Google rarely bans websites using a manual penalty, but may issue Google ranking penalties (algorithmic penalties) for websites it feels are trying to manipulate search engine rankings.
Google ranking penalties are issued to websites that Google feels are manipulating the Search Engine Page Rankings (SERPs). However, while a sudden ranking drop may be the result of black-hat SEO and foul play, there may also be other less sinister reasons for your disappearing act on Google.
Before you hit the panic button, start hyperventilating and send out a search party to find your missing ranking, read on to find out why your website may have taken a sudden dive on Google. (Our EO Services can also help if you don’t have the time or expertise to resolve your Google penalty).
Life is good… you have invested a lot of money in your website, created what you think is great compelling content, and focused on your link building. Now you’re reaping the returns of your investment and your website is steadily climbing up the Google ladder. However, one day you check your Google rankings, you have had a sudden ranking drop and your page #1 ranking is no longer to be found, now what?
If you’re doing all the right things and following search engine guidelines, there is no need to panic that your Google ranking has had a sudden drop. The first thing you need to do is check whether you have been banned altogether, also known as a “manual penalty.” The easiest way is to install Google Search Console on your site and check the messages tab to see if you’ve been the target of a manual penalty. Another possible way to diagnose a penalty is to do a site search by typing in – site:www.yoursite.com and see if Google returns any results.
If your website returns results, good news, as your site is not banned from Google. However, you’re not out of the woods yet and your website may be subjected to Google ranking penalties (also known as an “algorithmic penalty”).
Why might your rankings have dropped?
There are several reasons why your ranking may have dropped, and these include:
Search Engine stuff-ups
Before taking drastic action, make sure it isn’t just a temporary anomaly in the SERPs (Search Engine Ranking Positions). It happens. Your rankings may correct themselves in a few days without any exertion, heavy breathing or action on your part.
Another common reason your site can disappear from Google is that your web developer inadvertently changed the robots.txt file. A robots.txt file restricts access to your site by search engine robots that crawl the web. If the robots.txt file is written or set up incorrectly, this could be stopping the search engine spiders from visiting your website.
The most common reason that your site might disappear from Google is that your server was down when the search engine spiders came to leave their calling card and re-index your site. If your web server has too much downtime, and it’s affecting your rankings, it might be time to get a new web host or a new and stable web server.
Are other pages in your site out-ranking the page you targeted for the particular keyword? If so, de-optimize for the keyword you took a major drop on; look at the backlink profile and create new links or change existing links to target related keywords rather than an exact match for targeted keywords.
Websites that provide backlinks to your website also help boost your website’s search engine ranking. If those links are removed for some reason, this may impact your position in the SERPs. Contact the webmasters and find out why those links have been removed, and place a continual focus on your link-building activities.
Look at your link profile for the entire site – does it look natural? Are there too many anchor-text links on your targeted keywords? Create some links with only your URL as the link text and variations of it, e.g. http://www.yoursite.com, www.yoursite .com, yoursite.com. Search engines expect to see this in a natural link profile.
The drop in rankings may also be due to someone duplicating copy from your website and lead to Google Ranking penalties. It could be that someone has copied your site and that Google, finding identical pages, has decided to give your competitor the benefit of the doubt. There are tools readily available on the web which can check for duplicated text.
Blackhat SEO tactics
In truth, a site banned from Google is a rarity. You’re more likely to get Google ranking penalties where there is a sudden ranking drop. This may be due to black-hat SEO activities that you may or may not be aware of. These include:
This involves stuffing a page with keywords that are out of context or have no relation to the body content. This is done to manipulate Search Engine results. Keywords need to be inserted seamlessly and naturally into text.
This involves developing highly optimized pages which are only shown to search engine spiders to boost the ranking of a website. These pages cannot be seen by visitors to the website. The cloaking is usually combined with doorway pages (see below).
This involves creating pages designed purely for search engines to manipulate them into giving the website a higher ranking. Doorway pages contain no valuable content for human readers. A Google-friendly alternative is to create keyword-rich landing pages on your website which direct readers to real content on the site.
This involves putting keywords in text that is invisible to visitors viewing the website, but visible to search engine spiders. Google sees this as trying to artificially boost rankings and can issue Google Ranking penalties for this black-hat SEO technique.
This is the practice of buying links or paying websites to link back to your website in the hope of improving your search engine ranking. If you are linking to ‘bad neighbourhoods’ or low-quality websites, this can also affect your rankings. Link-building activities will only impact your ranking positively if the links are related to your website, credible and trustworthy.
What To Do if You Are Banned from Google
Google ranking penalties are far more common than complete bans, and usually can be easily rectified by de-optimizing your website. If your site is banned from Google altogether, this means you have to systematically undo the risky optimization techniques you undertook and ask for re-inclusion. This involves submitting a reconsideration request through Google Search Console per this page.
The specific action you will need to take will depend on the reason Google has decided to ban your site. There are several ways you can fail to meet Google’s quality guidelines, including:
- Backlink manipulation
- Selling links on your site
- Thin or scraped content
- Purchased domain with a pre-existing penalty
If you hired an SEO company that spammed on your behalf, state the firm’s name and contact information and include full contact information. Google will typically react to such detailed requests, and you may find some of your pages back in the index within a couple of weeks. It can take months before your whole website is re-indexed, so the loss of traffic generation from search engines, Google ranking penalties or a website that is not indexed on Google can spell huge trouble for your online business.
A sudden drop in rankings or your website being banned can have serious implications for your website. If you have experienced a dramatic fall in traffic which is impacting your lead generation and online revenue, contact us to find out more about our services and request a free SEO audit.