If you’re hit with a Google penalty, you need to be cautious about how you proceed with correcting the issues or risk the chance that you hurt your search rankings even more.
It’s true that a Google penalty can hurt your cash flow and knock your business a few steps backward. But trying to fix the penalty on your own, and destroying your remaining rankings factors in the process, can banish your business back to square one.
Keep an inconvenience from becoming a nightmare by avoiding these six common DIY remediation errors. Stop and contact a Google penalty recovery service at any time if your recovery efforts make the problem worse or if your current SEO agency is hurting you more than helping.
1. Killing Your Current Keywords
When your domain plunges in the rankings, and you’ve traced the potential problem to a few pages, it’s tempting to erase the content and start over. However, doing so could spell disaster for your website, undoing much of what you’ve invested in SEO.
Even after getting penalized by Google, your page will still rank for certain keywords, just not as well as before. Dropping to a search results’ third page is unfortunate, but it’s a problem a good Google penalty recovery strategy can fix.
Erasing your current keywords means starting over, not on page three of results, but all the way back at the beginning. Before erasing anything, check your URL in SEMRush to learn which keywords drive your current ranking. Be sure to keep those keywords, even if you make other changes to your website.
2. Deleting Pages and Creating Broken Links
Deleting a Web page has ripple effects not only throughout your site but to others linking to yours. When you delete a URL completely:
- Every page in your domain that links to the page now has a broken link.
- Every external Web page linking back to the page now has a broken backlink.
You’ve not only created broken internal links, which can affect your on-page rankings factors and, more importantly, inconvenience your visitors. You’ve squashed an inbound link, destroying a critical off-page search signal and worsening the penalty’s effects.
Use a tool like Ahrefs Site Explorer to see which pages link to the page you’re thinking of deleting. If going back and repairing those broken links will be a huge challenge — or if you’d lose a valuable inbound link — repair it instead of deleting it.
3. Having No Redirect Strategy
Sometimes, nothing you do to fix a domain, including rewriting content and addressing a poor backlink profile, helps you recover from a Google penalty. In these cases, you can use a good domain you already own, or purchase a clean domain and redirect your penalized pages to the new domain.
Clean up your bad backlinks, follow these steps, and monitor your search traffic closely:
- Inventory your old pages. Use a tool like Screaming Frog to crawl your website and get a list of existing URLs. Screaming Frog is free for the first 500 URLs. If your domain has more pages, you’ll need to pay for a license.
- Create a spreadsheet. Export your current URLs into an Excel spreadsheet.
- Build new pages. After you set up each new page, record the new URL in your spreadsheet next to the old URL from which you’ll redirect.
- Implement redirects for one or a few pages. If you use WordPress, a plug-in called Redirection only requires a paste of the new URL to add the redirect code to your old Web pages. You can also connect to your site’s directory via FTP and edit your .htaccess However, if you’re hesitant about playing around in the back-end of a website, contact a developer and ask for assistance.
- Watch your traffic. Monitor your domain’s traffic in Google Analytics, and see whether the new pages rank better than the penalized ones. If you have success with the initial redirects, continue redirecting and monitoring additional pages.
It’s worth repeating: Before implementing redirects, you need to address all problematic inbound links. The inbound links to the old page transfer their mojo to the new page when you redirect, which means any bad backlinks could hurt your new domain.
4. Messing Up the Conversion Journey
If you’ve monitored your site for a while, you know certain pages work really well for converting visitors into leads or even paying customers. You’ve probably noticed that visitors follow a certain path between pages before clicking on your Contact page or clicking over to a product page and adding the item to a shopping cart.
Deleting or significantly altering pages in this conversion path could deter your remaining visitors from making a purchase. Talk to a Google penalty expert who also knows something about digital marketing before making changes.
5. Using the Nuclear Option
Some small-business owners decide to nuke their old websites and start fresh with a new domain. This option means giving up everything you’ve worked for digitally, and not just related to SEO.
- You’ll have to start over with new keywords or start back at the beginning for existing keywords.
- You’ll lose all inbound links to your site, both good and bad. Every great site that once pointed to your old URL now offers a broken link, and every online marketing campaign you’ve launched is full of links that no longer work.
- You’ll have to change your URL on your social networks as well as on all branded materials, such as business cards, brochures, and banners.
- You’ll have to set up new properties in Google Search Console, Google Analytics, Google AdWords, and more.
- You’ll lose direct referrals from people who know your domain and simply type it into their browsers.
Don’t kill your website without at least having a consultation with an SEO expert. Fixing your site might be labor intensive, but it’s usually preferable to scrapping it and starting over.
6. Failing to Backup Your Files
Before you do anything to your penalized site, make sure to backup all your old files. If you make a mistake that worsens your rank, you can at least go back to the point your site was penalized.
If you know just enough about SEO to be dangerous, but not enough to actually fix your situation properly, you might try to recover from a Google penalty on your own and make things worse. You have nothing to lose by getting a free one-on-one consultation with an SEO expert before trying to fix it yourself.