Hit by a sudden lost of traffic? Feeling confused and anxious? Your content or brand could have slipped in popularity, or, your site could have been penalized by Google. The first step to recover your traffic begins with understanding if and how you were penalized. Google applies both manual and algorithmic penalties. Read on to find out how to diagnose and what to do.
What's the Difference?
If Google decides to apply a manual penalty to your site, then you will usually receive a message to let you know what action has been taken and why. Check your Google Webmaster Tools account for notifications. Manual penalties are applied against sites that trip Google's spam filters, and can involve the entire site being removed from Google's index. If you are hit with a manual penalty, you will need to make sure your site is not violating Google's spam policy and then submit a reconsideration request to Google. Algorithmic penalties are more difficult to identify and address. The first sign that anything is wrong is a sudden drop in traffic. You'll then need to find out which Google algorithm change hit your site, so that you can resolve the issue. You can find details of all major algorithmic changes and the dates when they occurred on Moz.com. Comparing these details with your traffic statistics should give you a good indication of which algorithm change caused your problems.
How to Recover
Once you know which algorithm change penalized your site, you can take appropriate action to recover your lost traffic. It is important to learn as much as you can about the algorithm before you start making changes, as otherwise you could end up wasting your time or even making matters worse. One recent algorithm change that might have hit your site is Penguin 2.1, which was released in early October 2013. This algorithm penalizes sites that have too many poor quality links pointing to them. Before the Penguin update, having a large number of links to your site would increase your ranking, but now the quality of those links also counts. You can use Google's disavow link tool to tell Google not to count links from poor quality sources when ranking your site. Photo Credit: Ivan McClellan Photography via Flickr.