Sometimes printers hire me to write content for their website because there has been an unexplained decline in their web-to-print profits or a change in traffic to their print ordering portal.

They think they need to freshen up their content. They want to try something new.

Google_penaltyBack up.

They’ve seen a drop in their online business.

Before we start a marketing analysis, I have printers check to see if there’s an issue with their website. Are they experiencing a drop because they have received a Google penalty?

Printers who get most of their business from existing customers, walk-ins and referrals may not notice a Google penalty.

But a penalty is devastating for a printing business that relies on web traffic for new leads and online transactions.

Money slips away each day the penalty is in effect.

Often I see printers waste precious time in forums “asking around” to see if anyone else has gone through a penalty process. They put alarming messages into their social channels asking for advice. In doing so, they’re inviting every SEO shyster on the planet to contact them, promising a quick fix for a very high fee.

In truth, removing a Google penalty is not easy, and it’s not a one-time process.

There is a discovery phase (what caused the penalty), a planning phase (what are we going to do to remedy the situation), a strategy (how do we make sure it won’t happen again), and an action phase (fix the problem and fix everything else that could put us in Google’s targets again).

Google-Webmaster-Tools-LogoLog into your Google Webmaster Tools and research the penalty. Lay out the steps listed above, including the timeline, who’s responsible for each part of the plan, and the deadline to resubmit the site to Google for reconsideration.

If you are in a penalty situation right now, I recommend you try to finish by October. Google seems to make sweeping changes in late fall each year, and you want to return to good standing before then. With a deadline that close, you should consider hiring a full time trustworthy SEO professional to get you back into compliance, rather than relying on a contractor or someone on staff who has other clients or duties.

Keep in mind, there’s no guarantee you’ll “pass” once your website is reconsidered.

Even if the revised site is clean, authoritative and relevant and the inbound links are high quality, there may be a variety of reasons why the site may not pass the first time. When it finally does, you’ll probably have to make up lost ground, which is time consuming. Therefore, as a parallel process to dealing with the penalty, you need to make provisions to capture your web-to-print traffic a different way. Talk to the company that engineered your web-to-print portal and see if they have options for you.

To summarize:

  • Monitor important keywords and phrases to be sure they are performing the way you expect.

  • If you see a negative trends in web traffic, check immediately for a Google penalty.

  • Rewrite the content on your web-to-print portals if you use canned content. Don’t just rephrase the content. Make it high quality, audience specific, and match the tone and style of the rest of your site. Even if duplicate content is not contributing to the problem, it will not help your reconsideration process if it makes you appear spammy, plagiaristic or deceptive.
  • If you don’t pass reconsideration, ask for clarification and examples.

  • Be professional in your interactions with Google. It’s frustrating to be penalized for something you feel you didn’t deserve. Record everything you do to resolve the issue, including screenshots, and keep a copy of all interactions with Google.

Finally, follow the intent of Google’s rules. Establish a philosophical approach to SEO that is based on ethical and fair online practices, and build your tactics around that framework. In doing so, printers can avoid the damaging effects of a penalty and the loss of online income it causes.

Sandy-HubbardSandy Hubbard is author of the series #SEO4Printers, which is written specifically for printers who want to attract more online business. Over the years, Sandy has helped countless printing company owners take a fresh look at their businesses to see where the opportunities are. You can find @sandyhubbard each Wednesday on Twitter, helping to moderate #PrintChat.

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