Despite the fact most marketers have stopped employing black hat SEO, some websites continue to utilise tactics and techniques that Google has long considered forbidden.
Usually, those who don’t play by Google’s rules will be given a manual action notice and see their site downranked. But in the worst case scenario, Google will take the ultimate action and deindex the site completely.
To stay in its good books, you should always bear in mind Google’s two-pronged approach to “organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,”:
- Constantly adapting and amending its increasingly intelligent search algorithms.
- Using human quality raters to assess and ensure search results are of the highest standard.
Seeing as these guidelines are a little broad, here’s what to avoid if you don’t want to be deindexed by Google.
Cloaking is the practice of showing search engines one thing and your visitors another. It’s done by delivering content based on the IP address or the user agent and can result in a partial or site-wide penalty.
Websites that show content to Google but restrict it to viewers, as well as images that are obscured, different to the ones served, or redirected elsewhere can also be considered cloaking.
According to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, the following is considered spam and could result in your website being deindexed.
- Automatically generated content
- Participating in link schemes
- Participating in affiliate programs without adding sufficient value
- Sneaky redirects
- Hidden links
- Scraped content
- Creating pages with malicious behaviour, such as phishing or installing viruses, trojans, or other badware
- Sending automated queries to Google
Keyword density is not as important or influential as it once was. However, Google still looks down on the act of inserting or loading pages (including meta tags and descriptions) with a huge volume of keywords and numbers, otherwise known as keyword stuffing.
The following is also considered keyword stuffing:
- Unrelated keywords – For example, your website is about music but you add keywords to do with food in the hope of getting more traffic.
- Keyword repetition – Not only the unnecessary repetition of keywords, but also using every variation of a keyword.
- Hidden text – For example, keywords in a font that matches the website’s background or is too small to read.
Google’s ultimate aim is to provide users with the most relevant content to match their queries. In recent years, its algorithm has favoured high-quality, in-depth content that gives each user useful and valuable information.
Therefore, thin content, which is defined as having little substance and no originality, will result in a penalty from Google.
Duplicate content can be classified in two ways:
- Copying content – Literally copying content from other high-ranking websites and passing it off as your own.
- Multiple content – Creating multiple pages of the same content on your website, such as product pages with almost identical information.
To proactively address duplicate content issues, Google suggests that you use 301 redirects and top-level domains, be consistent with internal linking, minimise similar content and boilerplate repetition, syndicate content carefully, and avoid publishing stubs.
Use machine-written content
In order to avoid the pitfalls of plagiarising or spinning content, some marketers are using computers to create unique and original articles. In fact, there are a few examples of machine-written content where the standard and quality isn’t that much worse than humans.
Even so, machine-written content will never compare to the imagination and ingenuity of the human brain. And while algorithms will continue to advance and improve, Google is already well-aware of what machine-written content looks like.
Unnatural links to and from your website
Link building is arguably the most important skill in SEO, mostly because it tells Google how to determine website authority – the more links pointing to your site, the more people consider it useful, valuable, and worth vouching for.
As a result, several marketers try to manipulate this way of thinking with certain link building methods, which have been a target for Google updates such as Penguin.
Link building techniques that could find your site in hot water with Google include:
- Buying links
- Linking from forum signatures
- Spam blog commenting
- Low-quality guest posting
- Link exchanges (link farms, private blog networks, link directories etc.)
- Paid links
Get in touch with any website owners that are providing you with low-quality links and ask for them to be removed. Alternatively, you can disavow links yourself on Search Console.
When it comes to internal links, try not to be excessive with your use of anchor text. Also, overusing and abusing internal links can make your site appear over-optimised and spammy.
Spammy structured markup
Adding structured data to a webpage makes it easier for Google to make sense of the content contained within. However, if you intentionally make the markup invisible to users or include misleading content, you will get penalised.
Google’s structured data guidelines call on website owners to provide up-to-date information using relevant data as well as the most specific applicable type and property names defined by schema.org.
Chances are, the majority of comments you receive on your blog will be from real users. But every now and then, spam bots with strange usernames or weird email addresses will leave a comment that is not only unrelated to your blog, but also contains a link to an external website.
Even though you weren’t responsible for the link, it could still result in a penalty from Google. This means you should keep on top of manually moderating the content on your website or use plugins like Akismet on WordPress.
Google says that doorway pages, which are created to rank for specific search queries, can lead to a number of similar pages in search results, even though each page only links back to the first.
Examples include pages without content that are purely created for affiliate traffic and intermediate pages designed to rank for generic terms, which contain very specific content. This has an adverse impact on the user experience, because traffic will eventually be directed to the same main page anyway.