When carrying out SEO it’s important to always be aware of the many black hat tactics that are frowned on by Google. When a website is caught using these bad optimisation practises they are normally issued with a penalty.
The search engine giant does this to punish websites for carrying out bad practises and to deter others from doing the same.
Even when you think you’ve followed all the rules to the letter and not tried to do anything wrong, you might still end up with the nightmare of being excluded from the search index.
If you’re using SEO then you are aware of the benefit it provides your website. You also know that being excluded from the search index will quickly nullify all of the optimisation efforts that you’ve worked so hard to implement.
If your website is unfortunate enough to experience this penalty it may as well be invisible as traffic to it will be cut by a huge amount. So naturally doing anything you can to get un-banned is crucial.
Getting back into Google’s good books after a ban is not an easy process of just saying “sorry”; it’s a long, drawn out affair. It can also be very vague and confusing when the ban doesn’t specify the exact rules that your website broke.
Some of the common reasons for getting a ban are your website engaging in spam, keyword stuffing, URL swapping, improper use of robot.txt, duplicating pages for visitors and linking to adult or other unauthorised content. Because there are so many different reasons your site may get banned it’s important to find out which rule you broke in order to fix it.
The following will outline the steps you need to take in order to give your website the best chance of getting re-indexed and back in Google’s good books.
Determine if you are actually banned
While you may think you know for certain your website is banned there are many people who confuse a drop in SERP rankings as being de-indexed. The indexing algorithm is constantly changing and being updated which may result in a drop in rankings but this does not mean your website is suffering a penalty or is actually being excluded.
The most obvious indicator that your website is excluded is that it all of a sudden no longer has a page rank attached to it. To make sure, enter your site URL into the search bar and if none of your pages come up then you can safely assume that the website has been de-indexed.
A secondary method of determine a ban is to see if your site is showing up in page indexing. If you are running a news site then you can check to see if your articles are showing up in Google News, if they aren’t it’s likely that your website was de-indexed.
Prepare a Google reconsideration request
The only way to get re-indexed is to submit an official reconsideration request. The most important thing to remember here is that the request is going to be reviewed a real human being and not the indexing algorithm.
While they will review your case as honestly as possible, it pays to be nice in when writing the request. Using language that suggests you are angry or impatient won’t convince anyone to assist you.
In this process it is important to provide them with as much information as possible. Too much information is going to be better than too little information in this regard.
Let’s go through the steps in preparing a proper reconsideration request.
Use webmaster tools
Use your Google webmaster profile to add in and verify your website. After this is done you will need to navigate to webmasters/tools/reconsideration in order to lodge your reconsideration request.
The reconsideration request can also be sent to Google via their customer help email address.
Give detailed information about your domain
When putting in a reconsideration request it’s important to provide detail on the circumstances of your domain.
Provide background information about your website
This means communicating information such as when the domain was established and what the purpose of the website is. Tell them how you got started, a brief history of the website and your motivation for maintaining it.
This lets the reader know that you’re someone who knows their website, has put work into it and sincerely believes that it should be re-indexed.
Identify the rules you may have broken
This is the part where you essentially own up to whatever it is you think you’ve done wrong to earn the ban. This means outlining the issues and providing proof of them to show that you know what they look like.
This indicates to the reader that you have acknowledged, or at least tried to acknowledge, the issues that may have led to the exclusion.
It’s important to make sure you have done your research on the possible reasons you were de-indexed and are communicating them in a way the worker will understand. Since the ban would have been applied manually, including more detail may catch the attention of someone who remembers why your site was de-indexed.
Describe how you have rectified the cause of the ban
Use the reconsideration request to explain the steps you have already taken to correct the issue or issues that caused the penalty. Describe the issue, why it is wrong and give evidence via a page URL that you have corrected it.
For example, if your website was de-indexed for using dishonest links then show evidence that you have removed those links from the affected web pages. If your website was de-indexed for including spam, demonstrate that you have removed all of it.
If you know that they have misinterpreted something as being spam then provide evidence that it isn’t or show that you have removed whatever caused the misunderstanding.
It’s important to make sure that every element of your website has been examined and fixed so that it warrants re-inclusion into the site index. Be careful not to accidentally make a costly SEO mistake whilst fixing another.
Be honest and respectful
The most important thing, next to evidence of your positive changes, is to show a level of respect and honesty. This means avoiding any implications that the search engine is at fault for your website’s ban.
Remember that you are asking for re-inclusion into their index, so don’t assume that you have a right to be added back in. Being featured in SERP’s is a privilege enjoyed by sites that play by the rules.
Acting ignorant of your mistake is not going to help. You are expected to educate yourself on the possible reasons your site was penalised and learn how to correct them.
If you were caught using a black hat SEO tactic then you can’t simply say “I thought this was ok”. Even if you did make an honest mistake you need to identify and correct it on your own.
For the reviewer, this shows that the webmaster asking for reconsideration fully understands the bad practice they used, what the good practices are and that they are sincere in their promise not to re-offend.
Send emails following up on the reconsideration process
Since the reconsideration request is being reviewed by humans it’s good to try and maintain semi-regular correspondence with them on resolving the issue. Not all your emails will be responded to but it is important to send them regardless.
This demonstrates that you are actively following the issues and are seeking a genuine resolution. Be careful not to send too many emails otherwise you will be regarded as a pest and are less likely to have your request reviewed.
Once you have ensured the request is sound and sent it for review, all you can really do is be patient and wait for them to respond. Since the request is being handled by humans it’s important to remember that they may have a lot of other things on their plate and it might take time for them to get to your request.
It can be frustrating to be left in the dark at this point, especially if you think your reconsideration request is adequate and could be resolved if someone got around to looking at it. The only things you can do are being patient and doing your best not to jeopardise your chances of being re-indexed.
While waiting its prudent to continue to examine your website for errors you may have missed and to create ways of making sure they don’t reoccur in the future. The last thing you want is to be cleared of a ban only to get another one for a silly mistake.
Ultimately when it comes to getting your website re-indexed there is no magical solution or shortcut to do it. You need to go through Google’s official channel and hope for the best.
The best way to maximise your chances of being successfully re-indexed are to use honesty, evidence and politeness to demonstrate to Google that your know how to play by their rules. The consequences of a ban, especially for businesses, can be disastrous in the short term and the best thing you can do is make sure they don’t become a long term issue.
While it can be overwhelming to suffer a ban following the tips above will help give you the best chance to come out of it and help your website start to recover. The proper use of SEO can help your website get back to the ranking positions it enjoyed previously.
Kieran is the Social Media Manager and SEO Expert at SEO Shark. He is an expert in Social Media, link building, PPC and of course SEO. In his time off work Kieran enjoys reading and playing rugby, as well as following all kinds of sports! You can read some more of his articles here.