I recently noticed in Google Analytics reports that the traffic for one of my sites had dropped quite significantly. I realized that there was hardly any traffic being referred by Google. This meant that either the site has received a Google penalty or even worse banned from Google.
Investigating the cause of Google penalty
In order to find out if the cause of such a drop was Google penalty I did a quick search in Google for the site’s relevant keywords. The search result did not show any pages from the site. This definitely meant that either the site was penalized or completely banned. If a site is banned then the domain name is completely removed from the searches. However if the site is just penalized, it will lose the search result rankings for relevant keywords.
To find out if site was banned I checked if the domain name was still on Google search results. I was quite happy to find the domain name still existed. This proved that the site received a Google penalty and was not banned.
To further investigate the reason for Google penalty I checked the Google webmaster console. The webmaster console helps in finding out any odd behaviors of the site. Here I noted that the time taken to crawl a single page had jumped to a high of 6000 milliseconds. This was huge compared to previous numbers that I had seen. In the past I had seen this number as high as 3000 milliseconds without any penalty but I guess I had just crossed the limit. This was supposedly the reason for penalizing the site.
Resolving the Google penalty for site speed
This proves that site speed is actually a very important aspect of SEO. I have read a lot about people complaining that the site speed Google penalty should not be enforced as it may cause undue damage to small and less established sites. But from my experience it does not seem all that bad as affect of this is only felt when your site is “extremely” slow. Actually Google had confirmed this – According to Google post here, most of the sites should not see any type of Google penalty just for average speed.
In my case the website had gotten slow because I had been trying new advertizing platforms which had been too slow in serving Ads. I have since removed them completely. It took about a month for Google to realize that the site is now functioning normally. After a month the site was back in the search results for all relevant keywords.
Tools to catch Google penalty for site speed early
Page speed is an excellent tool to help get an idea of how your site performs. You can download and install the page speed plugin on your Firefox browser. This is in addition to information that you can get from Google webmaster tools.