even the most seasoned SEO experts can make mistakes, but these common SEO mistakes can lead to an automatic Google penalty if left unchecked. Here’s a list of some of the most common SEO mistakes that businesses make, along with what you can do to prevent them:

Low-quality content

One of the biggest mistakes that you can make is publishing low-quality content. Low-quality content is content that doesn’t provide value to the user and includes:

  • Poorly written, not unique, or not original
  • Not relevant to the search query
  • Duplicate content

Keyword stuffing

Keyword stuffing is the practice of including a large number of keywords on a web page. Keywords are words that people search for on the web, and websites try to rank highly for certain keyword phrases.

While Google has long been aware that some people use keyword stuffing as part of an attempt to manipulate their rankings, they’re not as forgiving now. If your website is found guilty of keyword stuffing, it could result in a penalty from Google with serious consequences: reduced visibility in search results and lower ad revenue.

If you want your website to be successful and stay off Google’s bad side, you should avoid keyword stuffing entirely.

Cloaking and doorways

Cloaking is a practice where a website displays different content to humans than it does to search engine robots. For example, if you’re looking at the homepage of your website and see the latest news about your company, but when Google’s crawler visits that page, it sees an image of a cat instead of those same headlines. You must never try to trick any search engines into showing them different content than what they should be seeing on your site.

There are several ways that cloaking can happen:

  • You’ve hidden important pages from Google by blocking them from being crawled using robots.txt or meta tags like X-Robots-Tag. This is not considered cloaking as long as it’s done by accident (you didn’t realize those pages were blocked).
  • You’ve created two versions of each page on your site—one visible to people who visit the site directly and another version available only via Google Webmaster Tools—and then accidentally shown one or both sets of pages depending on whether or not someone was logged into their account when they visited the site (even though this isn’t considered cloaking when done intentionally).

Spammy links

Spammy links are an important factor in determining whether your site has a high-quality user experience, and therefore whether it will rank well for SEO. Link building isn’t dead, but bad link building can be detrimental to your business.

What does Google consider spammy?

Most websites use some form of backlinks from other sites that point to their site. Some types of links are more prone to being considered spammy than others:

  • Links coming from low-quality websites or pages with little content;
  • Links that appear unnatural or manipulative (this includes paid links); and
  • Excessive use of keywords throughout the anchor text used on external sites (the words inside the brackets next to an URL).

Sneaky redirects

Sneaky redirects are a common tactic used by black hat SEOs to mask links, hide links, or even send a user to another site. There are three main types of sneaky redirects:

  • Safe-to-use redirects that don’t get you penalized by Google
  • Sneaky redirects that can get you penalized by Google
  • Client-side JavaScript (that runs in your browser) that sends users elsewhere

SEO MistakesPoor backlinks

While backlinks are not the only factor that influences your rankings, they are one of the most important. Backlinks are the links on other websites that lead to your website. If a site you don’t own or operate has a link pointing at it, this is called a “backlink”.

For backlinks to be effective, they should be natural, meaning they should come from relevant websites and be relevant to the topic of your website. They also need to be plentiful (a good rule of thumb is around 10 per page) and distributed throughout different sources such as social media sites like Facebook or guest blogs/articles on other websites so as not to appear artificial or spammy if Google were ever inspecting them closely enough.

Duplicate content

Duplicate content is, at its core, a violation of Google’s policies. This includes the practice of keyword stuffing—where one piece of content is stuffed with keywords to boost the page’s rankings in search results—as well as internal linking and external linking.

Duplicate versions of your website can cause problems for your SEO efforts, as it dilutes your users’ experience and makes them bounce away from your site more quickly than they would otherwise. A large part of this problem stems from Google’s ability to recognize duplicate content across the web; if someone visits two different pages that share identical words or sentences, then Google will see those pages as the same thing.

Unnatural outbound links

  • Links should be relevant to the content.
  • Links should be in context.
  • Links should be natural.
  • Links as a ranking factor are not allowed, but if they pass link equity they can still help you rank better on Google and other search engines. However, excessive use of links within your site will likely lead to some form of penalty from Google.

Over-optimization of anchor text

Over-optimization of anchor text is a mistake that many SEO professionals make. Anchor text is the text that links to another website and it’s also one of the most essential parts of on-page SEO. The problem is when you add too much exact match anchor text to your site, it can be considered spammy by Google.

Instead of over-optimizing your anchor texts, use natural anchor texts that are relevant to both your business and the content itself. Research what keywords people are searching, then use them naturally within your anchor text when linking out.

Need help with SEO?

These are some of the biggest mistakes that you can make when doing SEO. If you want to avoid penalties from Google, then you must try not to make these mistakes. If you require help with your website’s SEO contact us today. We’d be more than happy to help!