How to Avoid Your Financial Website Being Penalized by Google

If you are running a financial website, you can learn a thing or two from Google. At Google, they are always trying to serve their customers as best they can, and they know how to do it. If you follow the spirit of Google’s content guidelines, you’ll be pleasing your visitors too.

Keep up with Google. You’ll slip down the rankings if your content and site design do meet their ever-changing content requirements. When you do something that is against Google’s guidelines, you are penalized. Their aim isn’t to punish you, so much as it is to elevate content that its users will like, and push the rest down the rankings.

When Google updates, it does so for good reasons. These changes, however, can force poor quality content off the map. An example is 2012s Penguin update, described as a webspam algorithm, which affected 1 in 10 search results.

Since 2012, the Penguin update it has been gone through several iterations. It works in real time, which means that new businesses can no longer get away with poor quality content or site design for a few months until they get round to improving their offering. Google will spot and deal with these sites immediately.

And Penguin is just one of many algorithms that Google uses to maintain the quality of its search results. Since Google can wipe out a business with the flick of a switch, you’d better be aware of what they’re doing and when.

If you’ve been working hard on your site, but it’s still not ranking well, you may have been penalized for something without realizing it. If you search for your brand name and your site ranks poorly, or your page one positions have slipped to page two or three for no apparent reason, you’ve most likely been penalized.

Google doesn’t always announce the changes it makes. There are common reasons for being penalized, however, so we recommend that you look at these first.

Duplicate Content

Whether it’s found within your domain, or across the net, duplicate content gets Google’s heckles up.

Some people deliberately create duplicate content for non-malicious reasons. For example, you might have a page of content and a duplicate page that is simply-formatted for printing.

In this kind of situation, you need to indicate your preferred URL to Google. This is called canonicalization. One way to do that is by using Search Console.

Google prefers it if you do not try to prevent its spiders looking at pages (such as by using a robots.txt file). It is far happier when you use canonicalization to tell it which pages as duplicates and which page you prefer.

You can also avoid being penalized for duplicate content by:

  • being consistent about the format you use for linking to pages internally;
  • using 301 redirects if you’ve restructured your site;
  • minimizing boilerplate repetition, such as by avoiding lengthy copyright text at the bottom of every page and replacing it with something shorter that links to your main copyright information page;
  • avoid placeholders if you’re in the process of (re)designing your site;
  • consolidating or differentiating pages with similar content.

Some people create duplicate content across various domains to deliberately boost their keyword use and move up the rankings. Google doesn’t want its users to see an entire page of links that all deliver the same content though.

Google does not suffer this kind of deception. It will penalize these domains without a second thought.

Buying Links

Having more sites link to yours used to be taken as evidence of the usefulness and quality of your site. These days, however, one link from a high-quality website is worth much more than many links from low-quality websites.

If you’re buying links, the standard of sites linking to you is likely to be very poor. Not only does this not help your rankings, but it will actually go against you.

Too Many Reciprocal Links

As with buying links, Google takes too much reciprocity is a sign that you are attempting to manipulate the rankings rather than provide a quality experience for your visitors.

The response? Penalization.

Not Enough Outbound Links

Google expects high-quality websites to understand that they do not exist in isolation and that there are other sites that its users may find useful. Almost every business has complimentary products, services, and information. Google rewards businesses that have a wider view of their customers’ needs.

Broken Internal Links – If you have broken links on your website, it means that your visitors are falling into potholes and bumping into each other in dead ends. Since Google wants the best possible experience for its users, it penalizes websites that don’t look after their infrastructure.

Broken External Links – Linking to quality sites is looked on favorably by Google. If the details of those pages change, however, that leaves you with broken external links, frustrated visitors, and a potential penalty from Google.

Keyword Stuffing – Since the Penguin update in 2012, keyword stuffing and other attempts to manipulate search results have been going rapidly out of fashion.

The best approach to SEO is to be aware of the keywords your target audience will be searching for and to use them naturally in genuinely useful content.

Overusing Meta Keywords – This is similar to keyword stuffing, but, in this case, you’ve been stuffing the meta tags rather than the main content. Essentially, your meta keywords are intended to help search engines and their users understand the content of your site.

Overdoing it with meta keywords is the equivalent of those envelopes where advertising messages are printed all over the envelope. You don’t even need to open the envelope to know that you’ve received some time-wasting spam. Do this to Google and they will blacklist your site and move on.

Spun Content – spun content is reworded content. The only originality you can expect in these articles is creative use of a thesaurus. Spun articles can push the boundaries of grammar, as writers strive to rewrite existing content for the sole purpose of evading anti-plagiarism software.

There are many articles written about how much content you need for your website and how often you should post. Too few articles talk about how quality wins over quantity.

A site that offers original, useful, expert advice will serve its visitors better than websites that pay cheap writers to spin content.

Google agrees.

Poor Mobile Websites – Google loves mobile. As is typical of Google, this is because Google’s users like mobile.

Mobile internet searches surpassed desktop searches in 2014. The percentage of web pages visited via mobile devices is on the increase all around the world.

With access to mountains of data and a direct line to the desires of its users, Google knows that mobile is critical. If you are not meeting the needs of mobile users, you can expect your site to slip down the rankings in favor of sites that feature mobile versions or responsive design.

One of the more recent additions to Google’s idea of what makes a good mobile site concerns pop-ups. Pop-ups can be effective for lead generation, capturing many email addresses. They are also very intrusive, however, and can impede a visitor’s experience, particularly via mobile.

Thanks to the ‘Intrusive Interstitial’ Update, pop-ups that cover an entire page are considered a barrier to the content being sought. Sites that use them face penalization by Google.

In addition to getting your site moving up the rankings, you need to maintain best practices to avoid going the other way. The landscape of the internet is always evolving. While some factors for delivering quality, useful websites are common sense, others take some expertise to understand, unravel, and repair.

Having financial expertise and the ability to deliver it to your visitors is essential to your success, but that’s not enough to ensure that you do well in the rankings.

To make sure that your financial website is offering the best possible experience to your visitors and avoiding unnecessary penalization by Google, get in touch with a financial web design professional with years of experience in financial services and web design.

Get in touch with Dan Stark to learn how AltaStreet helps Financial Advisors with their SEO. Email: dan@altastreet.com
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