What To Do When Your SEO Strategy Goes Wrong

Successful search engine optimisation (SEO) isn’t an exact science and things won’t always go to plan. There are a variety of reasons why your strategy might go awry, including becoming over-zealous with your tactics or violating search engine guidelines. So, if you’re here because your SEO isn’t progressing as smoothly as you’d hoped, here’s what you can do to get your strategy back on track as quickly as possible.

Recognising that there’s a problem

You’ll likely be notified that there’s a problem with your SEO strategy in one of the following ways:

Seeing a significant drop in the organic search traffic your site is attracting
Receiving a message within your Google Search Console account

Manual penalties

If you receive a notification via your Google Search Console account, you’ll have been given what is widely referred to as a manual penalty. This means that someone at Google has analysed your website and found that your SEO strategy includes a component that violates the search giant’s guidelines.

The good news is that the message you receive should provide you with some information on the nature of the issue. The most common reasons for incurring a manual penalty includes:

Partial or sitewide link issues which indicate participation in schemes and/or techniques to manipulate your search rankings
Hosting large quantities of thin content which does not provide users with a high-quality user experience

If you’ve received a manual penalty, there are three steps that you should follow:

1. Understand why you have incurred a penalty
2. Work to address the problem
3. Ask Google to remove the penalty by submitting a reconsideration request

Algorithmic penalties

Google uses various algorithms to identify websites it believes aren’t providing the quality user experiences it thinks its users deserve. If your site is subject to an algorithmic penalty, you will see a sharp drop in organic traffic. To remedy these negative effects, you must first understand why your site has incurred this type of penalty.
There are a variety of links that can cause issues, including:

Paid links
Web and article directories
Link exchanges
Comment spam

If you have received a link penalty or you are at all concerned about your link profile, you will find the following steps useful.
1. Create a comprehensive list of links pointing to your site
2. Analyse the quality of those links and identify those that look problematic
3. Contact the owners of sites that you would like to remove your link
4. If there are links you are struggling to get removed, utilise the disavow tool to tell Google you don’t want them to count those links

As there are particular types of content that Google doesn’t value, following its content guidelines as carefully as possible will help avoid being hit with a content-related algorithmic penalty. This should include:

Ensuring your content contains as much valuable information as possible
Avoiding curated, syndicated, and scraped content
Carefully monitoring user-generated content

Recovering from a Google penalty will take both time and effort. Importantly, treating penalties as a warning not to fall into the same habits again should help you to keep your strategy on track moving forwards.