A new Google algorithm update can be very scary for some webmasters.
It can bring a lot of uncertainty into the mind.
“How will the algorithm changes affect my site?”
“Will I lose traffic?”
“Will I see a drop in my sites search results?”
And the answer to all these questions and the BIG ONE on how to avoid Google Penalties in 2018 is simple, build yourself a reputation as an authority.
Because all Google wants to do is to cover the user intent behind the search query and to send people to the content that they consider answers that user intent.
So there is your answer to avoiding Google penalties, just build your reputation.
Unfortunately, for many, it is in our nature that when we work so hard to build up a site that is finally getting results that we fear when things change and ask the doom and gloom questions.
But of course, we could choose to just switch the dialogue in our head.
We could start to wonder how much better our sites will perform because of our Google-friendly SEO strategy?
How our sites great user experience (UX) will now benefit us?
How our strategy of earning links rather than building links will play into our SERP’s? etc, etc
Google shows us how to stay Google friendly and even helps us to future-proof ourselves.
On July 21 Google released a 164 page PDF file outlining their Search Quality Evaluation Guidelines, literally everything that they look for to determine your sites search performance.
“This is great right? Now we know exactly what we have to do to avoid Google penalties in 2018 and in the future”
But there is a problem with this.
You now have to be an expert in deciphering what Google is actually telling you and then be technical enough to make the fixes or changes required.
This is 164 pages of SEO guidelines that is going to fry your brain!
There is nothing wrong with being technical but for the vast majority, it is going to be a step too far.
In this article, I will be breaking down the main reasons why Google gives out penalties and offering you some insight as to how to avoid Google Penalties by building your reputation so that Google trusts you.
How to build your reputation with Google
Google recently made a change to their search algorithm and this new update focuses on E-A-T
E-A-T stands for:
And this update just reinforces what I have been saying for a very long time now and that is that it is all about trust and reputation.
Google loves sites that have authority and expertise.
They love sites with a good reputation that are trustworthy.
And it is all of these elements that take a long time to build.
But once you start to build your reputation and become trusted you pretty much future proof your site from getting any penalties that arise from algorithm changes.
Because algorithm changes are almost always just updates and advancement on the current algorithm that you are proven to be doing well with.
The goal never changes for Google and that is how to best answer the user intent.
E-A-T drills down to further to ensure that you are sent to those with the expertise you answer your search intent.
Those pages with the authority and those they see as trustworthy with a good reputation.
A friend of mine Hazel Jarrett over at SEO+ wrote a great article that really delves deep into E-A-T
So how do you build your reputation with Google?
1/ Start by setting up an About Me page
This is really Googles first port of call.
Tell us how you are qualified to be writing about your niche.
Did you under some kind of training?
Do you have real-life experiences?
Have you spoken at a conference?
And anything that is relevant to qualify you.
2/ Social Media Reputation
Do you have social media channels linking to your business or personal brand?
Are you active and engaging and helpful?
Are your followers growing?
Social Media Tip – Question and answer sites are great.
Quora is my favorite, you can often see questions ranking highly on Google and that is because experts and authorities and those with a very good reputation are answering and engaging and often giving good long-form answers that are longer than a lot of articles you find on the same topic.
Mixing and connecting with the right crowd, the influencers within a niche is a great way to build your reputation.
But remember you have to add value, you can’t just write one sentence and then link it to your site that would fall into the “spammy commenting” area.
You can follow me on Quora Here
3/ Guest Blogging
If done correctly guest blogging is a powerful way to build your reputation with Google and establish some authority.
Reach out to those in your niche with a good reputation and offer them some ideas on a guest post or some kind of collaboration.
If others accept you onto their site then it is a good indication that you know what you are talking about and that can only be good for Googles understanding of how reputable your content is.
YouTube is a great avenue to build your reputation.
It helps build your brand and can improve trust
5/ Create and EBook
Create an Ebook and add it to Amazon.
Why does Google make changes and algorithm updates?
It is to stop cheats and spammers.
Changes are needed to combat those who are constantly trying to cheat the system and changes are made just to make Google better.
You search a particular topic, let’s use this how to avoid Google penalties in 2018 guide as our example.
What is it that you are looking for?
You want the most up to date, most relevant content that answers your search user intent and you want to know that you can trust that the information given is correct.
In the examples case, you want the information that will help you to avoid getting a Google penalty.
All updates All updates are made to ensure you get the right information.
A brief history of the Google Algorithm Updates
The Google search algorithm updates dating back to 2003.
