Friday, 20 May 2011

What to Do if Your Site Has Been Penalized

We are pleased to congratulate you with a great job done – studying the White, Black, and Gray-Hat SEO. This final lesson is devoted to search engine penalty signs and the principles that differentiate them.

As evidence shows, websites can suffer from penalties for numerous reasons. Search engines hate spammers violating or manipulating their rules. They are continuously working to strengthen the algorithms and sophistically sieve out the spamming sites/pages.

The initiative taken against spammers has resulted in scalable and intelligent methodologies for fighting manipulation. Today, search engines do their best to control and remove spam with hundreds of the world's best online engineers engaged in dealing with spammers.

We can repeat the widely known methods Google, a leading spam fighter, applies. Their names are still buzzwords: Google Sandbox, supplemental index, penalties for SE rules violations, regular updates called "Google dances"… They check many factors and monitor each domain or website within their reach.

Wide spread mistakes occur when your links directory expands and starts looking like a link farm (even if this was not your intention). That's why we have warned you to be very careful with link exchange programs, and who you elect to link with. Too many sites have been banned because of the enormous number of links they displayed or for having paid or manipulative links.

Moreover, sometimes it's hard to see whether your site/page actually has a penalty or some things have changed, either in the search engines' algorithms or on your site that negatively impacted the rankings or inclusion.

This loophole is still critical for the Google and Yahoo! search engines, though Bing/Live Search/MSN has already added a special checking option for the penalties applied.

Checking if your site has been banned
To check and recover from the penalty box, Bing/Live Search/MSN offers its Webmaster Center tools (http://www.bing.com/webmaster/ ). As usual, you first have to add a website and troubleshoot the crawling and indexing processes.
Google and Yahoo! users are still deprived of this option. Yahoo! offers a special contact form for you to send feedback regarding the status of your site in their Search Index. If your site disappeared from the Search Results, you can use this form - Yahoo Search Support.
Very often, what is initially perceived as a mistaken spam penalty with these engines is, in fact, related to accessibility issues.
That's why a two-step checking process is available for your attention.
Step 1
  • Poor website availability
    Look deep into your website monitoring reports (e.g. Web CEO's Monitoring tool) and check your website availability over time. If your site was not uptime for a period, the chances are the crawler failed to access your site several times and decided those pages did not exist any more.
  • Changes to the site content
    Consider whether you have made any changes to the site content recently – maybe you have applied keyword stuffing (such changes could have triggered spam filters).
  • Participation in affiliate schemes
    If you are an affiliate or manage your affiliate program – make sure your site's content is unique and no one scrapes content from you. If you have stronger affiliates who use the same content but rank better, your site could be penalized for duplicate content.
  • Changes in the site structure
    Have you changed your site structure; perhaps added more outgoing links, changed the internal link structure, removed or added a new website section, removed pages, played around with the redirects, etc? Those changes might not be SE-friendly.
  • The quality and quantity of your backlinks
    Carefully check the value and number of your backlinks changed over time. E.g. look to see if most of your backlinks are off-topic, or some linking sites were banned or devalued because of Gray or Black-Hat SEO, or if there was a one-night boost in your link popularity which may be a sign of aggressive link-building techniques.
  • Temporary changes in the SE database or ranking algorithms
    First, check sites that share similar backlink profiles, and whether they've also lost rankings. Then wait for a couple of hours and come back to the SE to check your rankings. Maybe you were just expecting another Google update or so called "dance." When the engines update ranking, algorithms links change the value; site importance changes, and you may suffer from ranking movements. (Read the full explanation of the Google dance notion in our "Crawler-Based Search Engines" lesson.) Refer to the SE news to check if there have been any changes to the SE’s ranking algos.
If any of these suggestions are true for your site – go to Step 2 to proceed with your investigation.

Penalties are very disappointing to get. All you'll see is a sudden site drop; furthermore, the search engine won’t send you an email to tell you to stop doing anything wrong. As a rule, search engines just listen to a competitor who ratted on you. They take the competitor’s word for it, without getting any type of defense from you.

Step 2

This step will cover the following factors:

Check the site’s presence in the search engine index (use the site:url.com query) and see if it ranks for the domain name. Then search your website for the unique brand name and five or six relative unique terms from the title tag of your pages. A positive answer for these actions shows your presence in the search engine’s index and possible loss of ranking.

On the other hand, negative answers in the second step check means a penalty has probably been applied.

Note: site URL presence (only home page) means your site was banned, while a partial presence in the index states the penalty. Once you've ruled these out, clear your pages of spam and remove all the potentially harmful links.

Cleaning penalized Web pages

Our new task is to check or recall what you did wrong while optimizing the pages. Search Engines may help you with this job. Top search engines have created tools to make the site owner’s life easy. You'll be informed about wrong steps you took on your website.
First, register your site with the engine's Webmaster Tools service and brush it up properly. Remove and fix everything you can with the help of Webmaster Tools warnings and alerts.
Top Search Engines Webmaster Tools services are:
Asking for Reconsideration
Now we are going to show our ready for reconsideration pages. Feel free to use the next links to re-include the clean pages:
It is recommended that you include a clear explanation of what you have done to fix all previous conflicts. Write the reasons for your fault. Perhaps your site was hacked or you used a problematic technique unintentionally, and so on.
To summarize: all Search Engines have all driven down the value of search spam and made so-called "White-Hat" tactics far more attractive. The re-inclusion/re-consideration process can take months. Moreover, get ready for the rejection as well.

What you should remember:

  1. Website accessibility difficulties are often perceived as a penalty for spam. Check your pages for errors that can prevent the crawling process.
  2. If your site was banned or penalized, clean the pages of spam by using SE special tools and then use a standard re-consideration or re-inclusion request.

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