Website Suddenly Disappears from Google Search


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Introduction: Recently a website of mine suddenly disappears from Google search result pages. I followed a course of actions to find out the possible causes and make changes to the website with the hope to get out of the Google penalty. Today, the website suddenly resurfaces with the original search result rankings.

During the previous several weeks, I did see a gradual increase in the ranking of the website for several important keywords. But one day, out of the blue, my website disappeared from the Google search result pages for the same keyword. Not a gradual failing but a sudden disappearance. Since most of the traffic to the website was referred by Google at that time, the disappearance would have a fatal impact on the website.

Why the Website Has Disappeared from Google?

This is the most pressing question for any website owners or marketers. Because of Google penalty? Because of server error? Because of robot.txt setting? There are hundreds of possibilities but Google would not tell you why (at least not in an easy to understand way). Being the webmaster, you need to really seek it out yourself.

I tried a number of actions to determine what went wrong and I recorded the steps below in case anyone would find it useful. The first few steps deal with the technical part of the website while the later parts deal with the contents of the website.

Update: My website was hit by Google Fred algo update a moment ago, losing more than 90% of the referral traffic from Google. Read here for what I have done to recover the website from Google Fred penalty. Please note that I have also gone through the steps listed here first.

Step 1 – Check if the Website is still in Google Index

This step helps to check whether Google has removed your website from its index completely. Go to Google and type site:[your domain url].

Reasons for the website not showing up:

  • error in the robots.txt
  • you should have committed something viewed as a crime in Google’s eyes and your website should have been banned by Google for severe breaching of the Google webmaster guidelines. This is a major issue. Otherwise, you might have offended Google lightly and likely get a rank suppression (there are rumours on the internet that Google might suppress your ranking by 50 or so). But that should be rare.

determine whether website is still in Google index

 

Step 2 – Check the Google Webmaster Tools for Warning and Error Messages

In case you have not used the Google Webmaster Tools before, the Google Webmaster Tools are a FREE tool provided by Google for webmasters to understand the visibility of the website on Google search and to receive messages from Google over penalties. Follow the instructions to set up your Google Webmaster Tools account now.

Access the Google Webmaster Tools account and find out if Google has sent you any message over your website. You can also check for abnormalities at these locations specified below. If your website gets banned by Google completely, you will likely find a message here. According to Google Search Engineer Matt Cutts, Google sends out around 400,000 manual action notices every month.

If penalty messages are found, do follow the advices by Google closely until all the problems have been fixed. Then you might file a reconsideration request with an apology letter to ask Google to include your website back into the search results.

Step 3 – Check the robot.txt Setting

The robot.txt is a simple plain text file which a detrimental effects on the search engine spider. It can be used to exclude part of the website OR all of the website from the search engine index.

The robot.txt is usually located at the root of the web server. Google Webmaster Tools also provides a simple tool for you to test the setting of the robot.txt at

You can press the test button at the bottom of the page to see if all the pages of the website are blocked. If so, you just need to change the robot.txt to allow search engine bots to access and index your pages as follows and ask Google to crawl your whole site again.

User-agent: *
Allow: /
Disallow: /hidden-directory

Step 4 – Check if Google Crawls the Website

Go to the Crawl Stats page of the Google Webmaster Tools:

to look at the graphs to see if Google has crawled your web pages lately. If the graphs indicate that your website has not been crawled by Google lately, there might be a problem with the web server on which your website is being hosted. In that case, seek technical help from the server administrator.

google crawl stats

You can also try to fetch your webpages as Google to see if the contents can be read by Google at:

Press the red “Fetch” button and look for the fetch status, a green tick with the word “Success” indicates that your web server is functioning properly

Step 5 – Check for Low Quality Inbound Link

Google always refines its search engine algorithms to provide only quality results in the search results pages. They have taken action to track down paid link building (an act to buy links from others with a view to gain higher rankings in Google). The webmasters need to check for all the inbound link to see if they have many low quality inbound links to the website at:

links to site in Google Webmaster Tools

How to determine if a link is low quality? Though there are many tools to help you, all of them are very expensive. The simplest way is to search for the web page the link is on to see if it is in Google’s index. If not, there is a high possibility that the link is considered a low quality link. You may:

  • ask the owner of that site to remove the link from the website (preferred)
  • use the disavow tool by Google (Google makes it clear that simply disavow the link is not enough, the webmaster to try to ask the website in question to remove the link whenever possible, understand more about disavow)

How to determine if a link is unnatural? Google may or may not tell you with manual action warning but a sudden sharp decrease in the search engine ranking does tell something about Google’s view on that. This article details the steps taken to find and remove unnatural links.

