Has this happened to you? You are searching on Google for your site only to find that you cannot find it? In this article we look at some things you can do to find out if you have been penalized or this is just a bug in Google
Yes it is true, Google does make mistakes. In fact, we recently went through this so know what you are going through! This site disappeared from Google for about 24 hours. It was there on Sunday, but gone Monday. Gladly, it was back on Tuesday. But it was a stressful 24 hours to say the least.
After all, we are a search engine optimization company. How would it look to our current and future clients if they searched for us and couldn’t find us? So let’s look at what happened and how you can use our experience to help you determine if you’ve been banned by Google or the search engine just hiccuped on your site.
Step 1: Determine if you are actually gone.
Sometimes site owners think their website has been removed from Google because they don’t rank where they used to. We’ve heard it time and time again: “I’ve held the top spot for my search term for years and now my site is gone.” Well, this could mean the site has been removed from Google, but most likely it means your site has gotten caught up in one of the many regular updates that happen on an almost daily basis.
So let’s start by saying if your site has been status quo – in other words you’ve made no significant changes recently – then let us assume it hasn’t been dropped. But how do you determine this?
Start by searching for a few other terms you know you’ve ranked for in the past. Are you there? If not, try searching for your company name. Your site should be at or near the top. If you still cannot find your site, search for your domain name. Be sure to type this in the Google search box and not the address bar or you will just go to your site.
Did you type in your name and didn’t find your site, but were able to see it searching by domain name? If the answer is yes then it could mean you have in fact gotten caught up in an update, but not necessarily.
When we disappeared, we couldn’t find our site for ANY of the terms we were previously ranking on the first page for. Nor could we even find this site by searching for “purposedrivenpromotion.com” in the search box. It was as if our site was wiped from the Google database altogether.
So the next step is to determine if your site is still fully or partially indexed. To do this type the following into the search box, changing yoursitename.com to your actual domain name:
This should return a list of pages Google has identified on your site. In the case of our site, this was the only way we knew we were still being indexed by Google – because they still had our site pages indexed.
So if you are like us and cannot find your site by searching for terms or domain name, but the site: search worked for you it probably means you haven’t been penalized. Google somehow dropped you and it should be temporary.
But let’s not stop there because we still aren’t 100% sure that is what happened. Here are a few more things you can check for to help determine what, if anything, Google has done:
Step 2: Check your log files.
If you have access to your raw log files, look at them to see if Googlebot is still visiting your site. You don’t necessarily have to view the raw files. If you have a log analysis program (which many web hosts provide free of charge) you can go into it and look at site visitors – do you see Googlebot there? If yes then that’s a good sign – it means Google probably hasn’t blocked you. When we did this we saw Googlebot had already visited our site many times on Monday, during the day we disappeared, so we felt pretty confident. If you don’t have any type of raw logs or log analysis proceed to the next step.
Step 3: Check Google Webmaster Tools for Messages and Crawl Stats.
Do you have a Google Webmaster Tools account? If so log in and see if you have received any messages from Google. If not proceed to the “Diagnostics” menu and select “Crawl Stats”. Check to ensure Googlebot has actually been crawling your site. If the answer is yes, then click on “Crawl Errors” and ensure there are no (or few) errors. If there are a few it might be a good idea to fix them right now.
Errors on their own are not a good indicator of a de-indexing issue with Google – I’ve worked on sites with thousands of errors which still managed to keep their rankings. But if you do have a large number of errors in relation to the number of pages on your site it could indicate that Google has an issue with your site. This could point to a de-indexing problem but by fixing the errors, Google will probably start to re-index your site (if it in face has been de-indexed).
Step 4: Check Google Webmaster Tools Search Queries.
Still in webmaster tools; select the “Your site on the web” link, then select “Search Queries”. This can help you by looking at the trend. For our site it has been pretty consistent and rising slowly over the shown time period. As long as you are at least consistent you are ok. If it has been dropping it could indicate a problem.
Don’t have a Google Webmaster Tools account? Now might be a good time to sign up for one. Here is the link to Google Webmaster Tools. While you are at it – sign up for a free Bing Webmaster Tools account as well in case you need to go through this same process on Bing/Yahoo.
If you’ve done all these things and nothing obvious jumps out at you (IE Googlebot has been crawling consistently, webmaster tools shows no errors, and also shows crawl activity) then it probably means you have to suffer what we went through – 24 hours of low traffic.
The good news is that it will probably pass and you should be back to where you were before you disappeared. Our site came back to the exact same rankings it had before the “outage”.
One caveat, as this article is being written we’ve done more research and have found there are cases where a site does a couple “bounces”. It disappears for 24 hours, comes back for 24 hours then drops again for 24 hours, only to return and stick. If we do disappear again it will be today and we will then update this article to let you know the outcome.
If, after 24-48 hours you still aren’t being found it might be time to call in professional help. As luck would have it, we have been through this so know what to look for. If you need help, contact us and let us know what help you need.