Banned By Google And Back Again
What had happened?
Further research there, and a bit of soul-searching, revealed why. I had too many pseudo-directory pages with auto-generated external links. Snippets from search engine results were used as descriptions of said links. Said links were run though a redirect script. These are hallmarks of pseudo-directories and 'AdSense scraper'* sites. Google is reportedly trying to filter these from its 'SERPs'**. I say reportedly, because Google doesn't announce these purges. They are inferred.
To compound my sins, these pages were also effectively doorway pages?.
The theory was that legitimate sites had been hit as 'collateral damage'. I say theory, in that Google rarely comments on individual cases. It won't tell you exactly why your site was banned. I guess this is for reasons of time, and to give no clues to spammers.
In my case the ban was justified for my two satellite sites; while not looking like spam, they were effectively doorway sites.
My main site was different. It had offending pages, but was mostly a diverse labour of seven years; a personal site on steroids.
Google bans sites algorithmically: a site that fits their 'spammer' profile gets dropped via software from their index automatically. Real spammers shrug their shoulders and move on; honest webmasters write emails begging for mercy.
I did some searching via Google, to find out how to do a re-inclusion request. Here's how:
3. You stop the offending content from being web-accessible, permanently.
If you're familiar with Apache web-server mod_rewrite you can:
- Send a 410 'Gone' response to requests for the offending pages, or
- CHMOD them to 600, which will return a 403 'Forbidden' response, or
- Move them to a different directory if you need to keep them, or
- Just delete them.
Don't try to be clever. Just get rid of them.
4b. You state that you have read the webmaster guidelines above,
4c. You admit what you did wrong; simply, succinctly, with no carping or special pleading.
Don't try to be clever. Don't argue. Don't lie. Don't waffle.
Google has cached copies of your site. When an engineer checks yoursite, he'll look for the offending content, and compare it againsttheir cache. He'll spend about two minutes on it; don't give him a reason to continue to exclude you.
4d. You ask for re-inclusion.
5. You wait.
In my case, it took about a week; a long, unpleasant, fretful week. I sent follow up emails saying what I was doing, and a fax, and I was going to write letters if that didn't work. That was probably excessive. Once you have a ticket number, that's all that should be necessary.
They emailed a standard reply saying "the problem had been passed to their engineers". That's good. I understand they send no reply to spammers.
A week later my site was back in. Lesson learnt. To make sure I'm not so vulnerable again, I'm splitting my content to different sites, on the principle of 'best not to have all your eggs in one basket'.
Have I learnt anything from this? Yes. Have more than one site as your 'money-maker'. Spend less time on search engine optimisation and more on traditional marketing. Come up with a unique selling proposition that compels people to link to your site. Easy(!)
** Search Engine Result Pages
? Doorway pages are low-quality keyword-rich web pages whose sole purpose is to lead the viewer to the 'real' content, usually whatever the site is selling.