Where Oh Where Has My Website Gone?
Help! My website isn’t ranking in Google
If you’re checking your stats and can’t seem to find your site anywhere when doing a simple Google search, don’t panic! It is more common than you think to “lose” your site on Google from time to time, especially with all of the updates being rolled out (Panda and Penguin anyone?) that are constantly changing the face of SEO. SEO stands for search engine optimization, and essentially it means anything done to your website or its content in order to make it more appealing to search engines and enabling it to attract more web traffic to your website.
There are a few different things that can happen to cause your website to disappear from the search results:
Google Dance – The Google Dance is the name given to the phenomenon that causes your website’s ranking to change dramatically from day to day. A website in the midst of the Google Dance can be on page 1 one day, page 5 the next day, and back up to page 2 after that. There is no one cause for the Google Dance, though many SEO’s think that it is caused by various strategies such as link building taking effect ; if you built a lot of links yesterday, your site may Dance for a few days or a week as those new links are evaluated to determine you site’s new rank.
Google Sandbox – Regardless of what you might read, the Google Sandbox is real, though it isn’t a “place” but more of an effect that can apply to your website at certain times of its life. When your site is “in the Sandbox” it is not in website time-out for some sort of violation; instead a site experiencing the “Sandbox Effect” is likely a younger site that is trying to rank for a very competitive keyword. Google keeps these young go-getter sites on ice for a while to make sure they don’t get too enthusiastic with trying to build links and promote themselves and instead take the time to do things right. If your site is in the Sandbox, just build your links slow and steady, do things all above-board and ethically, and you’ll soon be out of it and ready to take on the web.
Google Slap – The “Google Slap” is a term used to describe a punitive action taken by Google against websites using their AdWords service. When a website has been “Slapped” a few things happen, including the price per click for a given keyword increasing (sometimes as much as jumping from 10 cents to 10 dollars per click) and a drop in PageRank which can also cause the cost per click a site pays to climb much higher than it was before. This happens to sites that Google feels are not using the AdWords service properly for any number of reasons.
Google Smack – Also known as a “Google Smackdown”, this is the term used to explain what happens when your website that is ranking pretty well suddenly drops out of sight. Getting “smacked down by Google” often occurs shortly after Google has rolled out a new update such as the recent Panda and Penguin updates that include changes to how Google determines rankings. When a site gets “smacked down” Google has taken their massive library of algorithms and a little mystery magic and determined a new ranking for your website which might be much lower (or if you’re lucky, higher) than it was before.
Google Ban – If your website has been banned, you’re really going to have to sit down and consider your options from here on out. Before you start to worry too much, here is a simple test you can do to see if your site has been banned: type site:yoursite.com (substitute yoursite.com with your site’s URL) into Google and see if anything comes up. If something does, you have not been banned, so something else is going on. If nothing appears but your site is still live and functioning, then you have been banned by Google. While it is possible in some cases to appeal this decision, for a vast majority of website owners there is nothing to be done but try to pick up the pieces and try again under a new domain name.
How to fly under the radar
If you want to avoid the wrath of Google, there are a few things that you can do to fly under the radar and avoid drawing attention to your site in a negative way.
The first thing you need to look at is your link building strategy. Where do you get your inbound links (the ones pointing to your site from other sites around the web) from, and how often do new links appear? In a perfect world people all over the web would link to your website because they thought it was awesome, but sometimes it doesn’t work that way and you have to do a little link creation on your own. The best way to build your own links is slowly, and as naturally as possible. If you have to, only create a dozen new links per day; yes this will take a while to bear fruit, but if you’re blasting away using automated software and getting 1,000’s of links per day, don’t be surprised if you wake up the next morning and find that your website has gone the way of the dinosaurs…
How to build links the right way:
- How to Build Links Through Guest Blogging – by Neil Patel
- How to Build Inbound SEO Links the Right way! – by Jo Erickson
- The Right Way to Build Links – by Jeune Ortiz
- How To Build Links That Google Love? – by Jane
Another thing that you can do to avoid looking suspicious is to buffer yourself. You can do this by establishing a barrier of sites and profiles between your website and the links you are building. Instead of having every single link you create pointing straight at your home page, why not direct a few to your social media profiles, a blog, an author profile in an article directory, etc. Anything that is a trusted authority type site is also good, so don’t say no to Squidoo or Hubpages accounts just yet. You can then link to your home page from these other sites and profiles, creating a buffer.
What a top blogger says about “buffering” your site:
- The Importance Of Web 2.0 Buffer Sites And How To Maintain Them – by Sté Kerwer
And last, make sure anything and everything you post is original and useful! Google (and your site’s visitors) love unique, original, and useful content and this impacts your rankings in a good way while keeping you out of the hot seat with Google. If people who visit your site find it interesting and helpful, they’re more likely to stay and surf around a bit and then share your site with someone they know. This is the kind of advertising you’re looking for, so encourage it! What you do not want to do is try to get a lot of content out there fast by using automated software to create new content for you, and/or post it to hundreds of no-name directories all over the web. This is basically jumping up a down waving a red flag in front of an angry bull… you’ll get noticed all right, but not in a good way!
How can you write original content? Check this out:
- Writing Good Content – by Darren Rowse
But wait, there’s more!
Stay tuned to find out more in Part Two: What to do if your website is “gone”
Have you had a site that has been penalised by Google? If so, what happened?
Have your sites been safe so far, and what are you doing to stay on the right track?
If you learned something from this post, please share it with someone you know!