November 1, 2008

Back to Googled Hits

I’ve been on the Internet since the mid ’90s and have had my own domain since early 2000. So I’ve been around quite a bit of time and there’s a lot of content by me (and about me) all over the place on the Internet. Not surprisingly, this has meant that I’m pretty easy to Google and discover. In fact, about the first seven pages of hits on a search for "Fahim Farook" are almost exclusively all about me :)

So imagine my surprise a few months back when I did a random search for some site keyword, (I think it was "Solipsistic Meanderings") and found that I didn’t appear anywhere on the first page of results! I then continued to search for other keywords, including my own name, and nothing! I just didn’t seem to appear on Google till you got to page 6-10, or sometimes, even further.

I was really busy around this time and so I gave up further investigation. However, Laurie did a little bit more digging and she did discover that there was a theory going around at that time that text ad links caused your site to be either penalized by Google or to be removed from their index altogether.

Now I’d put up some text ad links a few months earlier but they weren’t bringing in a whole lot of money and it didn’t seem urgent enough at that point to do too much digging. So I simply informed the people for whom I had placed the ads that I was discontinuing them at the end of the month, did so and then promptly forgot about the matter because I figured Google would restore my search result rankings when they next crawled my site.

Additionally, around the same time, a client of mine had his site removed from the Google database because they suspected that his site had been hacked and invisible spam links placed on his site. He received notification of this via Google’s Webmaster Tools. (If you don’t use it, and have a site that you’re interested in monitoring/optimizing, you really should sign up. It’s really useful :)) All I had to do at that point was to check my client’s site to make sure that it didn’t have any hacked content and then send a request for reconsideration to Google via his Webmaster Tools account. A few days later, my client’s site was back in Google.

Given that experience, I thought that if I had been penalized in some manner by Google, that I would receive a notification as well. So I wrote off the whole incident as being either something which had just happened (and so they hadn’t had time to notify me) or that my keywords had indeed really fallen off the map because I don’t do any SEO work on my site – it’s just a personal site and I’ve never even needed to (or seemed to need) any sort of SEO work because Google always picked up my entries.

Fast forward to a few days ago. I only vaguely remembered all of the stuff that had happened before but I did have some time on my hands. So I did another search for "Fahim Farook" and again, nothing. I was more concerned this time because it had been months since the first incident and I was still not showing up on a Google search. So I did a few more keyword searches and still the same thing.

I checked Webmaster Tools and it showed that my site was being crawled quite often by Google. So what was going on? So I did a search combining my site URL and a couple of keywords from a recent entry. That turned up my post. But when I searched by just the keywords (without the site URL) my post wasn’t there on any of the first few pages. So it did look as if Google was penalizing me somehow.

So I did some searching and it turns out that Google does penalize you for text link ads but it seems to be random and the site owners are never notified. It might just be part of Google’s strategy to keep people guessing as to what triggers the penalization because if people knew the exact parameters, there are of course folks who’ll try to tweak things and get around the penalization while still doing what they’re not supposed to do 😀

But the fact remained that my site was still penalized and removing the text link ads had not helped. Some people claim that they automatically regained their search rankings after they removed the ads. Others said that they had to request a reconsideration. So I went into Webmaster Tools and did a request. (In case you can’t find where to do it, it’s on your Webmaster Tools dashboard on the right-hand set of links under "Talk to Google".)

That was about three days ago. Last night, when I checked by doing a search for "Fahim Farook", I was back again on the first page of results! So one thing to say about Google is that they are really fast :) In fact, when you do the reconsideration request, they mention that it might take several weeks. But I’m happy to be back so quickly – don’t think this is a complaint :p

But I thought of writing this post as a warning to others and a sharing of information. It might be that your site has been penalized and you are totally unaware of it. So do some checking every once in a while. Make sure that you aren’t losing any traffic to your site because you had been penalized and you didn’t know about it …

If you are penalized, read Google’s Best Practices guidelines, especially the Webmaster Guidelines. See if you are not adhering to any of the guidelines. If you are, then fix the issues and then request a reconsideration. You’ll probably be back in the Google listings in no time. And good luck :)

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Tags: Interesting, Internet, Site
Posted by Fahim at 6:12 am   Comments (0)