The Google Site Blacklist: When Your Website Disappears

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Earlier this week, I spoke to a friend whose business was recently blacklisted by Google. Some call this the “Google death sentence,” as he told me. This site could be described as a niche supplier directory with direct ties to the procurement sector. One day, it had hundreds of thousands of inbound Google links and generated thousands of page views from Google every week, if not every day. When my friend woke up the next day, he noticed site traffic had dropped off materially. And when he dug into the issue, he realized nearly all traces of his site on Google had vanished, including all of the individual page indexes.

The first question is what had happened. Google has apparently become much more aggressive about policing the quality of searches, and they’re doing this not only by lowering the rankings of sites that rely on artificial ways of gaming the Google ranking and display engine, but also by getting rid of them entirely, wiping them clean from Google servers so they don’t appear at all when searched.

So how does one get blacklisted? It seems that the easiest way to get blacklisted is to work with one of those providers that promise to “get you indexed” better in Google through providing backlinks and other nefarious means. On Spend Matters, we sometimes encounter comments with inbound links to sites that are clearly coming from offshore spammers looking to make our site into a link farm.

Fortunately, we are able to moderate these comments and delete them (and we use software that filters out most of these spam comments in the first place). But there are hundreds of thousands of sites that welcome these types of comments as part of their core business model, as well as many more that don’t moderate these sorts of things. It is these “faked” links without substance or merit that Google is penalizing.

In this case, my friend ran afoul of Google because in the past he had participated in this backlist game by hiring one of these lowbrow search engine optimization (SEO) firms with shady practices. But he claims he did so only on a limited basis, and the vast majority (95%+) of links to his site were genuine. Still, Google called him out on it. And there’s not much he can do because the appeals process can take over a year (and in less than a month, he’s been turned down twice already). Since Google is Google, my friend is in a Waiting for Godot situation as there is no external (e.g., legal) recourse, and he did, in fact, violate a policy. Granted, it’s one that Google only put in place after many sites embarked on these questionable strategies in the first place.

Apparently, getting those backlinks removed is an extremely time consuming process. Consultants who specialize in this and do it well, including some who ironically engaged on the other side of the equation by creating them in the first place, are in high demand and have no capacity to take on new assignments on a short-term basis. This of course makes matters worse, as appealing to Google successfully requires showing that you’ve remediated the problem.

For suppliers and businesses in general, the situation raises a number of questions on strategy for engaging with providers that promise to raise site profiles as well as general awareness and tools for generating site traffic. It also raises questions for companies like ThomasNet, MacRAEs, IHS GlobalSpec, and MFG.com, which help suppliers with RFQs, traffic and search rankings (legitimately) -- and the suppliers that advertise on them (after all this is a form of "buying" links and inbound traffic, but the real question is do any of these types of sites engage in policies which could, in the future, run afoul of Google). Moreover, this also could apply to all “open” supplier networks and platforms that could be threatened by current or future changes in the Google model and policy -- not to mention media sites, blogs, etc.

We’ll tackle these challenges – and some suggestions for overcoming them legitimately in this new era of Google enforcement – in a follow-up post.

Voices (4)

  1. Nitin:

    thanks for discussing issue

  2. Market Dojo forward auctions:

    Ultimately if you engage in blackhat SEO activity, Google will penalise you. It is written very clearly in their terms. BMW is one of the more famous websites to have been blacklisted by Google, back in 2006 for breaching guidelines, so it’s not just insignificant, low-value websites that are penalised.

    If you want to climb the Google ratings, play it safe, play it clean and be patient. Don’t go to fiverr.com and buy 5000 back-links or create fake, keyword heavy landing pages. Don’t mask test in white font on a white background or any of the other dodgy techniques. Google wants their users to find what they are looking for when they search and to cut out the useless sites that get in the way of that.

  3. Jeff Gordon:

    Unintentionally, this is an EXCELLENT argument for the power of an open market with viable competition. If Google had a real competitor, they couldn’t act in this manner. We see this all the time with suppliers of other products/services. But it’s rare to find such a solid monopoly.

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