Google has released a number of updates on how its algorithm works, and these Google search updates may have a negative effect on your site’s ranking. As a site owner, you probably don’t want that to happen, and you’d want to do something about it. But before you actually get to do anything, how do you know if you’ve been hit by Panda, or perhaps Penguin? Below are a few things to watch out for.

Love note from the Google Search Quality Team

This is a love note that you wouldn’t want to receive. A love note from Google’s Search Quality Team is the most outright manifestation that you’ve been hit. The love note will tell you that they’ve detected the use of certain techniques that disagree with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines on some of your pages. It will also tell you what it is you’ve done.

For example, it could say that they’ve found artificial links to your site, or over optimised pages. The love note would also drop a few hints on how to go about the situation before submitting a reconsideration request.

Drop in search engine traffic and impression share

A sudden and massive drop in search engine traffic is a very obvious, not to mention distressing indication that you’ve been hit. If you’ve got Google Analytics, the worst thing you’ll see is a flat line at the lower part of your search traffic results graph.

You will also see a drop in impression share on Google Webmaster Tools if you’ve been hit. A drop in impression share means that as a whole, you’re showing up in fewer searches.

A marked decrease in site traffic and impression share means that you are not ranking as highly as you used to. Very bad news indeed.

Date of algorithm changes

SEOmoz has a tool that lets you see algorithm changes. It does a pretty good job of documenting and publishing timely updates on algorithm changes, and even tells you when they refresh, listed within a few days after.

Manual action

You could also get hit because of a manual action, and it doesn’t necessarily have to coincide with an algorithm change. One of your competitors could easily report you to Google and say that you’re doing something wrong. This manual action gets you flagged to reviewers and they zero in on your website, and soon find out if you haven’t been following the rules.

So what do you do if you think you’ve been hit?

The first thing that you should do is to open Google Analytics. Even if you’ve received a love note or warning from Google’s Search Quality Team, it would be a good idea to check if there has indeed been a sudden slump in traffic. If there is a decrease in site traffic, take note of when it happened. Then go to SEOmoz to check if there’s a listed update that coincides with when your site traffic dropped. If you don’t see a match, chances are you’ve been targeted by a manual action.

Following these measures before doing anything gives you concrete insight on the next steps you need to undergo to recover. It gives you a basis for your plan of action.

Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools

You probably know this already, but it’s a reminder worth mentioning. Always have Google Webmaster Tools and Analytics. You need them especially when you’re dealing with business clients, and there’s no question to that.

Nobody wants to get hit by a Google search update, but it happens. If you’re worried, we can help. Have a chat with one of our experts and see how we can make sure that your site gets the best ranking while you remain in Google’s good books. Click here to contact us.

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