The Google search engine strives to ensure that the user receives relevant, useful and interesting content in response to his query. Therefore, high positions in the search results are appreciated by those sites that comply with the guidelines for webmasters. On the other hand, website owners who try to manipulate search results must reckon with receiving a Google filter. What is a filter (penalty) from Google and what actions can you get it for?
Google filter – what is it? Google filters and the effects of website positioning
The Google Filter is a kind of penalty from Google that causes your site to drop in search results. Their scope may vary – the penalty may result in drops by several or several dozen positions. For gross breach of webmaster rules, your site may be punished with a total removal from search results (ban).
There are two types of Google penalties (filters). These are:
– manual penalties that apply only to your website and are imposed manually by Search Quality Team employees – you will be informed about it via Google Search Console,
– algorithmic penalties that apply to multiple sites and result from an algorithm update; usually the effects of algorithmic filters are visible several weeks after the implementation of the update, but Google only informs about key changes – many of them are not announced, and you only notice the changes after limiting the traffic on your website; As a result of algorithmic changes, part of the site will improve its position in search results.
A Google filter can be imposed for two main reasons. These are:
– offering users a low-quality experience (e.g. low-quality content, duplicate content, etc.),
– an attempt to manipulate search results by using unfair SEO practices (e.g. buying links).
Google filter and algorithm updates in website positioning
Google has been constantly updating its algorithm since 1998. All this to provide users with results best suited to their queries from high-quality websites. Every year, Google makes several thousand updates, but the biggest changes in search results took place after the implementation of a dozen of them.
The most common updates announced by Google so far have concerned:
– website content (Panda, Pirat, Koliber, RankBrain, Bert), – linking (Penguin),
– results in local search results (Pigeon, Opossum),
– User Experience and website operation (announced for the 2021 Page Experience update).
Algorithmic filter in SEO – how to avoid it?
The algorithmic filter involves Google implementing an update that affects the performance of many different websites. Some of them may achieve higher positions as a result of changing the algorithm, while others will score worse in the rankings. Sites that use unfair practices in the SEO process, the purpose of which is to manipulate search results, are exposed to declines in rankings. For which SEO activities in the field of link building, content creation and User Experience can you receive an algorithmic filter?
Unfair linking strategies in positioning – what is the risk of the Google filter in the field of link building?
Valuable links leading to the website are one of the main factors influencing the website positioning results. Thanks to them, you build the authority of an expert in the industry and show Google algorithms that you are valued by users. However, you must bear in mind that unfair actions in the field of building a link profile may result in an algorithmic penalty from Google. The biggest changes in search results related to the linking strategy came in 2012 when Google implemented the Penguin update (now it is part of Google’s main algorithm and works in real time). As a result of Penguin, declines were recorded by sites that:
– bought links,
– participated in the exchange of links,
– had a lot of links from spam and low-quality sites,
– build a link profile in an unnatural way and record a large increase in links in a short time.
Tip: Are you a beginner positioner and you have no experience? In order not to be exposed to Google’s algorithmic filter, make sure you get links from high-quality websites. Remember that your link growth should be gradual, not sudden. Do not use link exchange and link buying platforms, especially from foreign sites. An important element of the linking strategy is also the selection of anchors, i.e. the content of internal and external links. When planning linking, you should use anchors with diverse content. What anchors do we distinguish?
– with closely related content
– including a specific keyword (e.g. hotel Miami),
– with partially matched content
– the anchor content contains the key phrase, but in a more natural way that fits the content of the sentence, e.g. a hotel in Miami,
– descriptive, such as a link saying “keyword strategy article”
– branded, e.g. Paraphrase.Online,
– clean URL anchors, e.g. https://paraphrase.online/,
– graphic – then the content of the anchor is the alternative text of the image.
Tip: To avoid the Google filter, you should create your anchor content naturally and grammatically in order to include it in a sentence. If the content on your website is saturated with anchors containing only the content of the link or key phrase, and the anchors will be placed mainly in the footer, you may be exposed to the Google filter.
Google filter in SEO – penalties for content marketing activities
A Google filter that causes a page to be lowered in search results also threatens you when you use unfair practices in the field of content creation. As a result of the Panda algorithm, introduced in 2011, many websites have experienced a drop in search results. Currently, the Panda algorithm is part of Google’s fixed algorithm and works in real time. While it won’t remove your site from search results, it can keep you low-ranking and you won’t be able to reach the top 10. What content creation activities will you face an algorithmic penalty for? Mainly for:
– duplicate content both inside the website and on the internet in general,
– low-quality content that does not bring any benefit to the user and does not contain useful information,
– content saturated with keywords – phrases are important in the content, but should not dominate, because the superior value for Google algorithms is bringing value to the user,
– unavoidable content that has been copied from competitors ‘or product manufacturers’ websites, as well as from other pages on our website,
– content incorrect in terms of language or grammar, content created with the use of automatic tools for generating content.
