Each year, google rolls out around 500-600 algorithmic updates while most of these updates are minor which does not affect your website traffic much. But occasionally google rolls out a major algorithmic update (such as Google Panda and Google Penguin) that affects search results in significant ways. The last update was on November 10, 2016–Unnamed Major update. MozCast detected a major (106°) spike on November 10th and another on the 18th. Industry chatter was high during both periods, with some suggesting that the second spike was a reversal of the first update. Google has not confirmed either event. Many people reported bad dates in SERPs during the same time period, but it’s unclear whether this was causal or just a coincidence.
So before any conclusion about change in your traffic due to penalty. First, you should check about the latest algorithmic update by google. How to check about algorithmic updates?
Moz Cast: How it works
MozCast is an experiment in tracking the “weather” patterns of the Google algorithm. While big updates like Panda and Penguin get a lot of press, Google revealed that they made 516 changes in 2010, and all evidence suggests that pace has continued. What we notice is barely the tip of the iceberg. MozCast was designed to help you keep track of the day-to-day changes in the Google algorithm.
How Does It work?
It all starts with this: every 24 hours, Moz track a hand-picked set of 1,000 keywords and grab the top 10 Google organic results. Keywords were deliberately chosen to avoid obvious local intent, are distributed evenly across 5 “bins” by query volume, and are tracked at roughly the same time every day from the same location.
- Go to Moz Cast
- Check for any big fluctuation
If there is a big change in weather than it indicates about the major algorithmic update. Check your traffic and rankings if there is the sudden drop in traffic from the update your website might be hit by the google algorithmic update.
Why You’ve Been Penalized
If you suddenly see a traffic drop, you’ll have to find out what caused it. There are two main penalties you can get. The first one is a manual action from Google’s spam team, and the second one is an algorithmic penalty.
Manual Action Penalty
Manual Action penalties are very easy to distinguish. Google is nice enough to leave you a message in your Webmaster Tools letting you know that a page on your site, or possibly your entire site, has a penalty. These penalties are often accompanied by worse rankings or complete deindexation.
Determining the Update that Caused the Penalty
When you receive a manual action, the note in Webmaster Tools will tell you what is wrong. It may even give you examples of what is wrong. These penalties are very difficult to get out of. It’s a time-consuming step and takes a lot of effort to check all the things mentioned by the google webmasters tools
Algorithmic penalties are much harder to identify. There is no message telling you what is wrong. At first you will see a drop in organic traffic, however, that usually is not enough to tell if a penalty has taken place or not. Traffic can drop for many reasons, many of which are not due to Google penalties. It is important to know the site’s traffic patterns and if there is any cyclicality to their traffic.
Once you have verified that the drop in traffic is not related to another issue, you should check your rankings. Algorithmic penalties often obviously alter all rankings for a distinct group of terms. Using Google Webmaster Tool’s search queries report, you can tell if any terms have dropped in the rankings. If there are sustained traffic drop and a decrease in rankings, it is very likely the site has had an algorithmic penalty.
Determining the Update that Caused the Penalty
It can be much harder to figure out what penalty caused an algorithmic penalty. There are over 500 updates a year and picking which one is hampering your traffic is very difficult. Of course, this is much easier if you have access to Google Analytics. If you do not, you can get a really good idea using SEMrush.
Using Google Analytics
If you have access to Google Analytics, you are in luck. There are tools that can help you. My favorite is a paid tool called Fruition Google Penalty Checker. You grant the tool access to your Google Analytics account, and it will make a graph of all the penalties, and give you a percentage of the chance that it affected your site.
Another tool that works well (and is free!) is called Barracuda. It works the same way as Fruition does. You grant the tool access to Google Analytics and it produces a pretty graph that highlights the updates. This tool does not give you the likelihood of the update affecting your site like Fruition does, which in my opinion, is well worth the cost.
Both of these tools are great and far superior to simply looking at your traffic and checking the update list.
Determining Update without Google Analytics
If you do not have access to Google Analytics or Webmaster Tools, which is often the case for me, you can still get a good idea of what update caused the traffic drop using a traffic estimator tool like SEMrush. Using this tool, you can see drops in traffic and then correlate the month the traffic dropped to a penalty using MOZ’s Google Algorithm Change History.
Escaping the penalty
While getting out of an algorithmic penalty is much easier than a manual penalty, it is no walk in the park. By determining what update affected your site, you can find the cause, then correct it. Most of these penalties are data based, so if you can get your site below the threshold set by the search engine, you should be able to rank well again.
How to Recover Your Rankings
Whether we are talking about a manual or algorithmic penalty, you will have to analyze your website’s backlinks and identify the ones that caused your rankings to drop.
Once you identify the links, try to remove them, and disavow the ones that you cannot delete. Without any further ado, let me show you how I do all of this:
Find All of Your Backlinks
To start, go to Google Webmaster Tools and download all of the backlinks recognized by Google.
In the left menu, click on “Search Traffic” and select “Links to Your Site”:
From the module “Who links the most,” click on “More” to see all of the backlinks. To export all of your backlinks, click on “Download latest links”:
Now, you can import all of the backlinks from Google Webmaster to your favorite SEO tool, and get more insights and SEO metrics for your links. You can use any tool you like and are familiar with. However, try to avoid using tools that promise to automatically identify low-quality backlinks, because you might end up disavowing some of your best backlinks.
Identify the Bad Backlinks
My favorite tool is called Monitor Backlinks. I am going to show you how I use it to identify the bad backlinks on my websites. After connecting with my Google Analytics account and importing my links from Google Webmaster Tools, I can see all of the backlinks on my website.
The very first things to look for are the backlinks that do follow. These are the links that are passing PageRank, and Matt Cutts has clearly said that they ignore the backlinks with a Nofollow attribute.
From the right side of Monitor Backlinks, click on the thumbs up icon to view all of your dos follow backlinks:
I’ll concentrate on the 199 backlinks that are do follow and influence my rankings in Google. To identify the low-quality ones, I first will look at the links that have over 100 external backlinks per page. For this, you have to click on “Filters” and select “External”:
In the last column, you can see the exact number of external links each page has:
Now, you have to manually verify each or these backlinks, and identify the bad ones. Most of the time, such backlinks are coming from blog comments. Let me show you some real examples of low-quality backlinks with a high number of external links.
Whether you have built some bad backlinks to your website or someone has used negative SEO against you, getting rid of a Google penalty is doable. Numerous websites have recovered from all types of penalties.
The key to removing any Google penalty is to understand what caused it. This is why it’s very important to read Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Once you identify the reason for your penalty, you have to remove the backlinks that led to your rankings drop and disavow the ones you cannot remove. Download all of the backlinks from Google Webmaster Tools, and use your favorite SEO tool to get more insights about your links.