This post originally appeared on tBL member Joshua Lyon's blog Joshua Lyons Marketing Blog and is republished with permission. Find out how to syndicate your content with theBrokerList.//?#
Has your website recently vanished from Google search results and you have no idea why? This could be due to a number of reasons. This post is designed to help you get to the bottom of it.
Penalty Related Issues
Google penalties are typically related to either off-page SEO, such as link building, or on-page SEO factors related to the content on your website.
The first question you should ask yourself is, have you recently done any link building work on your website or hired anyone to do so? If the answer is yes, then the problem could be due to this recent link building work. It is at this point you should consider if the SEO work has been done correctly.
Generally, when conducting any new link building campaign, it is normal to expect some fluctuation in your search engine rankings. It can temporarily get worse before it gets better, even when the work is being done correctly. Google has been designed this way to discourage people from trying to manipulate the system by building links to their own website.
Eventually though, your website should settle as Google finds a good place for it in the search results. If done correctly, your website should end up higher than it was before. The time it takes to stabilize will usually depend on the age of your site and many other factors.
However, if the work has been done incorrectly or aggressively, then there’s a good chance you could be suffering from an algorithmic penalty as a result of violating Google guidelines. You should also check your backlink profile for any bad or any spammy links which might have led to the violation.
Common Reasons for Penalization
Here are some reasons search engines will penalize your website:
Purchasing links – Buying bad links could actually be seen as an attempt to manipulate PageRank. This could cause your site to disappear from the search results.
Excessive reciprocal links – The act of exchanging too many links with your online clients or friends can be seen as a manipulation attempt, thus leading to penalization. Some businesses will create multiple websites and create a host of links between these sites. They assume this will enhance their rankings, but it isn’t considered a best practice by search engines.
Copy-pasted content – The existence of any copy-pasted content on your site makes it less valuable in Google’s perception. You should ensure that the content is unique and well-written. You can use tools like Copyscape to check for uniqueness.
Existence of internal 404s – If a website delivers 404 errors inside its own website, that’s a sure signal that the web visitors aren’t accessing the content they asked for.
Keyword stuffing – You may be penalized if Google detects a high number of keywords on a website.
Footer/sitewide links – Some web designers tend to use footer links as a quick link building tactic. However, Google sees this as manipulating PageRank, thus leading to penalization if the links aren’t nofollowed.
Sitemap data – Missing sitemap data can cause your website to be penalized, as Google uses the XML sitemap to check your sites structure and learn how it is put together. You should ensure the XML sitemap is available and up to date.
Broken external links – As a website owner, you should always check the outbound links on your website periodically and remove any that are dead or broken.
Scraped content – The act of pulling duplicate content from other sites in order to bulk your website will usually get your pages deindexed, unless you use the canonical tag to link to the original source.
Canonicalization issues – These problems can also result in the same content being accessed by search engines from multiple URLs, causing your site to look like duplicate content.
Some people often assume their website is no longer appearing on Google, when in fact it could still be indexed but is just very low on the search results.
You should check to make sure your website has actually vanished from Google’s index. Start by turning off safe search. Doing this disables the browser from potentially filtering your results.
You can then enter the following into the search bar:
If you are seeing some search results for your website, this means it is still in Google’s index. It is possible not every page on the site is indexed, but for the most part, the website is in Google’s index. If no results appear at all, then this means your whole website has been deindexed for some reason.
You can use your Google Search Console (formally Webmaster Tools) for clues as to why your website has vanished from Google search results. You should check and inspect your website using the URL inspection tool.
Here are some reasons why your website might have been deindexed:
Restructuring/redesign – If you have recently restructured, redesigned or changed the platform of your website, this may be the culprit. Your site may have vanished from Google search results if the website modification was not handled in a correct manner.
If the page URLs have changed, then the new page locations might not be in Googles’ index yet because they haven’t been found and crawled. In normal circumstances, it takes some time before Google crawls and indexes a new website.
For existing sites, you will want to 301 redirect all of your old pages to the new locations in order to tell Google the pages have moved.
Hacks – You should check to see if there are any security issues which have been reported on the website. The Google Search Console will usually tell you if your website has been hacked.
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Robots.txt – A robots file is a text file that tells web robots which pages of your site are to be crawled and which not to crawl. Check to see if you have accidentally deindexed your site in Google.
There could have been a message sent to you, saying the website is blocked with a robots.txt file, a noindex directive or password protection.
You, or your developer, should check your robots file for the following code:
If this code is included in your robots file then you are basically telling Google not to index your website. You should remove this code immediately.
You should also check each page’s meta title for the following code:
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”>
Again, if you see the above code then you should remove it immediately from pages you want Google to index.
.htaccess – This is a configuration file on web servers that responds to various requests. Checking this would help solve any problem with the Apache software. Many web hosting providers use this type of software. This type of issue can certainly prevent your site from being indexed. This is something your website developer can help you with.
Before doing anything else, do the following type of search to make sure your website really has vanished from Google: site: yourdomainname.com. If it has, ask your SEO manager or website developer to use this blog post as a checklist. They can go through each item to identify the reason your website vanished from Google.
Let us know if you are experiencing a problem with your website not showing up on Google. We can help you. Simply contact us by filling out the form below.