9 SEO Tactics That Can Result in a Google Penalty

seo tactics that cause a penalty

Avoid landing in the SEO penalty box


Companies will go to great lengths to make sure their websites appear on Google searches. From sophisticated SEO strategies to paid advertising, there are a number of legitimate ways to increase a website’s ranking on the giant search engine. However, you need to be careful because some SEO tactics have become outdated and actually go against Google’s policies. If your website violates the rules, you could be penalized in search algorithms, making it nearly impossible for potential customers to find you.

Here are 9 SEO tactics that can result in a Google infraction

  1. Too much reciprocal linking

It’s okay to share a link to another website, especially if they have linked to yours. It’s called reciprocal linking, and while it might seem like the “polite” thing to do, overuse can result in a penalty. The problem is that many companies now use this tactic as a link-building strategy rather than a nice gesture.

9Sail Tip: If your link sharing is not meant as a value exchange, stay away from this practice.


  1. Guest posting outside your niche

Guest posting is still a great way to build SEO link juice, but make sure the content that the post contains is relevant, original, and that it has meaningful links. Overlinking or using unnatural link text is a clear indicator to Google that something isn’t right.

9Sail Tip: Natural phrased links are key. If you, as a reader, wouldn’t click on the link, change it.


  1. Duplicate content  

Google loves original content. If you have pages on your site that have the same copy, go back in and see how you can focus on giving the user something that’s valuable to them. If the duplicate content is necessary, make sure to mark your pages “no follow” and “no index” so Google doesn’t see them as a violation.

9Sail Tip: Quality. Quality. Quality. When you focus on valuable content, your users will continue to return to your site and see you as an authority.


  1. Thin content creation

Don’t give your readers content that has zero value. This doesn’t only apply to blogs, but also to all of your website content. Make sure that each page has its purpose and that there’s no duplicate content. If your content informs the reader, you’re more likely to move to page one in the search results.

9Sail Tip: Google ranks pages and sites higher when they are answering user questions.


  1. Keyword stuffing and hidden text

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Violations can result in a partial match or site-wide match penalty. Navigate to Google Search Console > Crawl > Fetch as Google to search for hidden text on the affected pages and then remove it.

9Sail Tip: Tabs and dropdown menus are not considered hidden content, so don’t worry if you have these features on your website.


  1. Using too many low-quality links

If you link to any old website in an attempt to earn a better Google ranking, you could get into trouble, especially if the source is of questionable quality. You want to earn backlinks from reputable sites that will provide real value to users.

9Sail Tip: Earn your links the right way so that users can trust that your site’s content has value; not only to your audience, but to another website’s audience.


  1. Algorithm Link Spam Penalty

This type of penalty is triggered by Google’s algorithm rather than a manual action. These are generally levied against websites that show up as SPAM. You can run into a problem if you have bought links or obtained them from a link network.

9Sail Tip: Avoid buying links or using link networks. It can land you in serious trouble.


  1. Having unnatural outbound links from your website

Unnatural outbound links are those that lead the user from your website to questionable content, unrelated content, low-quality websites, or are outright SPAM. This can be a problem if you invite guest bloggers or posters to your website. (You might have also been hacked!)

9Sail Tip: Check all links posted by guest bloggers to ensure they’re not SPAM. Also be sure to check all the links on your webpages to ensure there is a “natural inclination” or relation between the link posted and the other website.


  1. Using “free hosting” sites

The old saying that nothing in life comes for free is also true of “free hosting” sites. You may not pay a hosting fee, but your website will be riddled with spammy ads that you have no control over. Google has taken manual action against many of these sites, so avoid them if you can.

9Sail Tip: Stick with known, reputable brand names to avoid issues with unwanted SPAM ads.


Questionable SEO tactics can lead to Google penalties that will hurt you in search results. Be vigilant and avoid these 9 practices to sidestep the hassle and the potential lost business.

9Sail consists of a team of specialists that can help you with all your current and future SEO needs. Contact us for a free site audit to make sure that your SEO is working for you.

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