15 Reasons Your Joomla Website Got Penalized by Google

We get a couple of call every week or so from new clients telling us that their Joomla website got penalized by Google. The first question that we ask them is: “Are you sure you got penalized?”, and the second question is: “How did you know you got penalized?”.

The answer to the first question is usually always “Yes, we’re sure”. The answer to the second question is: “Well, our website used to appear among the top 5 results for certain keywords, but now it doesn’t”. So, we tell them that dropping from the top 5 results (even from the first page) doesn’t always mean a penalty. In fact, in most cases, the reason for this drop is a change in Google’s ranking algorithm (Google claim that they make hundreds of changes to their search ranking algorithm every year). An actual penalty is when the website drops 30 or 50 spots. And so they ask us 2 other questions: “What caused my Joomla website to get penalized by Google?” and “How can I recover from a Google penalty?”. The second question has been answered by hundreds of websites, and we think that most answers are wrong. A Google penalty can be very hard to recover from (often requires years – however, some websites recover fast, but we suspect they do so because of a manual intervention on Google’s end). In any case, we will not elaborate in this post on how to recover from such a penalty, and we will only focus on the first question (we believe that understanding the reasons may help in the recovery).

So, without further delay, let us discuss the 15 reasons (in no particular order of importance) that may cause a website to be penalized by Google:

  1. Website getting hacked on a regular basis: If your website gets hacked the first time and then you fix it, then Google will definitively forgive you. If it gets hacked the second time, then it may forgive you. Now if your website gets hacked regularly, then Google will think (and rightly so) that you are not serious about your website and will penalize it. Always keep your Joomla website up-to-date, and make sure you are following these security tips.
  2. Errors in your .htaccess file: A good .htaccess file can greatly boost your search engine rankings. A bad .htaccess file can cause your website to be penalized. Be very careful when you make changes to your .htaccess file because a simple change can wreak havoc upon your rankings. If you get hit with a penalty, immediately have a professional take a look at your .htaccess file.

  3. Over-optimization: Optimizing your website for search engines is good, but over-optimization can red-flag it quickly. Over-optimization is never perceived by Google as a good thing, and, as such, is often penalized. Be careful when you start optimizing, don’t shock Google. Do your optimization over weeks or even months if you have a very large website. Never do everything in one shot, even if you’re following Google’s own guidelines for a clean, respectable website.

  4. No unique content: A client called us yesterday and told us that his website was penalized. After a quick investigation, we discovered that he didn’t have a single article on his website that was unique. All his articles were copied from other websites without any credit. This duplicate content is nearly always penalized by Google, sooner or later (by the way, our client told us that he was doing this for years). Always have unique, well written content on your website and Google will eventually reward you.

  5. Writing only very short posts: Very short posts are considered by Google as a method to gain long tail traffic. While very short posts are accepted if they constitute a small percentage of your content, they will definitely harm your website when they constitute the majority of your content, especially when they are intentionally used to lure long tail keywords.

  6. Using titles that have nothing to do with your actual content: If you are using titles that are not, in any way, related to your content (and you are doing this most of the time), then Google will perceive this as a deceptive method and will penalize your website. Always use titles that are related to your content.

  7. Hiring the wrong person for a quick SEO boost: If we had a dime every time someone tells us that they got penalized after they hired a person who promised to quickly boost their search engine rankings, we’d have a whole lot of dimes (not enough to make us rich, but close). So called experts pretending that they will immediately boost your search engine rankings if you give them a few thousand dollars will often use dark techniques that will give you that boost for a month or two, and then immediately get your website penalized, permanently. They will then, of course, tell you to pay them more money to restore your website, and will blame the penalty on a change in Google’s algorithm claiming that the work they did has nothing to do with what happened. Be very wary of who you hire for SEO.

  8. Allowing spam on your website: If your website has a lot of spammy comments with links directing your visitors to obscene/malware websites, then it’ll only be a matter of time before it gets penalized. You should always monitor your user generated content, whether it’s articles, comments, or forum posts, and you should be proactive in removing spam from your website and banning those responsible for the spam.

  9. Keyword abuse: Keyword abuse is also referred to as keyword stuffing, and is the practice of including the same keyword several times in a particular post to increase the search engine rankings for that post when people search for that particular keyword. Keyword abuse can get the offending page to be penalized, and, can cause the whole website to get penalized if used sitewide. You should always monitor the density of your keywords (but then again, if you are monitoring the density of your keywords, then this means that you are doing something wrong and you know it, and this’ll eventually get you in trouble with Google).

  10. Tag abuse: We don’t think highly of tags, and neither does Google. Many website owners use tags to attract long tail keywords (causing a Google penalty), which is a wrong practice. Tags should be as few as possible and should be related to the post.

  11. Too many spelling/grammar mistakes: Google’s algorithm is getting stricter and stricter with each update. A few years ago, it was lenient towards websites with many grammar mistakes – no more. If you don’t care about grammar and spelling when you’re writing your articles/posts, then expect Google to penalize you at one point. Always make sure that your sentences can be read and comprehended by people other than yourself, and that they don’t contain any grammar or spelling mistakes.

  12. Slowness: Google’s search engine doesn’t want to direct traffic to websites that take many seconds (or even minutes) to load, but rather to websites that load instantly. If your website falls into the first category, then it may get penalized, or, at best, it will drop a few spots in the search engine rankings to the point where your search engine traffic is significantly reduced (note that statistically, most people look only at the first 5 results when searching on Google – only those who are very desperate to find the right information look past the first page). Always ensure that your Joomla website loads quickly (you may want to read how we made a Joomla website 200 times faster).

  13. Too many errors: Notices, warnings, and fatal errors are tolerated by Google, but to a certain point. If your website has errors on every single page, and if many of your pages have fatal errors, then don’t expect Google to be merciful. Note that sometimes errors can appear on your website suddenly, without you even making a single change (these errors usually happen because of a modification on the hosting server, such as an Apache/PHP/MySQL upgrade). Make sure that you always set the Error Reporting to None in your configuration settings on your production website to suppress all errors from your website.

  14. Overlinking internally: Whenever you write an article, make sure you don’t have more than a few links pointing to your other articles. Swamping your articles with links to other places on your website is not a good practice, and you may have to pay dearly for it.

  15. Overlinking externally: Overlinking externally is even worse than overlinking internally, because it labels your website as a spam website mainly used to inflate the search engine standings of other websites. It may also alert Google that you’re selling links (even if you’re not), and selling links is a forbidden practice that is severely penalized. External links have zero positive effect on your search engine rankings, and can have severe negative effects when there’s a lot of them. Note that a huge red flag is an external link that is added to any of your posts many months after it’s published (it definitely means that you’re selling links from Google’s perspective).

We hope that you found this post useful and you have learned from it. If your website got penalized by Google, then your only option is to learn from the above and perhaps submit a reconsideration request with Google (you never know). If you need help with the technical issues mentioned above (such as the fatal errors or the optimization), then please contact us. We are experts in Joomla, we are quick, we work every single day, and our fees are very affordable.

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