Step 6 – Check for Duplicate Contents

Google has indicated that they might or might not give penalties to sites carrying duplicate contents. Duplicate contents are block of text that are found not only on one webpage. Some websites just copy contents illegally from other websites to grow their contents and Google hates this. That’s why Google will “try” to find the original source of the content and remove other duplicate contents from the search result page.

In this step, we need to check the internet to see if the content of the website is being copied by others. The free tool Copyscape Plagiarism Checker comes in handy. Just enter your page URL individual to check if your contents appear in others’ website. If others have copied you, you might:

copyscape screenshot

Step 7 – Submit to Google Index Again

After going through all the steps above, you might still not be able to find the real cause for the website disappearance. You might just try to ask Google to include your website back by “Submit to Index” action.

  • Crawl > Fetch as Google and then click the “Submit to Index” button with the option “URL and all linked pages”
  • Sometimes you may see an error message in a red box. Try submitting again until Google has received your request.

sumit to Google ndex

Why the Website Suddenly Disappears from Google Search?

It is hoped that through the above steps, the webmaster should be able to find the reason for the sudden drop out of the search result records and take appropriate actions to remedy the situation. It is said that Google will reassess the websites to decide whether the penalties should be kept or not from time to time. The shortest time to lift the penalty is 48 hours while the longest time is forever.

However, things are not so clear as the above steps involve certain guessworks. It is possible that you will not find any wrongdoings on your side yet you are penalised. After searching though the internet using Google (ironically), I have found some further reasons:

  • the link building work is too aggressive that Google puts the website on quarantine, this is especially applicable to new websites. It is said that Google will find human to visit the website to judge the quality of the website case by case.
  • some algorithm errors after an update of the search algorithms (you might search the internet for Google update + [month and year] to see if there is a recent algorithm change)

The Result

Since Google accounts for more than 67% of internet search traffic, the disappearance from Google would have detrimental effects on the traffic of a website. If you have a website suddenly disappears from Google search, don’t panic. Do your normal content updates and link building as usual. As long as you publish quality contents, human visitors will know that and they will continue to share your URLs. Google will soon notice that and lift the ban on you.

The website got out of the ban after two weeks. But I have learnt to depend less on Google to reduce the damages should Google put another ban on my website.

Update: The website disappeared again a week later. After submitting the website to Google index, it re-appeared. Seems something weird has happened. This is usually the case when Google is updating its algorithm. If so, the only thing we can do is to wait.

It is hoped that this article would help to investigate why your Website Suddenly Disappears from Google Search and the actions needed to take in order to bring it back. It really takes time.

Update: My website was hit by Google Fred algo update a moment ago, losing more than 90% of the referral traffic from Google. Read here for what I have done to recover the website from Google Fred penalty.

search traffic back to normal

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Edward Chung

Edward Chung aspires to become a full-stack web developer and project manager. In the quest to become a more competent professional, Edward studied for and passed the PMP Certification, ITIL v3 Foundation Certification, PMI-ACP Certification and Zend PHP Certification. Edward shares his certification experience and resources here in the hope of helping others who are pursuing these certification exams to achieve exam success.

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26 Responses

  1. James says:

    Hi,

    Thanks for your guide. I am working on a website CarpetBright. In this domain name most of the keywords ranked well. But some keywords having issue. For example “Carpet cleaning in Chelsea” appears on 1st position in Google Local Search where are “Carpet Cleaning Chelsea” is not even showing anywhere in search. Same way some keywords appears in first page and when I remove that “in” it is not appearing in Google Search. Also some keywords like “Carpet Cleaning Pimlico” appears in top 5 position one day and it disappears somewhere out of 200. Again after few days it is coming back and again disappears. I have done all my possible searches, Changed entire content and everything. But unable to find the solutions. Please help me to fix this issue.

    • Edward Chung says:

      Hi James,

      It seems that there is some Google dances there. May I ask if your website is pretty new (within several months)? Google is still trying to figure how to correctly interpret your website and therefore there are lots of fluctuations.

      Concerning the keyword phrases, yes, different word combinations would see very different rankings. Perhaps, “Carpet Cleaning Chelsea” is much more competitive than “Carpet cleaning in Chelsea”.

      I would say it is a matter of time for Google to understand and rank your website correctly. Thanks!

  2. Terry says:

    While none of these tips solved my issue, I did find it immensely helpful to go through the steps in GWT, plus I learned a little more about how it all works. Thanks for taking the time to put this together. I’m off to read more of your work!

