Did you know that your entire website could be delisted from Google’s search index? If you violate Google’s Quality Guidelines, even accidentally, you can be hit with the dreaded Google Slap. Whether it comes manually or algorithmically, you know you are in trouble. That’s the SEO penalty – a well studied “science” by most of the marketers. While Google is notifying users about manual actions, you’ll be mostly in dark about what exactly caused your site to be affected by an algorithmic penalty, until you make use of tools like these to do your part of the research.
Now, those who are using Google Adwords as one of their online marketing channels, can be “penalized” as well. Adwords accounts can be suspended and websites banned for basic violations of Adwords Policies. Most of the time calling them isn’t going to help, even to find out what the problem is. If you call 1-866-2GOOGLE and enter in your customer ID, you may get an automated message saying you’ve been suspended. Sometimes you’ll get a link over the phone to a page where you can plead your case. In others, they’ll just outright hang up on you.
The first thing to do if you’ve been slapped is to look at the AdWord Policies published by Google. Often you can find the reason why you’ve been slapped in there, but you may not have the technical background to understand what Google’s policies are saying. That’s where a professional can help you. Let’s take a closer look at a few of these policies:
If your site’s only purpose is to gather names and emails, you will be slapped. This is often done to build up email lists for later marketing, but it’s also a tactic that spammers use to get information. An example would be an exchange of information for “10 secrets to making millions.”
People who operate on a freemium model often accidentally run afoul of this slap. There has to be something else on the site to justify its existence. We prefer that clients develop an e-book or other information product for sale and place it on the page. The goal is to make the site’s purpose to be selling a product, not harvesting data. The best part is if you sell the e-book, you can often get your visitor’s name and the email address anyway!
If you use words like “permanent” or “last forever,” or some other claim that isn’t verifiable, you’ll end up with a slap. This often happens with the diet and beauty industries which often use exaggerated claims. Fortunately, it’s an easy fix. Just remove the claims. Don’t say your liposuction process removes fat forever. After all, they could get fat again!
You know that disclaimer you see on television weight loss ads that say results may vary? This is what this slap is about. If you make a claim that says if you use this product you will lose 10 pounds in 10 days, that’s not something that can be backed up. Even though it might be achievable, you can’t claim that it can be achieved by everyone. You can’t even say that people get the results on average! Fortunately, this is also easy to fix. Make the benefit claims more vague. Say that the treatment will make the user feel better.
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It is rare to get suspended for just this issue, but if you’re caught doing other things and they notice this, it’ll also be a penalty. You have to have some proof that you’re a physical business if you’re selling products. It could be business hours with a physical address, a phone number, or an email address. This information must be easy to find. Google considers a lack of contact information to be a lack of transparency. Sites have contact pages for a reason!
Car advertisements may be able to put disclaimers in tiny print that whoosh by, but Google doesn’t let that fly. A tiny asterisk and tiny font in a different color at the bottom of the page saying “results may vary” isn’t enough. If you’re going to have a disclaimer, it needs to be clear and near the claim being modified, and the font size needs to be the same. Don’t try to hide it.
Sometimes claims are made in testimonials that are outside of the norm. Even though it’s not the business making the claim, the business has to be forthright about disclaiming unusual results, or specific results, for that matter! Always make your testimonials claims a little ambiguous and use disclaimers as necessary.
If your product or service claims are vague or unclear, you could get slapped for this. Blogs can get slapped for this if it’s not clear why the blogger wants to collect names and emails, say for adding names for a newsletter or to get information about a particular product. The sites that run into this issue are ones that rely on email lists as their main form of marketing. GBOG has had lots of cases where a client had a legitimate product, but the business model relied on selling it to people on the list rather than on the site. Put the product on the site, and make it clear that is what the focus of the site is about.
These aren’t the only reasons why people get kicked off of Google, but we’ve seen them quite a lot. Google is singularly unhelpful at telling you exactly why you were slapped. Try these tips, then wait a week to see if Google notices your changes and unfreezes your account. If they haven’t, you could have deeper problems.
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