We had updates that countered spammy link tactics (something that Google still constantly fights) keyword stuffing, unnatural backlinking, paid for links etc but it wasn’t until 2011 that we all started to take notice,
February 23, 2011, saw the release of Panda
Pandas goal was simply to prevent low-quality content from appearing in the search results and to give higher rankings to good quality content that is well researched and that covered user intent.
April 24, 2013, saw Penguin hit webmasters
Penguins was and is all about penalized over-optimized sites. Websites that were keyword stuffing their pages, building unnatural backlinks and generally spammy were hit hard.
August 2013, gave rise to the Hummingbird Update
Hummingbird is said to have affected 90% of search results in some way or another.
Hummingbirds focus was:
- Conversational Search – Using natural language to retrieve search queries rather than typing it search terms and phrases.
- Human Search – Before Hummingbird, it was difficult to find information if you didn’t have a good understanding of what you were searching for. Googles algorithm fix for this was to focus more on synonyms and theme-related topics.
- Voice Search – Google was starting to take into account how people think when searching, looking for the meaning and user intent. They did this by using semantic search and natural language processing.
April 21, 2014 – Mobile friendly Update
The mobile-friendly update was all about Google rewarding good quality mobile sites.
Sites that were mobile friendly and who gave the mobile user a great UX did well with this update.
Mobile searches were no becoming as popular as desktop/laptop searches and have now overtaken them.
Mobile sites needed to be mobile responsive and look good and they needed to be fast.
This wasn’t just an algorithm update this was a search shift to the start of the mobile-first-index development where Google rankings would be based on the quality of the mobile version of the site ahead of that of the desktop version.
October 26, 2015, RankBrain
To put it simply RankBrain is an AI machine learning algorithm that filters and sorts the search results to answer the user intent.
RankBrain is now said by Google to be the 3rd most important SEO ranking factor.
RankBrain takes into account
- User experience UX
- The dwell time on your site’s pages.
- How often you update and publish new content
- Domain authority
- How long your content is (word count)
January 10, 2017, Intrusive Interstitials Update
This update looked at annoying pop-up windows and boxes that really hurt the user experience and in particular the mobile UX.
If you use these oh so annoying intrusive methods of marketing and list building and you want to avoid Google penalties then the fix is really simple on this one. Ditch them!
The above-listed updates are just a brief history of the changes that Google has made and these are not all of them.
There are others such Quality update which was an update of the Phantom Update that looked at and assessed quality signals and then there are the changes and updates of the updates listed.
August 2018 Bringing us up to date with E-A-T
We talked about it briefly earlier, August 2018 saw the arrival of the E-A-T or as it is also known as the Medic Update.
E-A-T impacts on “Your Money Or Your Life Sites – YMLS”
This update like all the updates is about making sure that you see the correct information.
The medical and health and fitness niches have been particularly targetted by this update, hence why it is nicknamed the Medic Update.
It seeks to make sure that you are qualified to talk about the subject and that you are an authority with a good reputation.
Should any of these updates of scared you?
No not really because there is a pretty clear pattern that tells us pretty much how to avoid Google penalties now in 2018 and into the future..
How to avoid Google Penalties 2018/19- Checklist
1/ Establish your reputation and build your reputation is super important in 2018/19
If you want better search rankings if you want to avoid any Google penalties then you have to establish yourself as an authority and build your reputation.
Now, this may sound like a deal breaker already but it is not. You just have to qualify yourself so that you can legitimately write about your niche and build from there.
Building your reputation is something that you just can’t cheat and that is why it is just so important to Google.
2/ Get a good all-around basic knowledge of your site
How it is set up and why it is set up that way.
Can you make it more SEO friendly?
3/ Once you understand the basic mechanics of your site then you need a basic understanding of SEO
One of the many optimizations you can make is to have SEO friendly page and post links that incorporate your keyword phrase.
Does your site allow you to do this?
If you are a WordPress blogger then it is dead easy to do this just by ticking a box.
If your on some kind of page builder system it may not be that simple so you need to understand the basic mechanics of the platform you are using.
4/ Write good long-form content that will build your reputation in 2018
This is where SEO really kicks in, the UX formatting, speed, linking, they all make a difference to your rank but only if applied to a solid foundation built on a good reputation and authority.
We know that Google marks down low-quality thin content.
There was recently a big SEO problem caused by the very popular Yoast SEO Plugin.
A recent update of the plugin changed a setting allowing Google to index attachment page links.
Every time you upload an image to a post or page on WordPress the image is placed on its own page.
The Yoast update allowed all of this attachment pages to be indexed and each of these pages just carried a single image.
Many Yoast SEO users were penalized for low-quality pages because they had many more pages that were by definition thin or shallow on content.
