Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to see your website disappear from Google? Scary right? It’s not a fun feeling, especially if you work hard on your SEO and marketing strategy. To ensure that doesn’t happen, it is important to know Google Quality Guidelines. It is your job as a digital marketer to keep your website up to Google’s quality standards. Failure to do so can get you and your website penalized, or even removed from the Google index.
While most marketers worry about a decline in organic traffic and a drop in search rankings, a total disappearance from Google can result in instant and severe damage to your marketing efforts. It indicates the existence of a very serious problem. The problem can be from either your Google Search Console account, changes made to your website, or the side of Google itself.
The purpose of this article is to get you up to date with the most important Google quality guidelines so you can be sure that your site meets those criteria. Let’s first look into the Google quality guidelines for websites.
Google Quality Guidelines
Google quality guidelines aren’t black magic, there is actually logic behind everything that Google does. They simply outline some of the most common illegal practices that can make your website disappear from the search engine. These include:
1. Creating thin content
Google ranks pages on how rich the information they provide to users is. This includes clearly indicating the subject matter of your content and using the relevant keywords appropriately. But some site owners try to rig their way into higher search rankings by creating web pages with fluff with little or no authentic content. Google will penalize pages that don’t add substantial value to users.
2. Relying on auto-generated content
Auto-generated content is content that’s been generated automatically by computer programs. Google will also penalize such content as they are primarily intended to manipulate the search rankings. The search engine can detect auto-generated content by looking out for texts that are:
Translated using an automated tool without any review or curation before publishing
Optimized with search keywords but don’t make any sense to readers
Generated from search results and Atom/RSS feeds scraping
Generated through automated processes such as the Markov chains or automated synonymizing and obfuscation techniques
Generated by stitching or combining content from other web pages without sufficient added value
Google recommends that you should take the initiative to prevent such content from appearing in search to avoid getting penalized.
3. Tricking users through doorway pages
Doorway pages refer to pages or sites created to rank for specific, similar search queries. They are intended to have multiple similar pages in the search results yet all the results redirect the user to the same destination. Some lead users to intermediate pages that don’t offer the same value as the final destination. This creates a bad user experience.
Examples of doorway pages include:
Pages created to funnel users to the actually usable portion of your website
Multiple pages or domain names targeted at specific regions but still funnel users to a single page
Similar pages that are closer to search results than a clearly defined, browseable hierarchy
4. Hiding texts and links
Some websites hide texts and links to manipulate search engine rankings. These are texts or links that are intentionally created to be seen solely by the search engines (for ranking purposes) and not users. Some of the common ways in which website owners hide texts in content include:
Setting the font size to zero
Using CSS to position text off-screen
Putting texts behind an image
Using white text on a white background
Links are hidden by only linking one small character that is unlikely to be noticed. For example, hyperlinking a hyphen in the middle of a paragraph.
Cloaking is the presentation of one set of content or URLs to users and another set to search engines. This ends up providing users on search engines with different results from what they expected. For example, a website might show HTML texts to search engines while users are shown an image. Some websites also inset texts or keywords into a page when it’s search engines requesting the page and not human users.
Cloaking helps websites to get a favourable ranking on search engines for content that doesn’t provide much value to users. Hackers also use cloaking techniques to make it harder for site owners to detect the hack. Either way, Google will penalize you if your site shows any signs of cloaking.
Other misleading and deceptive practices such as sneaky redirects can also attract a penalty from Google.
Basically, Google will penalize your website if they discover that you’re tricking or deceiving users in order to improve your search engine rankings. It wants you to make web pages primarily for users, not for search engines by creating unique, engaging, and valuable content. Users can also file a spam report against your website if they believe the site is abusing Google’s quality guidelines.
If you discover a violation of the Google webmaster guidelines on your website, you can make the appropriate changes and then submit your site for reconsideration.
Why Your Website Disappeared From Google And How To Restore It
Your website suddenly disappearing from Google may suggest that the search engine has taken Manual Action against your website. One of the actions includes a complete de-indexing of your website depending on the severity of your violation. Besides the above-mentioned violations, accidental mistakes on your website or Google Search Console account can result in your website disappearing from Google.
Some of the common mistakes that may make your website disappear from Google are:
1. Messing around with the Google Search Console Removals Tool
Google Search Console has a Removals Tool that makes it easy for you to temporarily hide web pages from the search results. It’s important to be keen when using this tool because one simple mistake can result in a complete disappearance of your website from Google Search.
This is what LinkedIn found out in a painful way. In 2020, LinkedIn’s website dropped out of Google Search and a site command for www.linkedin.com returned a “did not match any document” response. The site had gotten temporarily de-indexed from Google. What happened is that LinkedIn had tried to remove the HTTP version of its website from the search results but ended up delisting all its websites with the WWW subdomain.
If you happen to make the same mistake that LinkedIn did, you can simply undo the removal and restore your page on Google Search using the same tool.
2. Making changes to your website
Implementing changes on your website can also affect the visibility of your website on search engine results pages. Changes that affect crawling and indexing, such as implementing meta tag directives or updating the robots.txt file, can make your website disappear. Under certain circumstances, a change to canonical URLs can also impact your site’s visibility.
These changes usually result in a gradual decrease in site visibility before your page eventually disappears. It’s advisable to check your Google Search Console account for potential errors, especially after making changes to your website.
3. Redesigning or migrating your website
It’s important to regularly review and update your website to improve the user experience and ensure the content is up-to-date. But the process of redesigning and migrating your website provides a lot of room that can be damaging to your SEO efforts.
For example, web developers and designers use the no-index and robots.txt directives during the process to prevent search engines from crawling your website while it’s incomplete. But once the redesign and migration are done, these directives are often forgotten in place and they gradually make your website invisible to search engines.
4. Duplicating content
Duplicate content refers to the same content appearing on more than one web address. It makes it difficult for search engines to tell which version of the content to exclude from the search index or rank for query results and whether separate link metrics such as anchor texts separated between the multiple versions or direct them to one page.
Very few people go out of their way to intentionally create duplicate content. Some of the ways in which duplicate content is created include:
URL variations such as click tracking and analytics codes. Assigning each user a different session ID can also result in duplicate content
Having the same content on the HTTP, HTTPS, WWW, and non-WWW versions of your website
Scraping or copying content from other sites. Most eCommerce sites suffer from this as they have to use the same product information from the manufacturer’s descriptions.
While Google doesn’t penalize duplicate content, it dilutes the link equity and visibility of each of the pages. In the long run, your website ends up disappearing from the search results.
You can fix the issue of duplicate content by simply specifying to search engines which of the duplicates is the “right” one. Either use a 301 redirect, the parameter handling tool in Google Search Console, or the rel=canonical attribute to redirect Google from the “duplicate” page to the original content page.
Let An SEO Expert Restore Your Website On Google
If your site lost visibility or stopped appearing on Google, it may be best to engage an experienced SEO expert to investigate the issue and resolve it. At Salt Marketing, we have a range of SEO tools that can help to identify issues that may violate Google’s quality guidelines and avoid penalties. We can help you to get your website rankings back on track.