If your website has product descriptions copied from the manufacturer’s website or identical descriptions of the same product that differ only in color, your website may have low positions in search results. In the case of content, technical duplication is also important – if one product is in several categories in the online store, it should be at the same URL in each of the places.
How to detect duplicate content? You can use the Copyscape and Siteliner tools for this purpose.
Tip: Remember that valuable content is an important ranking factor in website positioning – create content that is linguistically correct, as well as useful and interesting for users, containing key phrases placed naturally. Avoid automatic content generation tools, take care of expanding existing blog entries.
Google filter and UX in website positioning – what errors on the website can be punished by Google?
The look and feel of your website also affect positioning, and errors or deficiencies may result in a filter being applied to your website that will lower your position in search results. What elements may result in the imposition of an algorithmic penalty?
Too slow page loading causes Google filter and limited SEO effects
According to Google, page loading speed is one of the ranking factors. If your site loads too slowly, users will likely give up waiting for it to load fully, which in turn will reduce traffic to your site and may affect your search engine rankings. What can you do to improve the page loading speed?
– limit the number of interactive elements,
– plan the implementation of the AMP protocol, which speeds up the loading of pages on mobile devices,
– use distributed CDN networks.
To check the speed of your website, you can use the following tools to tell you what changes you should implement on your website to improve loading times:
– PageSpeed Insights,
Too many ads
Numerous ads, especially those that appear unexpectedly and obscure the content that the user sees without scrolling, may also contribute to nullifying the effects of website positioning and the imposition of an algorithmic filter. Users will be reluctant to visit a site saturated with ads that are not readable to them, which will reduce both CTR and website traffic. As a result of the algorithm change, your website will lose positions rather than gain them.
404 errors – how do they contribute to penalties by Google?
The large number of 404 errors discourages both users and Google crawlers. The lack of a specific product will likely cause the user to give up purchasing in your store, and Google’s algorithms will record a high bounce rate. This may result in a drop in search results due to the update of the Google algorithm.
Tip: Check if your site has 404 error pages on a regular basis. Use redirects to avoid a situation in which the user lands on a page devoid of content.
Your website doesn’t have a mobile or responsive version? Take into account the algorithmic penalty from Google
In 2015, Google announced that it would consider the mobile version of the website when determining its rankings in search results. If you don’t have it, you run the risk of an algorithmic filter and lower search engine rankings.
Tip: It is best if your website is responsive and automatically adjusts its appearance to the screen size of the device used by the user. Thanks to this, the website will be user-friendly – all buttons will be displayed in the right place, and the images will not obscure the content. If you want to check if a website is mobile friendly, use the Mobile Friendly test in Google Search Console.
Manual Google filter and website positioning – what actions can lower your position in organic search results?
Your website may also fall victim to Google’s manual filter. The Mountain View tycoon employs specialists who monitor tens of thousands of websites a month and check them for compliance with developer guidelines. If a Google employee finds bugs on your site, they can manually filter your site. You will be informed about it in the Google Search Console tool. What SEO activities are affected by manual filtering?
Unnatural link profile in website positioning and the Google filter
Unnatural link profile can cause not only algorithmic but also manual penalty. Therefore, you should constantly analyze incoming links to your site, and also avoid buying links, participating in link exchange programs. Another activity that may expose your site to punishment is acquiring links from pages not indexed by Google, with a low position in the search engine, as well as directories with low authority. Links should come from pages with similar or related topics with original and valuable content. What to do to get rid of malicious links and remove the Google filter? To do this, take the following steps:
– download your links in the Google Search Console tool or use the support of an SEO agency that has access to professional tools for link profile analysis,
– add nofollow attribute to poor quality links,
– disavow or remove harmful links.
Redirect errors caused by manual Google filter
What are redirect errors that could result in a manual filter being applied? Typically, this happens when the user is redirected to a page other than the one shown in the search results. Remember that you don’t have to implement such a redirection yourself – sometimes it happens that it is implemented automatically by CMS plugins. How to fix the error? Find crawl errors in Google Search Console, remove invalid redirects, and submit the site for reconsideration. Please note that your application may take several weeks to process.
