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.
Don’t panic ….
Life is good … you have invested a lot of money in your website, created what you think is great compelling content, focused on your link building and 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 ranking 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! You’re not out of the woods yet and your website may be subjected to Google ranking penalties (also know as an “algorithmic penalty”) but your site isn’t banned from Google.
There are several reasons why your Search Engine 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 Search Engine ranking may correct itself in a few days without any exertion, heavy breathing or action on your part.
robots.txt file: 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 to stop visiting your website.
Server downtime: 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 its affecting your rankings, it might be time to get a new web host or new and stable web server.
Over-optimized text: 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 exact match for targeted keywords.
Back-links: Websites that provide back links to your website also help boost your website Search Engine ranking. If those links are removed for some reason, this may affect your position in the SERPs. Contact the webmasters and find out why those links have been removed and a continual focus on your link building activities.
Link profile: 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.
Duplicated text: 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 doubt. There are tools readily available on the Web which can check for duplicated text.
Um … I’ve been doing something naughty …
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:
Keyword spamming: 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.
Cloaking: 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).
Doorway pages: 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.
Invisible text: This involves putting keywords in text that is invisible to visitors viewing the website but visible to Search Engine spiders. Google see this as trying to artificially boost rankings and can issue Google Ranking penalties for this black hat SEO technique.
Link farms: 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 neighborhoods’ or low-quality websites, this can also affect your rankings. Link building activities will only affect your ranking positively if the links are related to your website, credible and trustworthy.
Whoops … you’re banned from Google, what now?
Google ranking penalties are far more common than banning and usually can be easily rectified by de-optimizing. 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 why 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 usually 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 on your leads generation and online revenue, contact us and find out more about our SEO Forensic Audit. This is usually requested in emergency situations when there are Google ranking penalties applied to a website or the website is banned altogether.
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