Matt Cutts released a new video recently regarding penalties that Google can and will levee against websites that fall out of compliance with their webmaster guidelines. There are two classifications of penalties that can lead to lower rankings and/or lost pages in Google’s index; algorithmic penalties and manual penalties.
Algorithmic penalties (i.e. for hidden text on your web pages) occur when Google’s search engine spiders encounter SEO tactics that don’t comply with their webmaster guidelines. In these cases, Google will automatically issue what Matt phrases a “time out”. Once an algorithmic penalty has been assessed, it will take a period of time for your site to regain its footing (and rankings) in the search results. The length of time your site remains in the penalty box will depend on the relative severity of the infraction.
Many site owners would likely submit a re-inclusion request in hopes of resolving the situation. Unfortunately, Google will not manually address algorithmic penalties, so the re-inclusion request will not relieve you from the penalty box. If you suspect your site has been subjected to an algorithmic penalty, Matt suggests that you perform a best practices audit on your site, take corrective action, and wait until the site is re-crawled and re-indexed. Repeat this process until the issue is resolved. This approach can be a long row to hoe, but it’s the only approach that will help you regain your rankings in the search engines.
Manual penalties (i.e. cloaking – presenting a highly optimized web page to the search engine spiders and redirecting human visitors to a different page) carry longer, stiffer penalties that can leave your site in the penalty box for much longer periods of time. In these cases, Matt suggests that you perform a best practices audit on your site, take corrective action, and submit a re-inclusion request via Google Webmaster Tools.
Whether algorithmic or manual, having your site subjected to Google’s penalty box can have serious impact on your online business. Just ask J.C. Penny. In either event, it’s best to review Google’s webmaster guidelines, evaluate your site for things that might potentially be tripping the algorithmic filters, and make necessary adjustments. If the penalty is algorithmic, simply wait for your site to be re-crawled and re-indexed. If you believe your site has been subjected to a manual penalty, follow the same process and submit a re-inclusion request. And if all else fails, call your friendly neighborhood Silverback Marketing SEO team and we’ll hook you up with a free site audit.