How to Determine if your Site is Banned in Google
Reader question: I think my site has been banned in google. It used to have all of these top positions for the past three years, and it suddenly disappeared. Can you help?
Answer: In Part 1 of this article, I went over the differences between being spidered, indexed, and ranked in the search engines. This information is important when you determine if your site has been banned in Google. In Part 2, I will go over the 8-step process I use to check for search engine penalties.
Step 1: Check log files or Web analytics reports for search engine activity.
Instead of relying on positioning software to determine whether or not a site is banned in Google, review your log files or Web analytics reports to see if Googlebot is actually crawling your site. Staff with advanced technical skills can review log files; less technical staff can review Web analytics reports.
If you notice a significant drop in Google crawling, it can mean one of two things:
1. Site has been banned, or
2. Google has difficulty crawling your site due to technical reasons.
Step 2: Check index count.
A site’s index count is the number of pages that are included in a search engine index. A page cannot rank unless it is included in the search engine index.
One way to check the index count in Google is to perform the following search:
If your site is included in the Google index, it has not been banned. However, if your site has an index count of zero, it is a strong indication that your site might be banned.
Step 3: Check link count.
A site’s link count is the number and quality of links pointing to a Web site. Link development is actually a more complex process than it seems. But for the purposes of this process, all we are concerned with is the actual number of links to your site that Google can find.
Whenever you do a link count on Google, remember that it is done on a per URL basis. In other words, you will have a link count number to your home page, a different link count number to an individual category page, and so on and so forth. Since most sites tend to have the highest link count to their home pages, then getting a home-page link count is probably all you will need to do.
In Google, getting a link count is very simple:
If there are links to your site in the Google index, your site has not been banned. However, if your site has a link count of zero, it is a very strong indication that your site might be banned.
Step 4: Review and fix possible technical issues.
If your site’s index count is low and Google is finding links to your site, then the site might not be banned. Google might have a difficult time crawling your site due to technical issues. Items to review include:
Robots exclusion protocol
Server redirects which are improperly formatted
Site navigation scheme(s)
Technical issues often arise after a site redesign and server changes. For those of you about to redesign your site, especially if you are going from a static to a database-driven site, make sure you bring in a professional search engine marketer early in the design process to ensure that your design/development team isn’t doing something to prevent the search engines from crawling your site.
Also, Google has technical issues from time to time. I call it a search engine hiccup. Usually, the technical glitch is resolved within a month.
Step 5: Resubmit and monitor.
After fixing all possible technical issues, resubmit your site to Google at http://www.google.com/intl/en/addurl.html. I generally submit the home page and site map (as a back-up). Google should be able to crawl your entire site from your home page.
You don’t have to resubmit your site to be included in the Google index if Google were able to find high-quality links to your site. People just like the security of being able to submit.
After resubmission, review your log files and Web analytics reports. You should see more Google activity once technical issues are fixed. However, if you see little or no Google activity, then it is a very strong indication that your site has been banned.
Step 6: Review spam penalty checklist.
To review, your site has probably been banned in Google if you see the following:
1. Log files/Web analytics reports indicate that Google is no longer crawling your site.
2. Index count is zero.
3. Link count is zero.
4. No technical issues exist that prevent Google from crawling your site.
Step 7: Review Google guidelines, terms, and conditions.
If Google has penalized your site, you will have to change everything that violates their terms and conditions. You can review their Webmaster Guidelines at http://www.google.com/intl/en/webmasters/guidelines.html and general Webmaster Info at http://www.google.com/intl/en/webmasters/.
All too often, unsuspecting Web site owners have hired a search engine marketing firm that spams the search engines. With Google, it is common to find free-for-all link farms, doorway pages and domains, and cloaking.
In order to get your site unbanned, you will have to find the exact issue (or issues) that violates Google’s terms and conditions. You will have to send this information in an email to Google when you ask to be let back into their index.
Step 8: Email Google, resubmit, and monitor.
For the sake of this article, let’s assume that the spam problem is a doorway domain that gets link popularity through a link farm. When you send an email to Google at email@example.com, make sure you include the following information in the email:
The domain that you believe has been banned.
All of the contact information of the person in charge of that domain.
The reasons why you believe the domain has been banned. (Hint: show Google that you’ve read their terms and guidelines).
What you have done, specifically, to change your site.
If you hired a search engine marketing (SEM) firm, then you need to give them the name and URLs of the SEM firm, the URLs of the doorway pages, and at least a couple of links to the FFA link farm.
An apology and a promise that it won’t happen again.
In general, a Google software engineer will not directly reply to your request for re-inclusion. You will know if your site has been accepted back into the Google index by reviewing your log files and Web analytics software for Google activity.
It must be rough to suddenly lose Google traffic after three years of search engine visibility. Maybe it was a Google hiccup. Maybe the site was redesigned. Maybe the competition has better quality content and better link development. Or maybe the Web site owner hired an SEM firm that spammed the search engines. Hopefully, this 8-step process will help readers get on the right track.
Shari Thurow is Marketing Director at Grantastic Designs, Inc., a full-service search engine marketing, web and graphic design firm. This article is excerpted from her book, Search Engine Visibility (http://www.searchenginesbook.com) published in January 2003 by New Riders Publishing Co. Shari can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.