16 February 2013
My website disappeared from Google Search
What happened. What I did. What resulted.
About a week back, my website disappeared from Google Search. The site used to rank very highly for my target keywords and phrases relating to marketing and communications consulting and writing in Bangalore. About a week back, the site just refused to come up for any of the keywords. It didn’t just drop in ranking or get relegated to 10th page -- it disappeared. Period.
Now, this was pretty disconcerting since I rely (a lot) on Google Search for getting visitors to my website for my consulting business.
I let matters lie for a bit because this has happened to me before. About a year back, my site had similarly disappeared from Google but reappeared after a couple of days. So I presumed this was another one of those bugs that sometimes afflicts Google during their algorithm updates.
But when two days passed, I ran through a check list to diagnose the problem. Here’s my check list in case you need to do this sometime.
First, I checked Bing and Yahoo with my keywords and found that my website came up just fine in them. So the problem was confined to Google.
Next, I used the Google Site: command and confirmed that my site was still indexed. This most likely meant that I wasn’t being penalized by Google Search for violating their SEO guidelines.
The only way to make sure that the problem wasn’t caused by my actions was to check the health of my site in Google Webmaster Tools (if you own a site, make sure you register it with Webmaster). Here’s what I did there:
1. I checked for messages. If Google had penalized me for bad behavior, this is where they would have messaged me. No message.
2. I went to Webmaster Tools > Health > Crawl Stats to see if my site was being crawled by Googlebot, the Google spider. No problem.
3. But since Crawl Stats data was at least a day or more old, I went to Webmaster Tools > Health > Fetch to see if Googlebot could access my site at that instant. Again, no problem.
4. For what it was worth I then resubmitted my site to their index.
Having now confirmed that I wasn’t in violation of Google’s SEO guidelines, I submitted my site for reconsideration. This is normally to be done when Google flags some violation on your site and tells you that they have taken it off their index. You then correct the error and submit the site again for indexing. I hadn’t erred, but since there was no other way to communicate, I followed their rules and submitted my site for ‘reconsideration’.
I repeated Steps 1 to 4 every day for the next four days but my site stayed banished from Google Search.
Four days later, I got a mail from Google through Webmaster saying they hadn’t blocked my site through any ‘manual spam action’ from their side. They also gave me two long paragraphs on how search results can be impacted when they update their algorithms, how that affects page ranking, how my keywords may have become less effective, blah blah blah.
This morning, without explanation, and a week after my site disappeared from Google Search, everything is back to normal. My site comes up at the old positions for all my keywords.
So why did my site drop from Google Search and why did it reappear? Software bug? Algorithm update? Who knows? The 800 pound gorilla didn't bother to answer. But since Google has 67% share of the search engine market, you really don’t have an option other than to play by their rules. Hopefully, a company that has ‘Don’t be evil’ as part of its code of conduct will use its power fairly.
© 2013 Vijay Menon