How to Protect Your Small Business Website Against Google Penalties

Did you know that Google can punish your website or your AdWords account if you perform certain activities they don’t like? It’s true.

Google penalties can quickly ruin a business that relies on online advertising or traffic for revenue generation.

Therefore, it’s important to know what gets Google’s negative attention and how you can avoid these penalties.

Why does Google penalize sites and ad accounts? Google’s goal is to provide the most accurate and relevant information and ads for any given search query. Anything that compromises accuracy or relevancy is a threat to Google’s image. Imagine if all of the top sites for a search were spammy websites and the ads were all misleading? No one would use Google. That’s why Google cracks down so hard on sites and ad accounts that break the rules.

Protecting your Site

For sites, the rules are pretty straightforward. Google doesn’t want to see sites try to game their ranking system unfairly to push a website higher, and they don’t want to see illegal content. Some people practice blackhat SEO to rank their website higher in a short amount of time. One technique is show the Google crawler for a different page than the one users are seeing when opening the page. If Google will automatically punish some shady practices, but if your practices are too egregious, your site might be delisted from Google.

The two documents you need to read to understand site delistings and penalties are Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and their SEO Optimization guide. For most small businesses, you’re not likely to break these rules. The real danger is when you hire an outside web developer or SEO manager who doesn’t follow the rules. Some companies promise huge results and then pull some shady tactics (keyword stuffing, text cloaking, hidden text, using unrelated keywords, creating mirror sites etc.) that might work in the short term until you’re caught. By then, the shady company has already gotten their fee, and you’re left with a useless domain. You should also read the section from Google’s search engine optimization guide on user-generated spam, and learn how to defend yourself against it.

If you are handling your own SEO, then reading the SEO Optimization guide is a must. There are a lot of old strategies still floating around on the web and in old marketing courses that can work actively against you, such as keyword stuffing your articles or creating lots of thin content to make Google think your site is much larger than it actually is. In general, you shouldn’t trust SEO strategies that are more than two years old, and performing an SEO audit every 3 months is a must.

Protecting your AdWords Account

Your AdWords account can make you a lot of money, but if you’re locked out of your account, you lose those benefits. Just like advertising in other mediums, there are rules that you have to follow. The rules for AdWords can be found on the AdWords policies page.

Some of the rules are quite straightforward. There are some categories that Google will refuse to advertise and some that Google will allow under heavy restrictions.

Here are some examples of prohibited content:

  1. Weapons
  2. Tobacco
  3. Advertising drugs
  4. Explosive materials
  5. Fireworks
  6. Inappropriate content – bullying, racial discrimination etc.

Google allows ads for these industries but will keep a close eye on the ads:

  1. Adult content – adult magazines, matchmaking sites etc.
  2. The gambling industry ads – online casinos, bingo ads
  3.  Alcohol
  4. Political content
  5. Healthcare and Medicine
  6. Financial Services etc.

If you break these restrictions or try to get your prohibited content website an ad, you’ll be banned, and it will be very hard, if not impossible, to undo the ban. But others are not so simple, so build your PPC campaigns wisely

Google doesn’t want to see their ad network abused, to have personal information mishandled, or to show misleading ads. If you are running your own ad campaigns, then you need to be aware of what Google is watching for so you don’t run into a penalty. Similarly, you need to watch what third-party AdWords managers might be doing on your behalf.

Data Collection Practices Can Get you in Trouble

Data collection practices and misrepresentation will most likely to get a small business in trouble. Any data you collect must be handled with care and securely. Your leads must be made aware how you’re using their data will be used. If you ask for financial information, then your website must use security technology to prevent third parties from intercepting it. Read the Data Collections portion of the AdWords guidelines carefully if you plan on collecting information directly from a landing page.

Misrepresentation is Google’s catch-all term for misleading advertising. What you think is an acceptable advertising tactic might not match Google’s opinion. If your business is in the health, fitness, financial or diet niches, then you will be under especially close watch. Even something as innocuous as, “you will lose weight on this diet, guaranteed!” can get you penalized.

Hundreds of thousands of businesses use Google to list their business sites and to advertise. It’s not that difficult to follow their rules once you’re aware of them. Plus, knowing the rules will help you evaluate the strategies of third-party SEO and AdWords managers so you don’t get penalized. Before you play the game of SEO and PPC, read the rulebooks, and choose the proper marketing strategy so you don’t attract the attention of the referee.

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