Following on from the previous post, thought I’d update interested readers on the results of my investigation into the mysterious case of the disappearing blog.
To briefly recap, for many months, when “Boomtown Rap” is typed into Google, the home page has appeared as top listing. A few days ago, it disappeared – not only from top listing, but from any listing at all! Maybe it’s down among the dead men, but I’ve checked multiple pages deep, and there is no sign of it.
So, for all practical purposes, my blog appears to have been de-indexed. External links to The Boomtown Rap are still appearing in the listings, as are seemingly random links to various earlier BR posts of mine, but the home page? NADA!
My research indicates that this case of the disappearing blog is not unique. Another Perth-based blogger, Simone, suffered the same fate with her popular blog EnjoyPerth – but in her case the Google ex-communication was total. That is, all trace of her blog simply disappeared from Google’s listings overnight – even external links!
It turned out that her blog had been infiltrated by a hacker, who had planted a ‘hidden’ SPAM harvester at the bottom of her home page. Google had apparently detected the multiple inbound SPAM links reaped by the harvester and – as is fair enough – implemented their policy of penalising sites that illegitimately optimise themselves for search engines using dummy inbound links.
Simone, however, was innocent of utlising an illegitimate SEO strategy and Google didn’t bother contacting her to explain their drastic retaliatory action until Google’s Matt Cutts was made aware of the situation through the TechCrunch site’s expose of her dilemma. See When Google Strikes: The Story Of EnjoyPerth.net
All’s well that ends well; Simone’s blog was re-instated and before long was back in the listings gathering traffic. Without the assistance of the influential TechCrunch, though, and some tech-savvy friends, EnjoyPerth might have been obliterated and many months of effort on Simone’s part sabotaged by the dirty work of a hacker. And it seems to me that Google’s customer relations could do with some refinement.
Abrupt, unexplained de-indexing is a pretty savage measure, and in the case of some sites, could potentially destroy businesses and incomes and lead to real hardship. When people are innocent of transgressing Google’s rules – as Simone was – imposing a blog death sentence without trial or even notification that a capital offence has been committed seems nothing short of fascistic.
In fact, I do not believe that Google is the bully on the search engine block. Rather, it has grown too large for its own good. I’m guessing that it lacks the resources to action sound customer relations every time a serious SEO transgression comes on to their radar screens.
In effect, however, as Simone’s case demonstrates, Google’s punitive actions can be heavy-handed, unfair and damaging, not to mention personally traumatic to the victim. A company that was once seen as a maverick – a refreshing antidote to a stuffy, inhumane corporate system – is now in danger, by virtue of its staggering growth and size alone, of falling victim to its own success and being perceived as just another monster in an Establishment full of them.
To get back to my own case, I have received some good advice from the AussieBloggers Forum and my friend Christine, of Semfire Search Engine Marketing, which I am about to implement. For the benefit of interested onlookers and maybe other bloggers who wake up one morning to find their baby gone, I will detail my remedial attempts and provide updates as they happen.
Firstly, I should communicate Christine’s view that my disappearing blog listing may not be a result of any wilful action on Google’s part. She says my recent post,Boomtown Lament, was indexed by Google (cached on 21 January) and that she suspects the current crisis is just a glitch.
She has examined the coding on my home page and can find no trace of SPAM harvesters. And as previously mentioned, there are still external links and individual post links to my blog appearing in Google’s listings. So my situation appears to be different from Simone’s.
But what to do? This is what I have been advised:
1. Register for Google’s Webmaster Tools. I have done so, “verified” my blog (this is explained by Google after your WT registration is accepted) and sent a “Reconsideration Request” to Google, explaining the current situation and pleading innocent to any flouting of their rules – at least that I am aware of. I will post the gist of any response I receive from them.
2. Upgrade to the latest version of WordPress. This is a task I have been avoiding for months. The time has come – I can put it off no longer (sucking in deep breath as I write).
3. Install the WordPress “All-in-one-SEO-pack” plugin. In advising me thus, Christine stated: I’m putting my bet on the fact that your page titles are very similar and you don’t have a description metatag for your pages so Google sees your posts as possible duplicate content.
4. I’m also wondering whether self-referentiality in some of my recent blog titles (ie: referring to The Boomtown Rap by name in the titles) may have been interpreted by Google as some form of duplication intended to boost my listing…which it certainly was not. I was already being listed at number 1 – I had no reason to resort to such tactics. Besides, I work hard on my titles and would not compromise dramatic effect for some bloody SEO consideration. My self-referentiality was appropriate, since the posts concerned were about the blog itself.
Will keep you posted…