Google does a pretty good job in detecting websites which use black hat SEO techniques that violate its Webmaster Guidelines and it often takes steps and bans them. Those penalties can either be algorithmic or manual and they can heavily affect both the rankings and the organic traffic of those websites. Given that you have followed all the tips that we regularly post on our Blog, you will probably never face such an issue with Google. Nevertheless if your website has been hacked or if you have been tempted to use a few blackhat techniques, this article will help you understand what to do next and how to file a reconsideration request.
1. Make sure that it is a Ban
First of all we need to clarify that not all drops of organic traffic or positions in search results are caused by bans. Google constantly updates its algorithms and this can affect the rankings and the amount of traffic that you receive. So the first thing that you have to do is check our SEO Blog and the Official Google Blogs to find all the news concerning algorithmic updates that could affect your website rankings.
The second thing is to check if your website appears to be on Google’s Index. Do a “site:” search to see if the pages of your website are indexed or use the Indexed Pages tool. Note that having zero or very few results on the index can be an indication of a ban. Nevertheless the same effect can be caused not only because of a ban but also because of crawling issues. That is why you have to ensure also that your site can be crawled and indexed by Google. Few of the things that you have to check is that you have not blocked Google spiders (robots.txt, meta-robots, firewall rules etc), that your site uses Search Engine friendly technologies which enable content indexing and that you have no Crawling errors appearing on the Google Webmaster Console. Using the Web SEO Analysis tool can help you spot some of these problems, so make sure you run a report and focus on the diagnostic part. Last but not least note that a significant drop of Google PageRank Toolbar values can be an indication of a ban.
By checking all the above you can easily find out if your website was affected by an algorithmic update, if your rankings dropped due to a technical issue related to your website structure or if you have actually been banned by Google.
2. Have you been hacked?
Moreover you should definitely check if Google has sent you a notification on the Google Webmaster Tools Console. Usually when they detect that a website has been hacked they send a message to the webmaster to inform him/her about the incident. Please note that they do this primarily when it is obvious that the website has been attacked by malicious users and that it is not guaranteed that you will be informed in case of using blackhat techniques. Google is notorious for not providing enough information to the webmasters in such cases.
3. Are you violating Google’s Webmaster Guidelines?
As we mentioned several times in the past, violating Google’s Webmaster Guidelines (also known as Quality Guidelines) can lead to bans. Read carefully those terms and see if you are violating any of their rules. The most common violations are spamming, scrapping and adding thin content on your website, the use of hidden text/links, the cloacking, the use of irrelevant keywords, the use of doorway pages, the sneaky JS redirects and the participation on link exchange schemes (3 way linking, reciprocal linking, paid links etc).
If you are still not able to detect the problem that caused the ban, feel free to post your question on Webmaster Help Forum which is heavily monitored and maintained by Google’s Bionic Posters and by Google employees.
4. Take steps to eliminate the issues that caused the ban
Along with identifying the problems, taking steps to eliminate them is probably one the most important parts of the process. Make sure that you delete any spam content from your website, nofollow or remove the paid links and stop using any blackhat methods that caused the ban. While making the corrections, ensure that you keep a detailed track of all your actions. This will help you spot and eliminate all the problems and also it will be a valuable source of information when you file a reconsideration request.
Note that the faster you resolve all the problems from your website, the faster it will return to the search results. If the ban was algorithmic then there are good chances that it will be removed once Google recrawls and reanalyzes your website.
5. File a Reconsideration Request
Once you have eliminated all the known issues from your website you will have to file a reconsideration request. Note that it is extremely important to be honest, to admit what went wrong and to describe all the steps that you took to correct your website. If you are not sure about what caused the ban, you can still file a reconsideration request describing the problem, nevertheless it is much more effective to resolve all the issues before you do it. Posting your reconsideration request multiple times or providing insufficient or false information is not advised since Google has the right to ignore/reject your request.
6. Be patient
Once the reconsideration request is filed and all the problems are resolved Google will scan again your website to verify that all the issues were removed. Also in many cases, especially when a manual ban is placed, one of Google’s employees will revise your website to ensure that everything is fixed. This process can be time consuming and as a result you have to be patient. If everything goes smoothly you should expect to see the problem fixed within 0.5- 3 months.
7. Read Google’s feedback
Google started to provide feedback concerning the outcome of the reconsideration request. Sometimes they just inform you that the ban is lifted, but in other cases they request from you to take additional measures. Be adaptive and collaborate with them in order to resolve the issue.
If the above process seems too complicated or time consuming, then you should take steps to avoid bans. Don’t use blackhat methods, don’t spam and make sure you update your server and your web application software regularly to avoid being hacked. If your website has been banned and you need help make sure you post your question on Webmaster Help Forum.
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