Luckily, many businesses with websites never suffer from the effects of the penalties which can be meted out by the search engines for abuse, spamming, cloaking and other attempts to con the search engines. However, there are plenty of search engine optimisation agencies who through bad luck, ignorance or trying to be too clever have managed to achieve this “kudos” for their clients. It can take a considerable time for a domain to recover, and expense and lost sales, and negative PR and so on. There are some fairly simple ways to avoid suffering search engine penalties.

  • Always use a reputable search engine company who use white hat SEO techniques.
  • Always get references from clients, as well as check any companies listed in the portfolio to see where they are listed in the SERPs.
  • Do not attempt to con the search engines – you will NOT win and it could prove extremely expensive!
  • Keep up to date with black hat search engine techniques as much as you are able, and make sure that you are not using any of these techniques, whether inadvertently or deliberately, when optimising and promoting your website.
  • Do not use cloaking, web spam, boilerplate code or content, link spam, spamdexing, keyword stuffing, hidden links (typically 1x1gifs), link farms or any of the other multiple techniques which attempt to deceive the search engines

Should you discover that your site has been penalised by the search engines, you really only have two choices. The first is to buy a new domain name and start again, but this time, don’t do whatever it was that got you banned in the first place! This is not the preference as you may have spent thousands of pounds, as well as considerable time,
developing your site and brand.

The better option is to discover exactly what you, or your seo agency, has done and rectify it. If you don’t know what has been done by your seo company, face up to them and find out what they may have done. It may not have been deliberate, but it does need resolving. If they deny all knowledge, get a second opinion from a more reputable company.

Some techniques are easy to spot – keyword stuffing, invisible text etc, will all show in your page code. Doorway pages will show on the search engines, as will cloaking etc. Your task is to find what has resulted in the penalty and UNDO it.
As well as being penalised by the search engines, which can include having your entire domain dropped from the index, you can also suffer from what are known as “dampening factors”. These will not result in an outright ban per se, but will hinder your results in the SERPs and should be avoided. For instance, if you link to a site or page that is already
under penalty, your website will suffer as a result.

  • Always check where you are linking to, and avoid paid links and link farms like the plague.
  • Don’t purchase a domain without looking up its history. Some domains are for sale because they have a poor history with the search engines, and this will prevent you ever achieving the results you desire.
  • Try not to mirror content on multiple sites, or duplicate unnecessarily. Definitely do not create one website and duplicate it across multiple hosts, even in different countries, unless the content is, for instance, translated to suit.

In summary, put your users first, and remain honourable and honest in SEO and you will see great results.

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About the author:

A practising internet marketing consultant since 1996, Lindsey Annison helps companies improve their website marketing, online PR and information architecture. Lindsey is also a qualified adult education lecturer and author. As co-founder of the Access to Broadband Campaign, she has been instrumental in the provision of high-speed internet access to rural areas in the UK. Lindsey is also a past winner of Silicon.com's Outstanding Contribution to UK Technology