It’s Not Always a Penalty
f you read the information on the Internet, you’ll find that many people disagree as to whether or not
search engines should penalize companies that don’t follow their guidelines. You’ll also find that the
search engines won’t admit publicly to penalties that reduce your ranking; only to penalties that get
you delisted from the search engine. But both things can happen, just not always for the same reason.
There are many reasons a search engine might delist you from its index. Cloaking, keyword stuffing,
linking schemes, even overoptimization — these are all general spamdexing tactics that will cause a
search engine to delist your site.
Once you’re delisted, you can get re-listed. All you have to do is correct the problem, and then give
the search engine time to recrawl your site. When the offending strategies have been removed, you’ll
be added back to the index — but it could take as much as six months!
What you might find happening, however, is that you’re not delisted, your rank just falls suddenly.
This is probably not the result of a penalty from the search engine. Instead, it’s more likely that your
site ranking drops because there’s a problem with your site or your web server. Some of the reasons
that you may find your rank falling include:
A search engine algorithm change. Search engine designers are constantly tweaking their
algorithms, so it’s not at all unusual to find that your site position drops because of a sub-
tle change to the way the crawler indexes your site. This is why it’s always good to stay
abreast of changes at the various search engines.
Server issues and hosting issues. If your server is down, or if it’s running slow, a crawler might
have a difficult time crawling the site. If it does, it’s likely to give up and move on to another
site. And in some cases, your web host might ban a search engine from crawling your site
because other clients have complained or because the crawler is creating problems with the
hosting services provided. Any of these problems will cause your site ranking to drop.
A poorly written robots.txt file. A robots.txt file is a useful tool to have on your site. But if
the file is written incorrectly, it may cause crawlers to not crawl your site completely, or
even at all. Make sure that file is written properly so your ranks don’t drop dramatically.
Broken or spammy links. Your links don’t have to be actual spam. If they appear to be
spammy, a crawler might abandon the indexing of your site. And broken links will stop a
crawler in its forward motion. Crawlers don’t like anything that makes them have to back
up and start over again.
Another site is redesigned and so becomes more relevant than yours. It happens. There is
no such thing as perfection in SEO. Other sites will be working on improving their site
rankings as much as you are, and there will be times when their efforts are just more suc-
cessful than yours. All you can do is try to stay on top of the SEO game, creating new
content and keeping your site as useful as possible for site visitors.
So, if you find that your site ranking drops for seemingly no reason, start investigating. Find the prob-
lem, and if you can fix it, do so immediately. If not, stay on top of the people who can. And if you’re
delisted? Well, again, fix the problem as soon as possible, and don’t make the same mistake again.
It’s an expensive lesson to have to learn, but after a month or so of having no search ranking at all,
you should learn how important it is to always stay on a search engine’s good side.
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