Google is updating its search engine algorithm frequently which has widely affected numerous websites including some reputed large websites. This website was also once affected by such algorithmic changes as a result of which website temporarily lost its traffic by 50%. But the nightmare is long over and the website has fully recovered. A number of people have reported the same on different forums especially “Google Product Forums” that they are affected by recent algorithm changes made by Google in its search engine. Some of them have already recovered and some are still struggling to recover from the damage. These days, Google Product Forums is flooded with complaints made by webmasters who are affected by algorithm changes. Since, there are no latest released notes about Google Panda or Penguin Updates, it can be said with surety that these two major updates are not necessarily involved in devaluing websites.
If we check the search engine statistics for different search engines issued by different administrations, we shall clearly find out that Google has monopoly over internet in the business of search engines despite the fact that there are numerous other excellent search engines available as well. So, if a website is dumped by Google, the future of a website is bleak if the webmaster does not take necessary measures to restore that website from the state of partial or complete devastation.
Recently, I have also observed weird behaviour in Google search results. Few days ago, Google was majorly showing irrelevant search results. Brands and famous online trading websites, Google ads and results from YouTube and PlayStore were at the prime location on the first page even though they had nothing to do with what a user was searching for. But that oddity is quite gone now but not fully. There are still many search terms for which I have observed the same weird behaviour. I hope, Google is not doing this just to increase its revenue!
In my case, when algorithmic changes affected my website, majority of my website posts simply disappeared from Google search results and no, those were not even appearing on 10th or lower pages. Thanks to the backlinks of my websites which people have made and shared over time at different sites especially forums, I was still able to get almost 50% of traffic combining some search engine traffic coming from Google, Bing and Yahoo search engines. At the time my website was shot by Google Cowboy’s pistol and thrown into the well, I moved towards Google Webmaster Tools to find out issues with my website and take necessary measures to get out of that dry well.
Here, I am summarizing step by step recovery process to help others who are still striving to put there website back on tracks. Moreover, this post is also equally useful for the people who are affected by any major updates like Google Panda, Google Penguin etc.
[Update: Google has announced that it has brought another major update to its search engine algorithm which is called as “Hummingbird”. This update is designed to make search engine understand long search terms instead of just a few keywords and display the relevant search results. Hummingbird algorithm update is also involved in altering the search results and therefore affecting the traffic of websites positively or negatively.]
Step by Step Recovery Process:
1- It sounds odd but quite frankly, meta keywords which people put in header section of website template are useless. I am sure Google does not consider those keywords anymore because its new motto is “content is the king”. So, only meta keywords do not add value to a website. I shall recommend to remove those meta keywords.
Secondly, if you have the habit of crowding tags for individual post, that just makes the web post appear spammy for search engine bots especially Google bots. So, make few and relevant tags for posts and avoid duplicating them.
Sometimes, it also happens that too much advertisement on website results in penalty implemented by Google. Wrong placement of ads can also be the culprit. Make sure that you keep the advertisement to a reasonable level. Place ads in a way they should not mess up with the website design, hinder or put hurdles in smooth crawling of web pages by search engine bots.
2- “No follow” all the external links. If there are too many external links pointing to other websites especially low quality websites, it can cause trouble and may result in penalty. If there are images on your website which you have directly shared from other websites, also no-follow them. No-follow is a short code rel=”no follow” which is added in the links. No following a link helps search engine robots understand that those links are not for spamming, transferring PageRank juice, promotion and also not for something else which should be considered while crawling your website. Make sure that you keep number of external links on a page to a reasonable amount. In forums especially, all the external links should be made no-follow because it is a public platform of users for sharing ideas and other stuff. WordPress and most forum software have plugins or options to no follow all the external link with ease.
Above are the few points which a webmaster should take into consideration. All the next steps for recovery process are solely related to “Google Webmaster Tools” which when connected to a website acts as a central nervous system for it and for its betterment in Google Search.
3- Make sure that you connect your website(s) with Google Webmaster Tools. Otherwise, you won’t be able to figure out in what direction you should move after getting your website penalized. After registering your website with Google Webmaster Tools, wait for a day or two so that Google gain full access to your web contents and update index status, search traffic, keywords, search queries related information etc to help you walk through the recovery process. In case your website is not affected by algorithm changes, Google Webmaster Tools is still very useful on day to day use bases to find out how people reach your website, what keywords or search strings they have used to search for their queries etc. It will help you to improve user experience and drive more traffic towards your website. Connecting website with Google webmaster Tools is very easy. Google offers certain easy options to accomplish this task.
4- Inside Google Webmaster Tools, navigate to Search Traffic > Manual Actions. Inside Manual Actions, you will find out if you have been given spams relate penalty. If your website has been penalized due to spamming, you need to fix this sole issue after which you can submit Reconsideration Request to Google to review your website and release you from the leash of penalty.
You need to check for unnatural and unwanted links pointing towards your website. These might include excessive backlinks which you have made while making spam comment on other websites including forums, black hat SEO related techniques to get higher number of backlinks, links selling and buying related activities etc.
