What is the Google “Penalty Box?

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Google Penalty BoxHave you seen your search engine optimization results suddenly drop off? Is your page’s rank exactly 6, 30, or 60 places below where it was previously? If so, you’ve ended up in Google’s Penalty Box. You can always apply to be removed by fixing the problem and submitting a reconsideration request to Google.

Google’s new algorithm devalues pages that don’t adhere completely to the Google Webmaster Guidelines. Minor violations of the guidelines result in a -6 penalty, or a penalty that drops your rank by six spots. More major violations can drop your ranking significantly further. What kinds of violations do search engine optimization experts believe drop your ranking?

The -6 Penalty: Minor Violations

It’s suspected that a -6 penalty is imposed automatically by an algorithm at Google. Typically, this penalty results from poor or thin content or excessive keywords. Even major sites like EzineArticles were subject to this penalty, reporting that their site dropped by six places in the search results the day after Panda, Google’s new ranking algorithm, was implemented.

The goal of the -6 penalty in to rank high quality articles higher than article marketing, which typically has poorer content and offers little to readers.

Fortunately, the -6 penalty is easily reversed, in some aspects. If your article marketing efforts are resulting in low word-count, keyword-optimized articles, you’ll first need to expand all of the existing articles on your site. For the worst offenders, it’s better to remove them altogether. After expanding your content and dropping your keyword optimization under 5%, you can submit a reconsideration request, where a human being will look at your site to see if it deserves a penalty.

-30, -60, and -950 Penalties: Major Violations

The -30 and -60 penalties are the result of linking to blacklisted sites on Google, putting links to other pages or sites in your footer, and hidden links, or links that are the same color as your background. These were common SEO strategies ten years ago, so old sites are at the biggest risk of getting one of these penalties. Google is trying to discourage these practices and imposes penalties on sites that have not caught up to the Webmaster Guidelines.

The -950 penalty is reserved for egregious or repeat violations. It’s often the final warning before being delisted and banned from the Google index. Buying and selling links, site networks (developing dozens of sites that link to each other), sites with malware, and doorway pages are the typical recipients of -950 penalties.