Where Oh Where Has My Website Gone? – Pt 2
What to do if your website is “gone”
If you cannot find your website when you search for yourself on Google, don’t panic right away.
There are a couple of reasons for this that we covered in Part One, so to recap:
The Google Dance can cause your site to yo-yo in the rankings, going from page 1 to page 4 to page 2 and so on. No one is exactly sure why this happens, but many consider inbound links to play a large part. The Google Sandbox is an effect that applies to new websites and/or website trying to rank for very competitive keywords (i.e. “weight loss” or “debt management”) and keeps these sites low in the rankings for a while. If you’ve been on the receiving end of a Google Slap, you’re an AdWords user and Google has seen something about your account and/or how you use it that they don’t like. The end result is an increase in the cost-per-click for your campaign and possibly a drop in PageRank as well. Getting a taste of the Google Smackdown isn’t any fun for affected sites; this effect is often brought on by updates and changes such as the Panda and Penguin updates and can result in a drop (or rise) in your site’s ranking. Last, but not least, is the dreaded Google Ban which more or less means “Sorry Charlie, better luck next time!” for effected sites. If you’ve been banned you have a slim chance of an appeal, but not many people are even offered the opportunity to appeal so it’s always a good idea to consider other options too.
Dancing in the Sandbox
If you’re experiencing the “Google Dance” then there is really not much you can do but sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride as you watch your site go up and down in the rankings before your position begins to stabilize. This isn’t always a bad thing, though if you drop way out of sight you might want to start looking more closely at your link building strategy and see if there are any low-quality sources you can stop using in favour of something a little more high-quality.
The same can be said for a site that is currently experiencing the “Sandbox Effect” and isn’t really rising in the rankings very much. Age is an important factor here, as is the keyword you are trying to rank for. If you want to try and better your chances of being found in a search, do not neglect long-tail keywords, for example a typical keyword might be “dog collars”, and a long-tail keyword on this theme could be “pink camo dog collars”. The best thing to do if you think you’re in the Sandbox is to play it safe and build your links slowly and surely while putting content out there that is unique, original, and useful for anyone who visits your site.
Getting Slapped and Smacked Around
Sites dealing with a “Google Slap” are going to need to get in touch with someone at Google to try and figure out what went wrong. This is easier said than done, but through research it has been found that many users find help contacting representatives in Google’s Help Forums. Just remember to be respectful and use plenty of tact when posting there as a hot attitude will not do you any favours in getting someone to hear your case.
Out of all of the things we’ve talked about so far, a site suffering from a “Google Smackdown” has the best chance of a full recovery in a (relatively) short amount of time. Since most “Smackdowns” are doled out to sites during updates and major changes under the hood at Google, it is a good idea to head over the Google’s developer blogs and take a look at the top blogs for SEO and Internet Marketing elsewhere on the net to get a sense of what was effected by the most recent change. If any of the things that were targeted (say, spammy links or duplicate content) are on your site, now is the time to change those for the better. You can also slow down building links for a bit and focus on putting out some quality content and a slow-yet-steady stream of new links to make sure you stay in the game while you’re getting your site up to speed again.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
If you’ve tried the site:yoursite.com step we suggested in Part 1 of this post and you’ve found nothing, then you’ve most likely been banned from Google search results. Your site is still online and still visible if someone searches using another search engine like Bing or Yahoo, so nothing says you cannot keep things up and running just the way they are. If you are interested in returning to the good graces of Google, you’re going to need to do one of two things. First, you can try to appeal your case; sometimes you will receive an email to let you know what happened and why Google did what they did to your site. If you get one of these emails, you might (and I stress might) have a link included that you can follow to appeal your case. Not very many people get this appeal opportunities, so you might have to try the Help Forums we suggested above, and if that doesn’t work, move on to option two. Option two involves getting a new domain name and starting over from scratch. If you have backup copies of your site you can upload these to your new domain, but that shouldn’t be all you do to get back online. There was a reason Google banned your site in the first place, so now is an excellent time to go through things with a fine-toothed comb and make any changes you can think of to boost the quality of your site and the material / information you offer to visitors.
The only thing that stays the same with Google is the fact that everything changes. You can count on updates and alterations, on new algorithm changes and other behind-the-scenes mojo popping up at random all throughout the year. Google likes to keep website owners on their toes it would seem, and for some things this is good (promoting quality content on the web), but it is easy to get confused by the tech-speak and frequency of the updates.
The easiest and best route to take is to do everything above-board and ethically. Build your links naturally and get exposure for your site in honest ways like guest posting on a popular blog or starting a social media profile somewhere and always put quality content out there for your visitors. If you do these things you will be pretty safe from any negative action. Bear in mind that nothing is ever guaranteed, but if you’re doing all of the right things and keeping your nose clean (figure of speech), then if you do have action taken against you, you will have a much easier time and better chances of getting an appeal than someone who was doing wrong and just go caught doing it.
Do you have any experience dealing with the after-effects of a Google penalty? If you have we want to hear from you!
If you know someone who has experience with these punitive actions be sure to direct them here to share their stories.