In another scenario, other people might be responsible for making your website appear spammy by excessively or unnaturally sharing your weblinks on their websites. In that case, you need to contact those web admins. You need to request them to remove such backlinks which are pointing towards your website. If they refuse to do so, you need to utilize Google Disavow Links Tools provided by Google to get rid of those links.
All links pointing to your website can be found inside Google Webmasters Tools at Search Traffic > Links to Your Site. Make thorough research on these links.
5- Check Malware section in Google Webmaster Tools to make sure that Google has not found any malware attached to your website. Malware could possibly be a hack code, malicious script, malicious cookies, trojan horse, spyware or anything else malicious which is in most cases intentionally connected to a website to bring harm to target victims. Malware can also badly affect Google search rankings of a website and may result in penalty. Utilize webpage scanner tools provided over internet by different antivirus manufacturing companies to make sure that your website is clean.
[Update: Google has renamed ‘Malware’ section as “Security Issues“. Now, under that section, you can find security issues if there are any related to your website.]
If you are not penalized due to manual webspam actions, any sort of malware or anything else which I have pointed out above, you need to move forward. In some cases, it happens that a live website which was previously linking to your website has been shutdown. As a result of that, your shared website links might start appearing unnatural and Spammy for Google search engine robots. You need to Disavow those links by submitting them to Google. You need to utilize Google Disavow Tool here. Do this only after the deep investigation of links pointing towards your website and make sure that that website which you are considering dead is really shutdown and not temporarily down. You need to be patient for this purpose. One point to be noted that disavowing links if they are good will affect your website ranking. Check Search Traffic > Links to Your Site for any dead websites and perhaps dead backlinks.
6- If you have already connected website to Google Webmaster Tools, soon you may find crawl errors related to your website which include server errors and 404 error. 404 error code is used for “not found”, “broken” or “dead internal links” which appears after the deliberate removal of posts from the website or if a user unintentionally or by mistake share a broken link. Generally, 404 errors do not affect search engine rankings but it is the best deal to fix majority of those errors. You may find these if there are any by navigating to Crawl > Crawl Errors. You can fix by removing them from search index of Google search engine. For this purpose, copy individual error link and put it in Google Index > Remove URL. Secondly, you can take benefit out of 404 errors caused by users by making a redirect page for broken links.
7- Some people if get affected by algorithmic changes or hit by major Google algorithm updates (Google Panda or Google Penguin) become hasty and impatiently start tearing website by simply removing posts from their website in the first place. This is not a good manoeuvre at all and it’s just like devastating your whole website by your own hands. Currently, Google does not clearly indicates what the actual cause of down fall of your website is. But if Google start doing this in future, then it will make it lot easier to recover the website. So, I won’t recommend to simply start ripping your website blindly. Instead focus on those points first which I have mentioned above.
Now, what you should do is, first find the posts on your website which might be duplicate. If there are duplicate posts, you need to simply remove them from Google search index or delete them entirely if you want. To remove from directory and search index of Google, you again need to utilize Google Webmaster Tools. Go to Google Index > Remove URLs. Individually submit the URLs of duplicate posts to remove them from index and directory.
In case you find thin contents on your website, you still need to follow the same footsteps and remove the posts with thin contents from Google search index and directory or delete them entirely. Removing from search index and directory is actually enough. But I won’t recommend to do any of this in first place. Instead, update those posts with better useful contents. It is necessary at this point to clear what thin content is. It is not necessary to write 500 or more words articles to make them thick. A small post with added value to internet is also considered as good and not comes under the category of thin contents.
Next step should be to search for those posts on your website which are almost outdated. Either update them or remove them from Google search Index. But if you publish date with posts, then there is no need to bring any changes to them. Those will automatically become the part of archive. Secondly, also search for those posts which are long dead to get any traffic. I mean those posts which might have not got any pageviews since months or in some cases, years if a website is old. It is not an easy task to find them if a website is large. But if you suspect and find some, you should consider to remove them from Google search index. You may delete them as well but it is unnecessary to do that. The good thing is removed posts from search index can also be re-indexed in future by utilizing Fetch as Google feature also present in Google Webmaster Tools.
You can also utilize another useful feature to simply “no-index” such posts. In wordpress and other well developed platforms where users have root access to their websites, they can simply “noindex” individual posts through header tags. But if someone does not have root access to website like in case of blogger, then user need to utilize same feature given in Google Webmasters Tools which I have discussed above. (Google Index > Remove URLs). If you own a forum, you should especially no-index all those thread which have little to no contents.
If you have done everything you could possibly do to recover your website from algorithm changes effects, Google Panda, Google Penguin or any sort of spam penalty, all you need to do next is to be patient and wait for the response from Google to life the penalty off your website.
Times are changing. Black hat SEO tactics do not work on long term basis anymore. So, stay away from such short cuts and also stay away from scammers and self proclaimed SEO experts who charge you for their services and in return offers you nothing, not even a minor fix for your problems.