Penalised or banned site? You can have too much of a good thing when it comes to Search Engine Optimisation.
If you have been on the receiving end of one of Google’s Dear John emails and you have a penalised or banned site, you’re not alone. But don’t worry, it’s only a break not a total break up. If your site has been penalised, Google may send “manually generated” warnings via Google Webmaster Tools. But they are not always so gracious. Sometimes your rankings may drop and you may not know exactly why. Here are tips to clean up your act.
Wait and see
Don’t panic! Rankings will change slightly every day. You may see a dip in your rankings now and again but if there is a significant drop, you may have a problem on your hands. Firstly, check if your website is banned altogether by doing a site search by typing in– site:www.yoursite.com and see if Google returns any results. If your website returns page listing, your website is not banned but it may be penalised.
Read more about why your website may have been penalised in our article ‘Banned from Google – What Now?’.
Carefully read Google’s quality guidelines
Make the necessary changes to your site
Google will usually notify you if your site has been penalised*. But if your rankings have dropped significantly, you will have to clean up your site. You may know you have done something naughty such as employing a company that uses black hat SEO techniques and thus, you will need to undo all the ‘not so good work’ you have had done to your site. If you do not know why your website has been penalised, here are the key elements to look at:
- Analyse your link building campaigns and see if any low value websites are linking to your website. Email the webmasters and ask them to remove the link.
- Look at the anchor text that you are using in your internal and external link building. Vary the keywords in the anchor text so that they are not too keyword-rich.
- Review your content and look for instances of keyword stuffing and duplicated or scraped content. Rewrite the copy so the keywords are inserted more naturally and the content is original.
- Examine your web design – Google is penalising websites that are ad-heavy and have less actual content above the fold (the part of the website a visitor sees before they have to scroll down the page).
- Take this moment to review your site in entirety and see whether there are any other potential SEO problems that may raise their ugly head.
Read more in our article ‘Penguins, Pandas And Polar Bears – How Not To Get Bitten By The Google Algorithm Updates’.
Submit a request for reconsideration
Matt Cutts has said that some sites were penalised unfairly by the Penguin update. If you really believe your site was, you can file a report as explained here. Otherwise, if you have been caught spamming Google or engaging in black hat SEO techniques, login to your Google Webmaster tools account and submit a re-inclusion request. Be honest and upfront about what you have done to receive the penalty and how you have made amends.
Following is a video by Google on tips on requesting consideration.
Start off fresh with a new domain
For sites with an established brand presence, this is clearly not an option. But Matt Cutts has said on the record in an interview with Danny Sullivan from Search Engine Land, that if you’ve cleaned your site and it still hasn’t recovered its rankings, ultimately, you might need to start all over with a fresh site ie new domain name. Danny says that is a very last resort approach and gives a few suggestions on how to relaunch your site:
- Launch the new site entirely independently of the old one (host IP, WHOIS, new content).
- Don’t link the new site and penalised or banned site together.
- Don’t add 301 redirects from the old site to the new site as it is not known how the penalty is carried across at this stage.
- Don’t cross domain canonical unless you have a safe testing ground to validate that the penalty is not transferred.
- Don’t associate the sites via Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics.
- Assume you’ll need to submit “updates” to any linking text in old guest posts.
Monitor your website
Google Webmaster Tools is a great toolset for webmasters to use to monitor their sites. You need to check your rankings regularly to see where there has been a huge rankings drop or equally as alarming, whether you have had a traffic spike. In addition, Google may send you a message via Webmaster Tools so if you’re not checking your account, you may not get a head’s up from them about your rankings drop.
Even big names such as JC Penney, Overstock and BMW websites have been penalised as a result of hiring unethical companies who used black hat SEO techniques to artificially boost their rankings. At SEO Works, we use white hat SEO techniques and play nicely with Google to help your websites rank organically and naturally. If you have a penalised or banned site, contact us today so we can help you recover your lost rankings and ultimately your online revenues.
*If you have a clean site (no adult, gambling or such) and are using Google Webmaster Tools, you will receive a notification saying it has been penalised.