Posted by AdinaToma
For some time, there has been an amazing buzz around the bad neighborhood SEO issue. In the majority of cases, we can point the finger to the shady SEOs who are building the spammy links on purpose. But there are also situations when you work for a SaaS and the platform’s clients don’t really play by the book, generating tons of low quality links that can sink your website when pointing back to it.
With that in mind, I will tell you a short real story about how good SEO intentions (like cleaning up spammy content and backlinks) can go wrong and how to discover on your own just how fast you can reinclude your site content in Google’s search results. The topic of this website is the accidental deindexation of the 123ContactForm web form builder.
At the end of this article you will learn:
- That miracles exist
- What we did to have our content reindexed in less than four hours
- What our full to-do list was the black day when the deindexation occurred
Discovering that something is not right… big time
During a quick SEO rank checking routine, I discovered that the company I work for is not ranking on two major keywords anymore , though it was a night before. I immediately logged into Google Webmaster Tools and noticed a flag that officially confirmed the problem.
It was just a matter of a few clicks to discover that not only did two major keywords plunge from the search results, but that we were encountering a much greater problem: our entire website had been taken out of the SERP. Yes, that’s right, the WHOLE website was missing from the search results.
Let’s get it straight. Fifty percent of our traffic comes from Google’s organic search and killing half of it would have huge implications on the business.
Identify the cause of the problem - window was open
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where there are too many “if’s”? I can honestly relate to that - and I call this a window-open-situation (when nothing is logical, then maybe the open window is to blame for letting the bugs come in).
Thank God that nowadays we have smart tools (again, Webmaster Tools is to be mentioned here) that can help find the problem when we are simply frozen. It took us only a few clicks on the alert messages mentioned above until we detected that the homepage had accidentally been removed from the index as a directory. Ouch.
How did this happen? It was pretty simple (as funny as this sounds, but really not funny at all). We had been using an automated Chrome plugin to do some cleaning jobs. As mentioned above, we had detected some bad neighborhood SEO problems - we are a SaaS company, offering web form building services to clients worldwide. So this bad neighborhood had been created by some of our clients and, while trying to remove the bad content from the search, I had installed an automated plugin for removing URLs from the index in bulk.
The first five times, the plugin worked great, but at the last attempt an unexpected window-open-situation got the homepage of our website removed as a directory from the search results. The link of the homepage was not in the list processed by that plugin, but there are two possible explanations:
- duplicates in the list
- an empty row in the list.
Don’t get me wrong, the plugin is an amazing help, you just have to use it wisely and always recheck if things went well, even if you make a submission each minute.
Ok, we (meaning I) got our website out of the search results. How do we start correcting the problem?
First of all, when a bad thing happens, you should always blame yourself - this will make things much better. Joking. However, after I bravely completed this task, I followed the steps below.
1. Reinclude content in search - (Google is saying that it takes 3-5 business days)
3. Ask friends, colleagues and everybody else to post messages containing the deindexed homepage URL on the major social networks (Facebook,Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Pinterest). This aims to get the website re-crawled faster.
Believe me, if nothing creative comes out of your mind in such a stressful situation, it’s best to just concentrate on other actions and let your network help you.
4. Fetch as Google (using Webmaster Tools)
5. Create and submit a fresh XML Sitemap
Lucky me, one day before, I had prepared a new sitemap and didn’t have the time to update it on the server. Therefore, the day when the problem occurred, I put it on the server and resubmitted it from Webmaster Tools.
Immediately after submitting the sitemap, we were back in the books (search results). Maybe the freshness of the sitemap also helped.
Time spent to have our website back in Google’s index: 3-4 hours
We prepared another list of actions, but there was no need to apply them anymore. You can check them below.
- If you have a blog or a Knowledge Base subdirectory that gets indexed quickly, you should definitely post articles there.
- Write a press release and disseminate it using authority services.
- Prepare a social media campaign on behalf of your website (e.g. contests).
You can also check this great article (http://moz.com/blog/accidental-noindexation-recovery-strategy-amp-results) which might give you some other hints on how to correct the problem.
So we had a total of 3-4 hours of work to correct the problem, and of course some long hours before we detected the issue (Google had removed the URL about five hours before I noticed it).
It was fortunate that I detected the problem early in the morning, while most of our prospective customers were sleeping because of the time zone difference. So God bless America for that, our consultant for his advice, my colleagues for their help and the vitamin C they gave me, and all the others who contributed to this happy ending.
P.S.: At the end of this adventurous day, we cracked a bottle open to celebrate the discovery that our rankings were not affected at all. One more lesson learned. And we hope our story is encouraging to you, should you ever find yourself in a similar situation. Although we highly hope it does not ever happen to you!
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