This is a rather unusual post for Sydney Chic, however I also teach blogging and since this is a blog, I've decided to share this story in case it might help other bloggers or anyone who finds themselves on the wrong side of Google law.
I've been growing this blog since late 2013, you can read the story what inspired me to start Sydney Chic here. I have to say, I'm very proud of this achievement and it's been a labour of love. It also has ranked well on Google and I'm inundated with requests from people wanting backlinks and submitting guest posts - all of them get refused.
So when I've been sitting nicely on Google for five years and one day I am no longer there it starts a major mental meltdown! When I Googled my own brand name "Sydney Chic" other websites that linked to me came up but I did not so I started to worry. If I typed in www.sydneychic.com.au - my website would come up but not if I searched my name. I also typed in all my keywords where I also come up on page one - I've even come up five times on page on in one search and many times! So you can imagine my blogging world started to crash down on me. It all went kaput overnight!
This is what should come up (photo below) when I Google "Sydney Chic"... but instead it had gone and none of my URL's appeared.
I'm now back ranking even better than before so I will take you through what I did and how I discovered what the problem was. My downtime from Google was five days.
Step one: Do an index search site:sydneychic.com.au - when I did that I had nothing! So I knew this was a serious problem. Now when I do the search I'm back in full swing. If you do the same thing and find you are not indexed then it's an issue.
Step two: Go to Google Webmaster Tools - scroll down to security issues. If you see something then bingo you have found a reason and you need to fix it. I found nothing so I knew it wasn't a site hack.
Step three: Go to messages in Webmaster Tools - has Google issued you a manual penalty? If so, they will tell you why and you need to act fast and fix the crime! I had no messages so I knew that wasn't the problem and the mystery deepened.
Step four: Go to Robots.txt Tester in Webmaster Tools. Do you see anything that says Disallow? In my case I did, but it was to do with the editing of the site and not a reason to stop Google crawling my pages. So I knew that wasn't the issue.
Step five: Check your sitemap to see if you are indexed? Once I found my problem which I'm coming to I resubmitted my whole site to Google Sitemap. This is the current page indexes and I'm still in recovery mode.
I then went through the checklist of what else could have caused this.
Was it duplicated content? No
Did I have shifty backlinks coming in? No
Did I have spammy content? No
Was I hit by a penalty? Most likely but it certainly wasn't a manual one and I was quite sure nothing to do with a new Google Algorithm
Was my website verified with Google? Yes, but to be sure I verified it again
As far as I could see I had not breached any of Google's laws and I'm very particular in keeping my website within the guidelines. If I click on a website that is full of popups and adverts, I just click out, so I'm very fussy in keeping Sydney Chic 'clean' and not disruptive to my readers.
It was now day four and I had searched the internet everywhere trying to find the answers.
Then, I went back in to Webmaster Tools and went to: Google Index - Blocked Resources and there was the problem! Pages upon pages were being blocked because of an affiliate banner! I had an affiliate banner on my single post page which meant that every post had the banner on it and it was a "Follow" not a "Do not Follow" code. Bingo! I deleted the banner and resubmitted my site to Google and within 12 hours I was starting to recover.
I am not an SEO expert, but this is what caused my grief. Hope it helps.
Also I also am up-front if I've been paid for sponsored content or there are affiliate links and I have a full Disclaimer which you can read here.
Then a few days later! Gone again! I was not showing up for my URL and also my keywords. So back to to investigating I went. Google gave me a couple of messages regarding not being indexed for this particular affiliate link, and since it had already been deleted I hoped my site would be recovered again soon.
In the meantime I reached out to two IT friends, Bruce Mills and Rami Mandow. Both gave me some great articles to read and Bruce suggested I might need to speed up my mobile site. He seemed to think that was an issue. To be honest, my mobile site was optimised but I did have complaints it was slow to load.
I was ruthless! I deleted all the pretty things that I had on my desktop site that were also on my mobile to make the mobile site more simple and functional. I kept the basics and got rid of all the fancy; so no sign up, no moving galleries, no Instagram feed.
After that I did a complete audit on all my H1 and Meta tags and cleaned them up too.
Within a day I was back and in full force. My site mobile site was loading much quicker and I was appearing in all my keywords and my own domain.
I spent hours cleaning my website up but pleased to say it was worth it. The lesson is to not become complacent with Google.