  3. will says:

    my company website been remove from google index and my seo vendor advise me to change web hosting or revamp my website. is there any relate to hosting?

    • Edward Chung says:

      Hi Will,

      Hosting may be an issue if the IP of the server your website is being hosted is blacklisted by Google as a spamming server. But it is quite unlikely. You can directly check with your hosting company to see if there’s anything wrong with their server.

      But I am a bit sceptical that changing web hosting or revamping my website will really solve the issue. Have you tried the suggestions above?

  4. Azwan says:

    Hi Edward,

    I would like to ask your opinion, my mainpage website doesn’t appear on google SERP. but only my article which is ”cara guna gambir emas” appear by using keyword ”gambir emas”

    It’s seems like Google hide my webpage.
    I already search untill at the end of page and still did not find my mainpage website.

    But if i search site: gambiremas.net , my website appear as usual.

    Do you have any opinion regarding this matter?

    • Edward Chung says:

      Hi Azwan,

      It seems Google deliberately hide your website homepage from its search results page, probably owing to “quality” issues. You are advised to improve the quality of the page in order to be seen again. But the problem is that Google does not tell you what the “quality” issues are. It is always a miss or hit guess.

      Wish you luck!

  5. Sheraz Ali says:

    If index page is disappear from Google search by testing site:websiteurl.com and all other pages are coming fine then its 100% Penguin penalty and to rectify this you need to check your website BackLink profile and disavow all low quality backlinks.

    In most cases only index page disappear but rest of the pages coming fine. index page disappearance mean Penguin Penalty for spammy link. Clear the backlink by disavow them and you are good but you have to wait until penguin refresh, some time a week some time a month….

    • Edward Chung says:

      Google now refreshes more often – that means once your website quality has improved, it may take one or two weeks for it to reappear, but that also means Google checks website quality more often and there are more fluctuations in ranking.

  6. nawar says:

    my website disappeared suddenly from google (www.zarkachat.com) but none of the above reasons, the only thing i did that i changed the targeting country to unlisted.

  7. Sudeep says:

    I didn’t find an option of external links on google webmaster, all it was showing was “links”, have they change their interface.

    Also, is there any tool that can give the SERP in just one click, right now I keep clicking on next on search result page to see where my website stands, and I’m sure there must be a tool for that.

    • Edward Chung says:

      Hi Sudeep,

      You can click the “Links to Your Site” on your Search Console page and you will find all the external links pointing to your website.

      For checking SERP ranking, I am afraid there is no free tools. I have been using https://www.semrush.com/ which is a great tool with limited info for free. Hope this will be useful for you.

  8. Tecmobs says:

    Thanks so much for the guide

  9. Michael says:

    Hi Edward,

    I found your information online and would like to know whether you can help customer to recover Google ranking, as some of my websites suddenly disappeared from google. Do you think I need to redesign the website or can sort it out quickly?

    By the way, I am in London, where are you?

    Best regards

    Michael

    • Ren Dee says:

      My website also suddenly disappeared from Google SERP on August 24th. Used to be on the first page. I checked my webmaster’s tools and there is no warning or error whatsoever. Could this be a Google glitch? If so, how do we contact Google to have them look into this issue?

  10. vo thang says:

    Hi Edward,
    This topic is greate.It’s solve my problem.My website is appear after I recrawl and then disappear.It’s boring.Perhaps,I must wait same you say.

  11. dk says:

    I had the same issue when I re-submitted my website for index in google. It was number 1 for key word of ‘homely apartments’ which is basically the name of the business, to completely disappearance. On bing.com it’s still number 1..

    The only thing that changed was a few more back links from some sites. You could argue that these were bad back links but if it was so easy to cause so much damage then anyone would do that to their competitors?? I find it ridiculous that the only solution to this is to speak to the webmaster themselves to remove the back links!

  12. Aman Baviskar says:

    My website has completely disappeared from google search results. All the associated webpages too have disappeared. Only PDF documents are available. I haven’t quite received any errors or warning messages on my Webmaster tools dashboard. I tried checking and troubleshooting with a few of the above points. But, it hasn’t helped me solve my problem.
    Please help me get my homepage and other associated web pages back to google search.
    Any inputs will be highly appreciated,
    Thanks

  13. richard says:

    I have noticed a clients website witch is only 3 weeks old has just gone from all area page results the home page ranks but nothing ells area wise its 75% new content all hand written and some copy and paste witch is normally ok for very small business websites as they can only explain there services in so many ways its been around 24 hours since they just vanished any ideas

February 26, 2014