On those rare occasions when a corporation announces that it is penalizing itself, I get suspicious. Self-abasement should be voluntary, humiliating and one would think, painful. To gain, there has to be pain.
When Google penalizes businesses in search, it results in loss. Visitors, leads, sales or ad revenue. This puts partnerships, contracts and relationships at risk. Companies even layoff employees. More serious consequences are felt at the human level. Deserved or not; it hurts.
Danny Sullivan chronicled five well-publicized Google’s self-inflicted penalties that occurred over a decade showing when, the violation, type of penalty and period.
- Chrome paid links that resulted from a “sponsored” links
- The Beat That Quote acquisition of a site violating it’s guidelines
- AdWords cloaking of support pages
- Japan site paid blogger services
- First cloaking of AdWords support pages
Let’s analyze Danny Sullivan’s data and draw some conclusions:
Google Always Knows Why They Were Penalized
This may seem an obvious point, but consider that some companies spend considerable time and resources trying to understand why they were penalized. For small companies, this can cut into the bottom line. Individual bloggers may have to wait it out or move on.
Google Penalizes Itself For Old And Obvious Tactics
In none of the cases does Google penalize itself for the abstract stuff. Panda-related, the gray area of low quality links, negative SEO attacks, old sites or questions surrounding Google algorithms not being happy in a general way with a site (John Mueller, Google Webmaster Central Hangout, 11/4/13).
Entire Domains Not Affected
In only one case did Google penalize the entire domain. In case #2, BeatThatQuote.com ceased ranking for its brand name. Would this ever happen with Google.com? Imagine if Google.com couldn’t rank for its brand name or for Google+, Chrome, AdWords, AdSense, etc.
Penalties Don’t Last Long
When Google penalizes itself it is only temporary. Imagine otherwise. Not surprisingly, Google treats itself the same way it treats big brands.
A New Metric
Let’s add one more metric to the list: “Degree of Pain.” How much it hurt? Does Google feel any pain when they penalize themselves? What is the monetary damage caused by self-penalization? Google’s leading by example is a far-cry from the captain going down with the ship. When Google penalizes Google, it is voluntary and humiliating. It is not painful.
Published 02/14/14, Edited 08/02/18.
About Emory Rowland
I'm an Atlanta SEO consultant and founder of Leverable. SEO has been part of my life for over two decades and always will be. I love helping people improve their search performance aka "lift for the good guys" through Leverable. I believe in the empowering capabilities and rewards of effective SEO. Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn.