A new client called me up and he was frantic. His site had totally disappeared from search engine results and he didn’t know what to do. Despite years of creating original content, his site just all of a sudden stopped getting the traffic from Google and other search engines. Let me walk you through the process I took to see if his site was indexed and how we got it back on track again.
The 2 Step SEO Audit
You can do all the keyword research in the world and original content development and link building but none of that matters one bit if you are not being indexed by the search engines.
Let’s take 5 minutes to go through a quick exercise to see how Google is seeing your website.
Step 1: Type the Site Operator into the Google Search Box
Visit google.com and type in the following:
Of course, where it says “domain.com” put your own domain name in there. Do not put in any spaces or the http:// or the www. Type it exactly like it looks above.
Here is what it looks like for ablaze.media
When you press enter, you’ll see the Google search results that are restricted to your website exclusively.
In other words, these are the pages that are going to get search traffic from Google. If it is not on this list, Google is not going to send anybody to that part of your site.
Step 2: take a look at the number of results Google returns from that inquiry.
At the top of the page, you’ll see the number of results. Here is what it looks like for ablaze.media:
For a small site like www.ablaze.media, 900 or so results seems about right. That might be a little high actually and at the bottom of the article, we talk about why it’s important to clean up any junk files the Google might find. A large site might have a few million results.
- When you run the search on your site, are you surprised by what you find there?
- Does the number look about right to you?
- Are there a lot fewer pages than you thought?
- Are there a lot more pages?
Ok, now let’s ask a couple of “What If” questions:
WHAT IF I Don’t See Anything in the Google Index?
So you type in the search and it does not come up with any results. Maybe it looks something like this:
Don’t panic quite yet. Take these 3 initial steps:
Step #1: Make sure you typed the search into Google correctly (Review Step 1 above)
If everything is typed in correctly, then move on to step 2.
Step #2: Have I broken any of Google’s rules?
There are some practices that can cause a site to be banned from Google indexing. Those practices include manipulative link building and cloaking. Sometimes companies who promise a quick boost in SEO for a monthly fee use methods on Google that cause long term problems for the site.
Google explains their guidelines pretty clearly on their post here https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35769
If your site has experienced a significant drop in ranking and search engine results, the information in this article may be helpful: https://www.whoishostingthis.com/resources/ranking-drop-checklist/
Check Google webmaster tools and see if you see any notifications under the MANUAL ACTION report. If you see a penalty, then consider filing a Google reconsideration request.
Step #3: Have I turned off indexing or restricted access to my site?
It is possible that either you or someone else restricted access to your site. these restrictions are listed in your robots.txt file. You can check this file by going to yourdomain.com/robots.txt. Here is what it looks like for ablaze.media:
www.ablaze.media has restricted access to the admin page, but other than that, access is unrestricted. For more information about interpreting your robot.txt file, visit this page: http://www.robotstxt.org/robotstxt.html
Secondly, if you are using Word Press, make sure you have the following setting under SETTING > READING unchecked
Sometimes a web developer will restrict access to the site while it is being built. It is not unusual for a developer to simply forget to take off the restrictions after the site is up and running.
What if I don’t see all my pages in the Google Index?
If you have a really large site, the Google index is only an estimate. With that being said, scanning through the results from site:yourdomain.com can reveal whether or not you have severe problems with the “crawlability” of you website. Here are some things that could cause an issue:
- Directories or folders on your website that are not on the index
- Critical pages of your website that are not on the index
If you find one of these problems take these action steps:
First, check your robots.txt file to make sure there are no restrictions.
Second, use a tool like Copyscape to make sure that you don’t have issues with duplicate content. Google is always looking for original content and it does not like duplicate content in their index. If you have the same content on several pages of your website or if your website content ir duplicated all across the internet, Google may choose to remove your page from its index.
Lastly, check the source code of the individual page in question to make sure it does not have a ‘no index’ directive on that page. a ‘no index’ directive will look something like this:
<META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”NOINDEX”>
If this tag is on the page, Google and other search engine will not index it.
What if I See Too Many Pages in the Google Index?
If you have a 20-page site and 10,000 results come up in the search, there is a problem. Having boatloads of results in the Google index can be as damaging as having none at all. Google needs to quickly and succinctly know what you are all about. Search engines are trying to catalog information and answer questions. They get this done by understanding what your site is all about quickly. Here are 3 steps to take:
Step 1: Make Sure There are Not a Bunch of Junky or Blank Pages
For example, one site had a calendar plugin that has generated a page on the website for every day for the next 30 years. That created over 10,000 pages of content with absolutely zero information. As a result, Google had determined that their whole site was useless!
When I indexed ablaze.media, I found a whole page containing an stock, placeholder video that I was no longer using and that I didn’t really want people to see.
Step 2: Make Sure Your Site did not Get Hacked
Sometimes a site can show up a large number of unrelated pages that have been added to the server from an outside source. These are often this like advertisements for certain drugs and whatnot. If you have hundreds or thousands of spammy pages on your site, Google will once again see your site as useful. Make sure you identify those pages and remove them from your server.
You can use a service like Sucuri to see fi your website has been hacked or if it is clean.
So make sure that your site is not full of junky pages and that Google is seeing exactly the content that you want Google to index.
Regardless of What Your Find, Make Sure to Take This Step
If you do this DIY diagnoses and something looks out of place, you might consider hiring an SEO expert for a few hours to take a look at your site. Ablaze Media is happy to take a look and to send you in the right direction.
Whatever you choose to do, if you see an issue, DO SOMETHING!
It is a waste of promotional resources to have a terrific site that nobody can see because of an SEO issue.