What to Do If You’re Red-Flagged

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We’ve written a lot here about how to effectively run a website or what NOT to do to avoid being red-flagged by Google.  What about if you are red-flagged by Google or other search engine?  The answer: your doomed.  Entry over.

Actually, all is not necessarily lost, but it’s not going to be easy, and it depends just how egregious your bad behavior was.  Think of your website’s standing like a credit rating.  While you can fix a credit rating, it’s going to take some time – despite any words to the contrary you might see tacked to a telephone pole at the side of the highway.  It’s going to take some time for Google to trust your site again.

Again, this depends on the nature of your flagging.  Just like your credit: if you’ve filed for bankruptcy, it’s going to be a bit harder to dig yourself out of a hole than if you’ve defaulted on a credit card a couple of times.  The goes if you’re running an obscene link farm with a layout from 1998, or you’ve been given a warning based on what is perceived as keyword jamming in content

Checking if You’ve Been Banned

First, you’ve got to check on your status.  If your like most web owners, you’re checking your stats and rank religiously.  And if you’re not, you should – not because it’s good to be obsessed, but because you should be monitoring how certain keyphrases and pages are performing.  One day, you could step up to your analytics program and see a major drop in traffic.  You plug the domain name in Google (including .com, or whatever the case may be) and you can see how many listings the site is showing.  Next, look for some direct content you have housed on the site – content that was previously indexed. So, with quotes around it, search for “Next, look for some direct content you have housed on the site…”

If your site’s not being listed, it might not be a disaster.  Check your server records.  The server might have been down when Google came to spider the site, which is why it ranks differently (why it’s important to have a host with server redundancy).  You may have also recently lost some high PR links.  You’ll have to contact those site administrators and see why this is so.  Finally, it might just be a mistake: Google is not infallible and mistakes with spidering do happen.

What If It’s Not a Mistake?

OK, we’ve covered things that might lead to a banning by accident.  What if you are 100% guilty of something that’s led to a banning.  Basically, to get back into Google’s good graces, you’re going to need to eliminate everything that led to you being banned.  Are you linking to poor-quality sites.  Delete the links.  Do you have duplicate content?  Delete it.  You’re going to need to give your site a good spring cleaning.  After you’ve done this, write to Google at help@google.com with the title “Re-Inclusion Request.”

Cleaning house is extremely important because it could be a one-shot deal.  If you’re banned and then ask for an inspection after leaving bannable offenses in place, Google’s going to put you well back on the waiting list to check it again.  Even the first time around, it could take three months, or even more, to have your site looked at for re-inclusion on Google.  People are going to be hand-studying the site, page by page, so the whole process is a lengthy one.

If you’ve really broken the rules – and you know it if you have – you might be better off just starting over from scratch.  These are the sites that are based purely on fooling Google and scraping bannable offenses off the site means scraping just about everything.  A spring cleaning is only good for those sites that have made a few mistakes – perhaps even innocently.

It’s important to realize, though, that getting banned by Google isn’t the end of the world, as much as the word “ban” is terrifying.  There are many, many cases where a ban is temporary, rather than “banned for life.”  However, if the same web administrator is falling guilty to the same problems over and over again, Google is not going to be all that sympathetic.  That said, even long-term bannings aren’t too common.  The point of the red-flag system is to put the fear of God (also known as Google) into website administrators’ heads so they make their sites as clean as possible.  If they effectively clean up their sites, Google’s happy because this is the point of the red-flag system in the first place.

You’re average website owner just doesn’t have to deal with being banned outright.  Still, cleaning up a site and having it re-checked by Google takes a long time – too long – which can severely cut into your yearly profit line.  So obviously it’s recommended that you try to avoid it whenever possible.  This means reading up on Google’s – and other search engines – terms of service to make sure you’re never breaking any rules.  Remember, these rules are always changing, so what’s allowable today could be bannable tomorrow.

Resource: Check out SeoHosting’s Banned Site Check Tool.

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