Google ‘blacklists’ at least 10,000 sites a day. How can you tell if your site’s among them? More importantly, what can you do if it is?
The Internet can be a nasty place if you wander onto the wrong sites. There are thousands upon thousands of pages out there that are operated by black hat spammers, riddled with adware, or bogged down with malicious scripts. Search engines such as Google do what they can to keep consumers off such sites – nobody ever wants to get their system infected, after all.
“Without using the term ‘blacklist.’ Google admits that it pinpoints and quarantines at least 10,000 suspicious websites each day,” writes Forbes contributor Drew Hendricks. “These sites display the message ‘this site may be harmful to your computer’ in search results, serving as a warning that prompts most users to stay away. Consumers are grateful for the warning. The business panics.”
What happens if your organization’s website is one of those blacklisted? How can you tell you’ve been flagged by Google? Perhaps more importantly, how do you get OFF the blacklist?
Figuring Out If You’re Blacklisted
The most telling sign that you’ve been flagged by Google is a rapid drop in search engine traffic – though it’s important to note that this doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’re on a blacklist. There are many things that could impact your traffic outside of being de-indexed – maybe you’re getting slammed by a recent algorithm change, or you’re not posting enough new content.
Although there are plenty of blacklist checkers and programs floating around the Internet, the easiest – and most surefire – way to see if your site’s been marked as unsafe is, unsurprisingly, to go through Google. More specifically, it’s through Google’s Webmaster Tools.
Navigate to that link, go to the Webmaster Tools Dashboard, and add your site. If Google can’t index it, it’ll be marked with a red icon. Google will also generally warn a webmaster when their site’s being removed from its index. So watch your inbox.
You might also consider doing a Google search; something along the lines of site:yourdomainname.com. If it returns no results, then it’s certain: your site is no longer indexed by Google. That brings us to our second question.
What can you do about it?
So, now that you know you’re blacklisted…what now? Is your website a lost cause? Should you just toss your old domain name in the trash and start over?
To answer that, we first need to figure out why you were blacklisted in the first place. Have you engaged in any of the following tactics?
- Keyword stuffing
- Creating multiple duplicate pages
- Adding in hidden text or links
- Hosting, knowingly or unknowingly, malware/adware
- Linking to malicious websites
- Buying backlinks/hosting your site’s URL on a link farm
“If some aggressively spammy link building has saddled your website with thousands and thousands of toxic links, a full clean up may not be feasible,” writes Matt Buys of Elevate Loud. “However, few legitimate online businesses find themselves in such an extreme situation. In a typical case, a smart recovery plan is a faster path back to success.”
“According to Google, there are many different kinds of violations that can lead to penalties,” he continues. “Cleaning up bad links happens to be one of the more time consuming ways to help your site in its blacklist recovery, so make sure it’s not another problem before you proceed.”
Aside from cleaning up bad backlinks (instructions on disavowal can be found here), you might also want to try the following:
- Scan your site for malware, and remove any that you find.
- Clean up your SEO. Don’t engage in black hat SEO tactics.
- Make sure you’re not unknowingly hosting stolen/copyrighted content.
- Clear out any duplicate pages.
Finding out your website’s been blacklisted is never pleasant – and it’s not all that easy to recover from. The good news here is that this is something most webmasters won’t ever have to deal with. Keep your nose clean, and your site’ll stay in Google’s index through thick and thin.