Hacking attack – a common cause of penalties from Google and a decrease in website positioning
If your website is hacked and Google’s algorithms notice that your website has been infected, they will filter or even ban your website. You will be informed about the manual penalty via Google Search Console. What should you do to eliminate manual punishment? Take the following steps:
– contact the hosting provider,
– check the website’s security and detect vulnerabilities to detect how the hacking attack occurred,
– find out what type of hacking attack took place (whether your site has been infiltrated by malware or, for example, spam),
– clean the site,
– refer the site to GSC for reconsideration.
– Remember that you should always have an up-to-date backup of your site.
A different way of displaying the website for robots and users – how does it harm your website positioning?
The content displayed to users and Google robots should be the same. If there are differences in how your site is displayed, you are exposing yourself to a manual Google filter. These differences may include:
– displaying the HTML version to Google robots and the Flash version to the user,
– displaying the full content of the website to algorithms and a limited version to users who have not registered, subscribed to the newsletter or have not logged in.
Hiding images – more likely Google filter
One of the actions that can also lead to a manual filter being applied to your site is hiding images, including:
– hiding one image under another,
– displaying other images to users and algorithms.
Web hosting causes Google filter
Incorrectly selected, free hosting saturated with ads can also destroy the effects of website positioning and cause a manual Google filter and lower your position in search results. Therefore, you should choose paid hosting and a domain from proven hosting companies.
Manual Google penalties in the context of content – what content should you avoid?
The content on your website should not only be original, but also valuable and linguistically correct. If you choose to use automated content generation and translation tools and tools, you are exposing yourself to manual penalties from Google that will lower your site’s position in search results and limit your website traffic. Also, opt out of automated content optimization tools, such as meta tag optimization. The meta data that supports SEO should be made for readers and encourage them to come to your site. Automated structured data will not only fail to bring the expected results of page positioning, but may result in a penalty imposed by a Google employee. A manual Google filter can also result from content hiding and too many guest and affiliate posts that don’t add value to the user.
User-generated spam causes penalties from Google
Customer-generated content, known as user generated content, can support SEO effects, but spam from users can result in a manual penalty from Google. Therefore, you should define yourself on which pages users can add comments, as well as moderate them and remove content containing advertising and spam as well as comments unrelated to the topic of the page.
How do I know if Google has applied a filter to my website?
To find out if Google employees have imposed an algorithmic filter on your site or part of it, just use the free Google Search Console tool. In the “Manual Actions” section, you will find information about any filters imposed by a Google employee and tips on what to improve. After you’ve made your changes, you can submit your site for reconsideration – after about a week or two, Google will process your request. If you have done everything correctly, the filter will be removed.
Do you want to find out if your website has an algorithmic filter applied? The best way is to keep an eye on your website’s position and traffic. For this purpose, you can use both the free Google Analytics tool, which comprehensively monitors website traffic, and paid SEO tools, such as Senuto, in which you can check the website’s visibility for specific keywords and the number of keywords in the top 3, top 10 and top 50 search results.
The analysis of website visits allows for a quick diagnosis. A sudden drop in the number of users, especially when Google publishes updates to its algorithms, may indicate the penalty imposed.
If you want to check if your site has been excluded from the search results, enter “site: yourdomain” in the search bar. If you get results, your site has not been banned.
How do I remove a filter imposed by Google?
If linking is the cause of the penalty, seek help from experts who will suggest removing the filter from Google. One of the steps in the work of cleaning a page from links is to officially opt out of the Google administrator. This is a very time-consuming process that can take from several days to even several weeks. Removing all links is not a good solution, as this completely deprives the website of traffic from referring pages. Therefore, an expert must collect a database of all links, then classify them as useful or harmful, and then proceed to removal in the next step. If the filter is caused by other actions – for example in terms of content, the way the page works and displayed, or redirects – you should eliminate the errors. Create original high-quality content, optimize conversion and User Experience in website positioning. Don’t hide content or images, and optimize meta tags yourself. Such activities will provide you not only with the effects of website positioning, but most of all they will save you from Google penalties and loss of position in search results.
Cooperation with SEO specialists – a way to avoid Google filters
The penalties imposed by Google are the most severe effect of incorrect website positioning. When, with the help of specialists, we manage to return to the search results, it is better not to risk being excluded again. Disavowing links may be rejected, depriving the punished website of the possibility of reappearing in the top 10 search results. By choosing professional SEO agencies, you can be sure that the funds invested in their activities will not only safely improve the visibility of the website, but also pay off thanks to a greater number of customer inquiries.