If you’re not seen, you’re not heard. In the online world, you can say, ‘if Google doesn’t see you, nobody hears you.’ They control the horizontal and the vertical, and to get your customers’ attention, you must play by Google’s rules. Unfortunately, if you break those rules, Google can completely shut you out. Google shutdowns have killed many online businesses.
Like it or not, if you lost Google, your new customer numbers would drop like a hot rock. A business that cannot be found through a search may as well not exist. You’d be forced to rely on your existing customer base for survival, and while there are ways to get the most out of existing customers, it’s always best to have a stream of new ones. Online companies would likely not make it through, and that’s a very scary thought.
What can you do if you’re suspended? There are some things that can be done to buffer the shock, but they’re best done before you ever get suspended. You could switch your efforts to Yahoo and Bing for SEO, and lean heavily on social media channels to draw customers. Many of the skills used to push up results on Google work for these sites as well. It’s good business practice to spread the wealth in access to your business, but Google’s ease of use and pervasiveness make that quite easy.
The best way to prevent being kicked off Google is to learn about what angers Google in the first place. You can make Google mad by misusing their search engine or ad network. Here are some ways that you can avoid going down the rabbit hole of Google suspension.
This is the most common way to get suspended. An AdWords suspension doesn’t remove your site from an organic search listing, but it does hamper your entire PPC campaign. This results in a lot of lost revenue. Usually, what gets Google to shut down an AdWords account is a misleading claim in the ad or on the landing page.
A misleading claim is a claim made in your ad or landing page that doesn’t seem plausible. There are a lot of ways it can happen. If you guarantee a specific result every time, that’s a red flag. If you make exaggerated claims, that’s another red flag. Your testimonials can be perceived as making misleading claims. Also, your ad and your landing page offers must match, no bait-and-switch tactics allowed.
Your business will receive extra scrutiny if you’re in certain niches. Financial services and the diet industry frequently get put into the misleading claim penalty box. It may sound great to guarantee specific amounts of money gained or weight lost if you follow a program, but it’s a sure way to get punished.
Two other ways to get kicked off AdWords are building a data collection site and advertising a prohibited product. Spammers sometimes try to use PPC ads to get people to give up their personal information so they can be spammed. The easy way to avoid this is to follow through on the offer you’re making. If you’re offering a free download, for example, make sure that it works. Prohibited items are easy to find out. Just read the list in Google’s AdWords policy page. Basically, avoid weapons and anything adult.
Google doesn’t like it when people try to game their algorithm to push up their results. These games are sometimes referred to as black-hat SEO. The way you know if you’ve been suspended for an SEO violation is to look at your Google Webmaster Tools account, or notice a huge drop in traffic.
One very common way to get shut down is to get caught buying a backlink. Backlinks are the essential tool Google uses for ranking the relevancy of a website compared to others. Never take an offer to buy links, and always verify that the SEO company you hire doesn’t buy links on your behalf. This has killed many businesses. Always get a detailed strategy from your SEO company about how they get their backlinks. Otherwise, you could wake up one day and be completely delisted.
If you do find that you have bad backlinks, you’ll need to do two things. First, you’ll have to contact the webmaster of the other site and ask them to remove the link. If they do it, that’s good. But if they won’t, then you’ll have to use Google’s disavow tool to tell them to ignore that link. This is a slow and painful process and it doesn’t always work. Showing proof that you tried to ask the owner to remove the site helps. If you are delisted, you probably have a number of bad backlinks. You’ll have to find every one of them and fix them before Google will remove the suspension. This can take months.
There are other bad SEO techniques like cloaking, spoofing, and other technical tricks used to try and fool Google’s spiders. These are much less common now that Google has cracked down hard on any sort of unfair SEO manipulation. Thankfully, it’s much more common to get kicked off of AdWords than it is to get an SEO violation these days, and it’s much easier to reverse an AdWords suspension.
Know the rules and have a backup plan
This is a very high-level overview of how Google can punish your site and why. Everyone working with SEO or AdWords should know Google’s policies thoroughly to know whether something is legitimate or not. Avoiding shady SEO manipulation techniques and avoiding misleading ad claims will keep you out of most of the trouble, but be warned. Google can always change the rules at any time. Just look at the history of the Panda and Penguin updates. Therefore, it’s good to have a backup plan on other PPC networks and search engines just in case.
Chris Hickman is the Founder and CEO at Adficient with 14 years of experience in search marketing and conversion optimization. In 2006 he founded GetBackonGoogle.com to help businesses and websites suspended in Adwords to get back on Google.