There are thousands upon thousands of factors that can affect your site’s search rankings. Of course, search engines don’t like to give away too many specifics because they don’t want nefarious SEO providers “gaming the system.” Much of what we’ve learned about ranking penalties comes from trial-and-error, long-term observation, and shared SEO knowledge.
Did you know, for example, that even if your website does everything right, it might still be penalized? Your website’s “bad neighborhood” could actually be hurting its visibility. Here’s how.
Google actually sees the Internet as a network of interconnected neighborhoods. Fairly or not, Google makes huge assumptions about your URL based on the neighborhood it associates in, good or bad. If your site is frequently in the same neighborhoods as high-ranking authority sites (for example, CNN.com), they’re going to assume you’re a trusted authority, too. Likewise, if links to your site start showing up in ‘bad’ neighborhoods like shady link directories, Google will penalize you.
But how did you end up in a bad neighborhood, anyway? For starters, take a good look at where your site is hosted. If you didn’t build and host your own website, your developer did the hosting setup for you. SEO geniuses post that where your website is hosted can actually affect your rankings. Most websites are hosted on shared IP addresses, but who you share that IP address with matters. If your web hosting company also hosts a bunch of spammy gambling sites and dodgy NSFW URLs, you might get penalized just for being associated. It might not catch up to you right away, but you run the risk of waking up one day with some huge instant search penalties – or even a ban! – in place. If a hosting company’s rate seems way cheaper than everyone else’s, ask yourself why.
Likewise, linking to other sites from your website and vice versa is an important step in building a legitimate online footprint. Just be careful who you’re linking to. Don’t link to a site you know has been penalized in the past, and be careful about linking to sites in other languages (Google can sometimes find this suspicious and, at the very least, it presents a bad user experience.) If your backlinks show that someone sketchy is linking to you, talk to your SEO manager about having it removed. Links are one of the most effective ways to tell Google who you are and who you hang out with; don’t underestimate their importance.
Do you know what kind of neighborhood your website is in? If you’ve used cheap SEO services or dubious online marketing strategies in the past, you may be penalized and not even know it. Effective SEO takes time and is always “white hat,” meaning it optimizes for Google’s rules, not to underhand them.
Sync can help you move out of that bad neighborhood and get your online reputation back. Reach out today to get started.