So knowing that Google likes good meaty authoritative articles give them what they want with good long-form content to establish your authority and reputation to avoid Google quality penalties.
5/ Earn your backlinks
From the very beginning of Google Search, Google has been penalizing webmaster who built unnatural linking profiles.
For a long time, it was seen as a good SEO strategy to build backlinks to your site and it still is providing that you do it right.
Everyone wants lots of do follow links (links that Google takes notice of) pointing at their sites.
The problem being good do follow links are hard to come by.
It is much easier to acquire no follow links (Google doesn’t pay any attention) but then link juice is not passed to your site.
Some very silly SEO experts and Webmasters went down some very Black Hat SEO paths buying links, exchanging links and consequently getting penalized by Google.
Exchanging links and buying links is cheating the system and when discovered decimates your reputation and plunges your site into darkness.
A good natural backlinking profile should have many more no follow links than do follow for the simple reason they are just so much easier to attain.
For example everytime you are active on a comment section on a related blog the link under the details you leave is no followed.
If you share a page on social media they are almost always no follow.
In fact, there is only one social/curation site that I can think of that currently gives do follow links within posts or shares and that is Wakelet but I suspect that will change going forward.
Wakelet is where I like to curate content that I use to research and qualify what I am writing about.
You can visit the Wakelet Collection for this article here
What about guest posting for backlinks?
Google is even now starting to clamp down on guest posting on other sites. It can be seen as a spammy practice to gain backlinks.
But is guest blogging spammy?
Well, it depends on how you are doing it.
“Are you guest blogging for backlinks?”
“Are you writing 600 words the bare minimum to get your post accepted?”
“How many times are you linking into your own site?”
“Are you Qualifying what you are writing about?”
It is all about the reason for why you are guest blogging.
If you want to build your reputation within a niche then does it not make sent to collaborate with someone with authority in that same niche.
Guest blogging can build your reputation with Google and show you as an authority but only if you do it right.
The rule is that any guest post must be as good if not better than the content that you publish on your own site.
The backlink you get should be your reward for writing great content.
We know Google likes long content so guest posts need in my opinion to be over 1500 words.
If you are linking into your own site 2, 3, 4 times are you no following all but one of those links and showing Google that you are not spamming backlinks.
How does Google know that you know what you are talking about?
Are you linking into authority pages that qualify what you are saying is correct?
Guest blogging is not a bad practice
I don’t believe that guest blogging is a bad practice and Google really doesn’t either. But it is a bad practice if you are trying to build what it sees as spammy backlinks to gain an unfair advantage in the SERP’s.
But it is not just guest bloggers that need to be wary.
Webmasters equally need to be cautious when accepting guest posts.
I accept guest posts here on Infobunny but have some very, very strict Guest Blogging Guidelines that need to be adhered to.
As a result of these guidelines probably less than 1 in 10 requests to submit a guest post get submitted or are accepted.Remember it takes a long time to build up a site's reputation and only a few bad posts to get penalized by Google Click To Tweet
How to avoid Google Penalties in 2018/19 – Takeaways
The answer is a lot less complicated than you think it might be.
It is all about your reputation, your trustworthiness and your authority for doing the right things.
You have a choice you can build all of these by giving a great UX experience and creating great content and futureproofing your site. or you can look for the quick fix and work in the grey areas of SEO to cheat Google and then just get hit hard on the next update
You can go read Search Quality Evaluation Guidelines and you’re going to be as confused as hell and probably picking up the phone to hire an SEO expert.
We are often told how difficult this all is and that we need this keyword research tool and this analytics tool and guess what, they all cost a fortune.
The truth is that Search Engine Optimization is a business and it is something that is sold as a service and normally sold using the fear factor.
If you don’t make these complicated changes the sky will fall in on your site.
Most of the time your just fine and you will be fine if you just follow the simple basics that Google outlines and that hopefully, I am outlining even more.
You just have to follow the breadcrumbs that Google is leaving for you.
If you want to avoid Google penalties for overall content quality then do what they want.
Write good long-form content that is well researched.
Follow the basic SEO rules
Set up a good internal linking strategy etc etc
If you want to avoid Google penalties from the Mobile friendly update then it is simple just get a good mobile responsive theme and you are done with a couple of clicks.
None of this is hard.
Now I’m not saying never pay to cover your SEO requirements. It may well be cost-effective to the business to employ someone so you are free to sell and create.
But just be clear on what they are actually doing for you.
And know that once you start paying then your probably always going to be paying,
That’s all for now!
So what do you think?
Have you been hit by a Google penalty in 2018?
How did you fix the situation?
Let me know in the comments section below. Make sure you subscribe to the comments so that you get notified of my reply