It is often hard to tell what is a real penalty as there can be may causes for your content to drop in the search engine result pages (SERPs). There are things that should be obvious, like changes in SERPs that co-inside with changes you made to the site. However, often results don’t directly co-inside with changes and therefore it can be difficult to track back.
It can be challenging to discover if:
- You’ve got a true penalty
- You’ve been outranked according to the current algorithm
- It’s a Google bug (from algorithm tweaks)
Simple Checks Include:
- Is your robots.text page restricting access?
- Has an errant noindex or no-follow tag found its way to a section of your site?
- Have you checked Google’s webmaster tools for error messages?
- Have you checked WebmasterWorld to see if recent changes to the algorithm are effecting others?
Props to “tedster” on the webmaterworld thead, this list is an excerpt from an older posting of his:
- Do your pages show with a site:example.com search?
If they did once and they do not now, this is most likely a ban – the most extreme kind of penalty. It’s becoming quite rare to be completely banned rather than penalized – usually those who are banned know what they’ve been doing. Technical problems with your site, or some times Google may be at fault.
- Does your site still rank #1 for a search on your domain name example.com?
If so, but your other important search rankings ALL slipped badly, this is often a sign of a penalty. Study up on the posts in our Hot Topics area for ideas.
- Does a search for relatively unique phrases taken from your title tags return your URL relatively high?
If so, but your principle search rankings have dropped out the bottom, you may have lost the power of a good number of your backlinks. This is not necessarily a true penalty, but if you have been a part of some backlink scheme, even unwittingly, you may have been penalized for it.
Also, check any outbound links on your pages to be sure that the site they point to is still what you intended. Other domains can change ownership (or just change their conduct) and become part of a “bad neighborhood”. If others also have access to your site, be sure that no hidden content has been added without your knowledge, especially hidden links.
Other good posts on the subject:
- Do I Have a Google Penalty?
- Am I penalized? What type of penalty do I have?
- Diagnosing a possible penalty