Google algorithm updates have spoiled many online business dreams. Online entrepreneurs spend a significant amount of budget in creating a scalable business – sales funnels, retargeting, traffic building, user conversions, SEO and more. But, one wrong move and the business is at the mercy of Google. A penalized website faces a tough journey to retrieve past traffic and sale conversions. Primarily, there are two reasons for Google penalty:

  1. Use of manipulative methods to enhance site rankings
  2. Giving poor user experience to visitors

While there are multiple reasons of this penalty, this article will talk about few uncommon reasons.

Uncommon Google Penalty Reasons

Here they are:

Seems unfair, right? It should be legitimate to receive relevant backlinks from websites operating in other languages but Google offers unclear opinion. In a 2015 Google Webmaster Hangout with John Mueller about “On a .com domain with English and German content, will the German content benefit from English links and vice versa”, Mueller responded:

“Yes, of course. If this is one website and you have different kinds of content and some kind of links…the website will grow in value over time as you gain links…the main thing I’d watch out for there is really making sure you put these German and English content on separate URL’s so you don’t have one URL with both German and English” content.

Upon specifically asking the impact if a website in one language receives links from another website in language, he responded with:

“I don’t see a problem with that. I think that’s perfectly fine” and on asking whether such links will have lesser value, he said “No, I think we treat that just the same. The main difference I guess there is that the anchor text might be different”.

This is an interesting revelation because a lot of SEO experts and consultants I know will not desist from disavowing links coming from a language dissimilar to the destination site. By doing so, are people disavowing perfectly legitimate links?

What should you do?

Don’t disavow a link just because it’s in a different language. Judge the linking site in terms of quality and relevancy. Use Google Translate to understand the site’s content and decide.

There is no clear consensus either from Google or SEO consultants on this matter. A probable solution should be to dig deeper into the linking site and the linked anchor text. If the mention seems legitimate, don’t disavow it and trust that it won’t cause any Google penalty.

The Google Webmaster guidelines state:

“Check for broken links and correct HTML”.

A website / blog accumulates links that don’t work anymore. It happens when pages are moved without proper redirection or when the whole website is restructured, making the original page disappear.

Broken Links

These create broken links, a very natural outcome of operating online business. However, Google can penalize you for the same. Why? It’s understandable when seen from their perspective in terms of user experience.

Does a page with 10 broken link offer better user experience or a page with zero broken links? Certainly, the page with zero broken links. This page will outrank a page with broken links.

Broken links are a small factor in the overarching world of Google penalties and one that is easily solved. Every three months, log in to the Google Webmaster Tools, check out the list of broken pages and correct them.

A naïve way of building links but one that invites heavy Google penalty. Here is one of the early posts on hidden links written by Matt Cutts. Normally, it is a link which is there on the webpage but it is not visible to the reader. It is considered suspicious if the link is hidden from visitors.

Hidden Link
Source: Search Engine Land

For example, if the link is given the same colour as the background or if links are hidden on the middle of the text, it generally invites Google penalty. This has been a black hat SEO technique since the early days of SEO exploration.

If you still want to use hidden links, read the SEO Blog post but hey, you were warned!

#4 Neglecting Hreflang Tag

The purpose of the Hreflang tag is to serve the correct language URL in search results. In HTML, it is added as ref=”alternate” Hreflang=”x”. Adding the Hreflang markup will allow the webmaster to specify the countries and languages to which the domain caters to.


An often overlooked element in the site’s SEO structure, it could lead to potential losses. Not only small businesses, even international websites suffer from this fallacy. For example, the American clothing and accessories retailer, GAP, sells globally and its EU website is translated into four languages to cater to 25 different regions but the website doesn’t have the Hreflang tag.

Adding the Hreflang tag tells the search engine the intent location for a specific page. Adding the Hreflang tag helps to alleviate duplicate content concerns. Adding the tag in HTML will tell the search engine not to consider the content as duplicate but as intended for different audiences.

Again, as Google recommends, don’t use the Hreflang tag along with the rel=”canonical” tag. Read about implementing the Hreflang tag on Translate Media.

#5 Advertorials

A well-known controversy around the Penguin 2 debate was the use of advertorial content. What is an advertorial page? It’s basically a page loaded with paid links used for search engine manipulation.

Advertorials Penalty

A well-known example is the case of Interflora. In 2013, the UK flower delivery sites vanished from search results after placing about 150 advertorials on regional news sites. An analysis of why Interflora advertorials went wrong can be seen in this CognitiveSEO analysis and the blog of David Naylor. They spent the next 11 days cleaning up the link, ranking their name and though it got its ranking back, things can never be the same.

Google never really gave an official reason for penalizing but issued a warning against advertorials, telling webmasters to use nofollow tag to avoid passing of link juice.


SEO and other ranking elements are unmissable with an online business. A strong advice is to be aware of online marketing activities, use of SEO practices and other search visibility elements. Grow business the organic way, even if it might mean to hustle longer.