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How to Fix Being Banned (Delisted) from Search Engines

Oh no...

[This is part of the The Blogger’s Essential Guide to Search Engine Optimization Series.]

It always happens when you least expect it – you wake up one morning and someone emails you (or publicly tweets you) telling you that they can’t seem to “find” you in Google.

Uh-oh.

You boot up your browser and type in your domain name in the top. Dang. Zero results for your own blog. Yikes! What happened?

You begin to scramble (perhaps even panic). You’re not sure what to do and you’re not even sure what you did to make anyone mad, let alone a search engine giant!

Fortunately your situation is common and there are some answers that can help get your blog re-listed back on search so you can continue to perform, but it might take some effort and some time. Here are some things to work through:

Make Sure You Didn’t Do It Yourself!

Sometimes the biggest person at fault is yourself and you may not even have done it intentionally! For example, you may have put up a noindex, nofollow on your blog if you were doing some updates or even by accident via a random plugin (or two).

This is what it would look like in your index.php (or index.html) file:

[cc][/cc]

Perhaps you simply de-listed yourself from search!

So the first thing to do is to check your own work and any work that’s been done recently to see if you did this to yourself (or your paid web developer!).

Did A Significant Update Change Rankings?

Perhaps a recent update in the search algorithm changed your ranking significantly! Are you aware of any major updates?

For example, with the recent Panda Update via Google’s Search Engine many bloggers and site owners saw dramatic reductions in their search engine traffic – the reason they were able to rule out their own changes internally were to check up on the changes made by Google. One easy way it to simply stay subscribed to Google’s SEO Blog to be notified of changes.

Things like PageRank changes (see when the last PageRank update occurred here) or even changes in other external factors and properties may have contributed. If you utilize one service heavily and changes in that service have changed it could have affected Google’s rankings as well.

So make sure you double-check, and make sure you’re tied in to the news streams for the services and providers you use often!

Ok. It’s You. What Happened…

So you’ve ruled out external services and your own mistakes – what happened? Perhaps it could have been just a wild “mistake” that you were delisted or perhaps just a fluke and/or accident – this has definitely occurred before (and won’t be the last time it happens to many).

Whew... still there.

First off you’ll want to, again, walk through these steps to make sure everything is truly as messed up as you think it is:

1. Proper Domain, Site Indexed? – Just type in your domain in the search engine to see if it comes up. Specifically you can type in this:

[cc]site:domain-name.com[/cc]

If the answer is “No” then you have a problem. A big one. If it’s just the index page then you still have a problem. A big problem.

2. Domain Links Indexed? – If your proper domain isn’t indexed but some of your pages, blog posts, and sub pages show up then you could be subject to some outbound links that break terms of service such as manipulative linking, stuffing, etc.

Drop any paid campaigns you might be “attempting” and clean up any offending articles that could be pulling your site down. Get this down asap. Head to Google Webmasters and then verify your ownership, resubmit an inclusion request, and promise not to do that stuff again.

3. Keywords Not Ranking? – Perhaps you’ve always performed really well with certain keywords and suddenly they aren’t showing up again. Most likely the search engine has penalized those posts and/or keywords and you should walk through point #2’s solution above as well once you clean up your links.

Essentially search engines killed the value that you were passing for these keywords and considered you spam. Not all is lost as long as you weren’t really spam.

Sounds like a plan, right?

Also, make sure you always have the following for your blog(s) so that if this ever does occur you’re ready to jump into the solution part of the experience rather than the panic part:

  1. Register your site with all Webmaster Tools. Go do this now if you haven’t.
  2. Review all important data within each webmaster tool making sure there are no notifications or warnings that might exist.
  3. Be honest always with anything you do. Besides, the search engines already know what you’re doing anyways so there is no use in lying about what you may have done, even if you thought it was above board.
  4. Patience is the key as sometimes getting back into proper standing can take some time. This is perhaps the hardest part of the entire process, especially if you didn’t do anything wrong.

Finally, it’s worth remembering that it’s a privilege to be listed in Google and all the other search engines, not a right. The can ban or delist you for any reason, and keep you that way for the rest of your online life.

It’s their rules, so stick to ‘em!

[This is part of the The Blogger’s Essential Guide to Search Engine Optimization Series.]