It can happen to you. Whether you're using keyword stuffing to try to boost your search engine results page (SERP) ranking or just not adhering to interstitial ad guidelines, Google will find out!
Google routinely updates their site-crawling algorithms to look for criteria that they can use to punish a website. Google's harsh punishment comes in the form of a lower ranking for your business' website in search results, which can mean less online presence for your business (and that is a very bad thing!).
Don't let your business get hit with a penalty from Google! Check out our SEO experts' tips for adjusting to Google's constantly changing site-crawling algorithms.
Was I Hit With A Penalty?
The best way to steer clear of having your business penalized by Google's site crawlers is to remain vigilant by running consistent, scheduled SEO audits of your website.
So, how can you tell if you've been hit with a SERP ranking penalty? If Google decides to take action manually, your webmaster will be notified through Google Webmaster Tools and your business will get a letter explaining why you've been penalized.
This is actually the better of the two penalty scenarios (the other option being an automated penalty) since you'll at least get a sense of what you can do to fix things!
On the other hand, if your website is hit by one of Google's site-crawling algorithms, your situation is going to get a lot more difficult: you'll essentially need to review the data and extrapolate meaning from Google's last known actions and what kinds of losses your website rankings have sustained.
Try to gather information online about Google's latest algorithm changes to help you to deduce why you were hit with a penalty. Local SEO sites like BrightLocal or Moz are great resources to keep up to date on Google's latest changes.
The best practice to is to avoid getting hit with a penalty in the first place! Make sure that your business is keeping up with regular SEO audits. You can also use tools like a website penalty indicator (no-cost, but you'll need to do a bit of extra work) or SEMrush (paid, but has more user friendly tools to help you find issues to fix) to help out.
Other reasons you might get hit with a penalty include using black hat SEO techniques (duh!) and having a site that isn't very mobile friendly (or has interstitial ads that don't adhere to Google's guidelines).
Make sure that you're keeping your site safe from penalties by following the guidelines that we've laid out here. Protect all of your hard work and your Google SERP rankings!