Google Penalties in Germany


Kai Michaelsen


Just five weeks after taking action against a French link network (covered in our monthly global search marketing news), Matt Cutts, Google’s Head of Webspam, announced the penalisation of a German link network and agency for violating the search engines quality guidelines.

The first penalty in February had a significant impact: one of the clients sued the SEO agency responsible after the decreased visibility in search results led to a six-digit loss in turnover.

Just how serious Cutts is about the adherence of Google Guidelines became even clearer following an update in February on the German Webmaster tools blog about how to react to unnatural link warnings and how to submit reconsideration requests.

Nevertheless, it seems that some big agencies aren’t interested in cleaning up their act and have continued building links using spammy tactics, such as gaining links through networks, or paying for them.

What happens if companies get penalised by Google?

Google penalties can be divided into two different types; manual and algorithmic. Manual penalties involve a Google employee actively investigating the website in question. Various indicators lead to a manual check:

  • Keyword spamming
  • Content which is not of added value for users
  • Unnatural backlinks

If the site is considered as spammy after a manual check it will be penalised and the webmaster will be notified. This means that either individual keywords or the entire URL loses its ranking position. Depending on the seriousness of the infraction, a time period is determined.

After fixing the SEO discrepancies, the webmaster can send a reconsideration request to ask for a reduction of the time period for the penalty.

The other alternative is automatic and involves an algorithm checking certain characteristics of the site and downgrades it if the results suggest that a few factors are indicative of a violation of the guidelines.

Blackhat SEO threatens the existence of businesses 

Losing visibility on the web can be very harmful for a business. The results of which can be seen on the website of the French network Buzzea, which was penalised last month.

Now the website is nothing but a picture of misery. German industry magazines report that in this case, the SEO agency involved has still acted incorrectly, even after receiving the sanction.

The agency deleted the offending links, however, it turned out that the questionable “toxic” links were still live afterwards.

Also, the request for reconsideration was sent out too late, so the presence of the website was affected for a longer period of time, which has led to a strong financial damage. The client has now initiated legal proceedings against the agency.

In a recently published video Cutts discusses how sites can still do well without using spammy techniques, after a small business owner raised the following question:

Matt, Do the good guys still stand a chance? We’re a small company that hired an SEO firm that we thought was legit, but destroyed our rankings w/ spam backlinks. We’ve tried everything but nothing helps. What can a company with good intentions do?
Daniel, Miami, FL

The next German agency on Cutts list is efamous, a marketplace for paid content (videos, press releases and guest posts) which is promoted on websites and on social media channels. efamous operates in nine markets including Germany, and among others, Great Britain, France and Poland, so some international brands might be affected by the penalty (more details in our next global search marketing news update in the multilingual news).

Moral of the story?

It’s quite simple really: just stick to the rules. Cheats don’t prosper and the only shortcuts in SEO are those which land you in hot water with Google. Natural links are the order of the day and if your search agency is telling you anything different you should probably start looking for a new one.