Do you notice a sudden dip in traffic to your website? Weird advertisements for shady products that flash on your pages? If you’re nodding in agreement, it’s possible that your webpages are missing from Google’s index. To put it simply, Google maybe blacklisting your site, because it considers it unsafe for visitors. To prevent this from happening to your website, it’s important to know how to keep your website off Google’s blacklist.
What Is Google’s Blacklist?
Search engines such as Bing, Norton Safe Web, McAfee SiteAdvisor etc. strive to offer users the best search experience possible, and Google is no different. Google is constantly on the lookout for malicious content on websites that can potentially harm visitors. It then quarantines these websites.
While Google does not publish any official blacklist, it continuously scours the internet for potential threats. It then de-indexes these unsafe websites to safeguard visitors. Webmasters need to pay a great deal of attention to this, as it can lead to heavy loss of traffic.
Google suspects that these websites inject malicious code to quietly install programs that take advantage of any software glitches in your computer. These programs can then send out spam mails, and even wreck a visitor’s computer or slow it down. They can also steal your visitors’ personal information such as passwords or credit card info.
In many cases, a blacklist is a good thing as it protects unwary visitors. In fact, a prospective buyer of a website should check if the website is on the blacklist as part of the due diligence process.
What Makes Google Consider a Website Unsafe?
Google considers many aspects before taking your website out of the reach of visitors. Sometimes this happens on account of algorithmic changes, but more often it maybe due to security or other issues that need some fixing:
- Malware or viruses in your host servers or on your computer or network.
- Low quality or pornographic or junk content, controversial / illegal content, content that’s not original or violates any copyright.
- Hosting phishing or scam pages.
- Redirecting to other webpages.
- Creating backdoors, sending back links, buying or selling links.
- Linking to spammy and malicious pages.
- Unclean SEO practices such as masking keywords or over optimization of keywords.
These aspects can trigger penalties from Google, including removal from Google’s search index.
What Happens if Your Website Is Blacklisted?
The most dramatic impact of being put on Google’s blacklist is the drop in visitor count. Besides serious revenue loss, the website’s reputation and credibility can also take a beating.
Google begins to flash warning signs to scare away away visitors from your website. And once you’re on the blacklist, it can be a long road to recovery.
15 Signs that Your Website Is Blacklisted by Google
Sometimes, Google notifies the webmasters about de-indexing the website. But you can also look out for these signs.
- Warning messages such as ‘This site may be hacked‘ or ‘This site may harm your computer, Do you want to proceed?’ begin to flash.
- Google warns visitors that your site is Possibly Compromised or Potentially Unsafe.
- Your website loads an empty page or your homepage is redirecting to another URL.
- Searching your website in Google returns weird pages or ads.
- SEO spam links and redirects in SERPs.
- Weird keyword searches for shady pharma products land on your page.
- Your emails start to bounce.
- Unfamiliar popups begin to flash, spammy content or weird ads appear on your site.
- Your browser loads weird content from external sources.
- You notice strange code fragments in the header or footer of your website when you click Ctrl+U.
- Your website slows down visibly.
- Bandwidth usage increases.
- Traffic to your website is decreasing by the day.
- Your Google Webmaster Tools account receives warnings about malicious code on your website.
- Your website no longer appears on Google’s index.
How to Check if Your WordPress Site Is on Google’s Blacklist
It’s quite possible that your website has been taken off the index by search engines without you even knowing about it. While the signs above can indicate blacklisting, there are some specific checks you can carry out to verify the same:
Conduct a Manual Check
Type in your website address in the Google search bar. If your site doesn’t show up, and this was not the case previously, chances are that the site has been de-indexed by Google. Of course, this won’t work for a new site, as it may not yet be indexed by search engines.
Free Online Tools
Online scan tools offer a quick check to find out if your website has been penalized by Google. Visit IsMyWebsitePenalized and paste your website URL. This tool is a free service that’s useful for webmasters and SEO professionals.
The tool scans your website and lets your know about the penalty status. The results are fairly accurate. It’s important to note that parked domains, redirected domains, or new websites will reflect a Penalized status.
Another effective tool that you can use is the Sucuri SiteCheck scanner. It can detect malware and a number of security issues, including blacklisting of your website. Moreover, the scanner recommends methods to fix the issue.
Google Webmaster Tools
But by far, the best way to go about it would be to use Google Webmaster Tools to check security flaws in your website.
The security issues area of Google Webmaster tools reveals a load of useful information about your site, including the links to your site, your search queries, site health and 404 errors.
Tips to Keep Your Website Off Google’s Blacklist
Repairing the damage caused by de-indexing is a long term process. Therefore, it’s wiser (and easier) to adopt some preventive measures. Here are a handful of things that you can do to stay on Google’s good side:
- Install a firewall, and run anti-virus software regularly.
- Clean up your site and remove malicious content.
- Avoid linking to spam websites, as well as buying or selling links.
- Ensure original content without keyword stuffing.
- Select your hosting package carefully.
- Update your WordPress regularly, use reliable themes and plugins.
- Change your username and password regularly, safeguard your login pages.
- Secure the wp-config.php file as well as the .htaccess file.
- You need to be familiar with Google’s terms and conditions and keep up with the algorithm changes.
Remember these aren’t a guarantee (since we don’t know what exactly you’re doing on your website), but they are all good practices to follow to help keep your website whitelisted.
As you can see, being blacklisted by Google has huge negative consequences that take time to recover from. It’s a great idea to create an account with Google webmaster tools to do a regular check of your website. You can also refer to our earlier post on recovering from a hacked website.
Once you’re aware that you’re no longer on the index, your first step can be to take your website offline as a damage control measure. Notify your host and disable the site. If you’re able to login, note down what you see and convey it to your hosting service providers.
Look up Google’s note on maintaining a clean site, and if necessary, take professional help to clean out your site. Once you’re done, let Google know by requesting a review. Google will then begin to crawl your site again and re-index your webpages. It will take time, but you can recover.
Do you have any helpful tips to add? Or questions about best practices for maintaining your WordPress website? Leave a comment below!