At Perficient we always stress to clients that SEO is constantly changing, taking short cuts is not an option, and human visitors are priority #1 and robot visitors are priority #2. But what happens when all the SEO “black hat” techniques that worked like a charm in the past start affecting your website and rankings? Or even worse…What happens when you paid for SEO services and now you are suffering the consequences of their actions? Before stressing out determine if your website was really penalized and if the SEO techniques were the reason for the penalty.
1. Check Your Analytics
Check your Analytics from March 2012 to May 2012, since the Penguin update was pushed out in April. If you are using Google Analytics:
- Under Overview: Did you receive a sudden drop of traffic in April?
- Under Advanced Segments, select Search, Direct, and Referral Traffic: Was search traffic the one that suffered the most?
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If the answer is yes then it is extremely likely you were penalized by Penguin.
2. Check Your Rankings
Since search engines now provide personalized search results, it is recommended to use a free keyword tool like Rank Tracker to see if you appear on the top 100 search engine results for specific keywords. If your rankings dropped drastically, it is likely that your site was penalized or the backlinks that were built for SEO purposes were devalued.
3. Check Your Page Rank
Page Rank is a Google metric from 1 to 10 that shows how popular a webpage is based on off-page metrics (backlinks). The higher the number the better. You can use tools like PR Checker to get this number. Usually, a website that has been completely banned from Google’s search engine index will have no Page Rank or a gray bar.
4. Check Your Robots.txt
It is common when reading about any Google update to freak out, especially if you haven’t been tracking closely any SEO metrics. But I’ve seen cases where the reason behind not appearing on search engine results is simply because the website is not allowing search engine robots to crawl the site. To check this type robots.txt at the end of the domain (www.domain.com/robots.txt) if you see “disallow” it usually means your site is blocking search engines from doing something. This is a great article that explains robots.txt a bit further.
5. Check If Your Domain is Still in Google’s Index
On Google, search for site:http://www.YourDomain.com and check the results. If Google indicates that there are no results found, it is very likely your website has been penalized.
6. Review Your SEO Practices
Finally evaluate the SEO team or agency’s practices. Ask the following questions:
- Did you use software to get links?
- Did you buy links?
- Did you exchange links?
- Did you use the same anchor text constantly for SEO purposes?
All of these are reasons to get penalized by Google.