“Help! My site has been dropped from Google’s index!“
For many webmasters who rely on Google for traffic, having their site dropped form Google’s index is just about the worst news they could possibly imagine!
They see their front-page rankings on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) disappear overnight, their traffic shrivels up, and they get a cold, sick, heavy feeling in the pit of their stomach as they ask themselves -
“Could this be the end of my web-site?”
Fortunately, it’s rarely as bad as you might think - and it happens to a lot of webmasters.
The good news is, if you’re doing everything “right”, then your search engine rankings should be back within a few days!
In fact, it happened to a close friend of mine recently. Here’s the story:
Case Study: What to do if your Site is Dropped From Google’s Index
On Wednesday last week, I received an e-mail from a close friend, Alister Cameron.
Here’s the e-mail -
I’ve just been “dumped” from Google… or so it seems!!! My stats have dropped really badly. They’re now sending me a paltry 20 referrals a day.
So now I’m trying to work out what happened.
I still rank well for “Alister Cameron”, “Blog consultant”, “blog coach”, blogologist, etc… but keywords in post titles have totally died!
I do a search for [nicole eggers gorgeous]:
Now, I’m the original poster of a story on that. I’m not the splog entry, I’m the original poster!
But in the SERPs in Google, my original story is ranked #22!!!
I do a search for “real reason nobody ready your blog”, which is ALMOST the exact text from my title, and I’m almost at the bottoms of the first page.
Some almost-splog ranks #1 and I’m way down the list!!!
I feel sick.
Do you have any ideas?!?!?!?
I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the poor bloke.
On top of being one hell of a nice guy, Alister’s a top notch blogger (www.AlisterCameron.com)
Alister puts a lot of time effort into his blog, and takes a lot of pride in how he’s been able to build up traffic.
So to see so much of his work suddenly disappear from Google – and sites which were blatantly ripping off his content rank higher than him – I imagine, it all came as a bit of a shock.
I immediately sent him an e-mail:
Chances are it’s just a data update, and your site will be back up in a few days!
I’ll look into it as soon as I get a chance though.
Aren’t data updates just part of the Google Dance?
Just quickly - If you’ve been on the “wild wild web” for a while, you’ve no-doubt heard of the Google Dance.
The Google Dance refers to the 6-8 day process Google used to go through every month to load up the monolithic databases of search engine data.
But I say “used to” because it no longer happens
Here’s an explanation from Google’s “Alpha-Geek”, Matt Cutts, himself:
From the summer of 2000 to the summer of 2003, index updates tended to happen about once a month. The resulting changes were called the Google Dance…
Over the years, Google’s indexing has been streamlined, to the point where most regular people don’t even notice the index updating.
So the old test (where you’d check one of the old Google Dance tools) no longer works.
How to Investigate whether your Site has been Dropped From Google’s Index, and Fix the Problem!:
Here’s are some simple steps to follow if you believe your site has been dropped from Google’s index:
1. DON’T PANIC!
First and foremost, remember the wise line from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: DON’T PANIC!
This stuff happens all the time, and chances are you’ll be back up in the SERPs in no time.
This was the first thing I told Alister.
2. Check Google’s Webmaster Tools
Once you’ve stopped panicking, look at your site status in Google’s Webmaster Tools.
It’s a good place to start, because (increasingly) Google is using the Google Webmaster Tools to inform webmasters of problems with their sites (although you’ll probably need to log in to see the exact detail of the problem).
What to look for:
If you’ve got no idea what you’re looking for, or at, there are two specific things you should look for:
- In the Site Status wizard, you want to see two big green ticks - one each beside “Pages from your site are included in Google’s Index” and “Googlebot last successfully accessed your home page on…”. A problem with the former might indicate that your site has been banned, or was never indexed in the first place. A problem with the latter suggests Google might be having trouble spidering your web-site.
- Use the site: function in a Google search (ie - I would search for site:www.brenthodgson.com ) to see all the pages indexed for your web-site. This should vaguely match the number of pages you have on your web-site. If the number of pages indexed by Google is zero, then you could be being penalised. If it’s fewer pages than you expect it to be, then there are potential indexing problems.
These were all OK in Alister’s case.
3. Check Google’s Webmaster Guidelines
If you’re unfamiliar with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, it’s worth having a flip through them to make sure your site is doing all the right things.
If you’re worried about where you rank in Google, then this should be your Bible.
Google’s Webmaster Guidelines make up about 90% of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) - the remaining 10% is just tweaks that manipulate imbalances in Google’s ranking algorithms.
Something seemingly innocent (like using the same bio page for your company on several web-sites) can be a poison-pill when it comes to your rankings in Google.
In Alister’s case, I knew he was a good boy who played by the rules - but I double-checked that his latest redesign was OK according to Google’s webmaster guidelines (just to be sure he didn’t accidentally do something silly).
Note on Duplicate Content: Even though Alister’s site was being “Splog’d” (or scraped by spam blogs), this rarely affects rankings in Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
Google’s system is designed to be smart enough to pick this up in most cases.
In fact, Google says:
Don’t worry be happy: Don’t fret too much about sites that scrape (misappropriate and republish) your content. Though annoying, it’s highly unlikely that such sites can negatively impact your site’s presence in Google. If you do spot a case that’s particularly frustrating, you are welcome to file a DMCA request to claim ownership of the content and have us deal with the rogue site.
If everything’s fine, and your site is still indexed (although your ranks have dropped - like it did with Alister), then the next step can be the hardest:
Give it 4 days (I told Alister to wait over the Easter long weekend) and your site’s ranking should be back to roughly normal.
However, if your site isn’t back up within a few days, then it’s likely something has gone wrong… Find the problem, fix it, and then get your site re-indexed.
So what happened to Alister’s site?
There’s happy ending.
Remember how I told Alister not to panic, and to wait a few days to see what happened?
Well, I checked his site later that night and it was back up in the Search Engine Results Pages - and higher than ever!
The moral of this story is: If You’re Doing Everything Right, DON’T PANIC: You’ll Be Fine!
Another reason to stick to White Hat SEO!