The most severe form of penalty that Google can impose on a website is the removal of your site from its index. In simple terms, this will spell the end of any traffic you may have been enjoying from Google.
One of the easiest ways to check the number of pages of your site Google has indexed is to use ‘site:www.yourdomain.com’ as a search query on Google (e.g. ‘site:www.browsermedia.co.uk’). If this returns zero pages and you know that you have ranked in Google before, it is likely that you have had a spam penalty imposed.
Whilst it is possible that your site may well reappear in the future, we would not advise any client to sit back and wait. It is vital to analyse why a spam penalty may have been imposed and to take steps to address them.
The first port of call should be the Google webmaster guidelines, which is a vital resource for ‘official’ guidance from the search engine itself.
Once you are confident that you have addressed any issues, you should use the Google webmaster tools service to submit a formal reinclusion request.
How long is it likely to take to see your site in Google again? According to (a reasonably dated) article from Matt Cutts, it will vary:
“Okay, so you found the hidden text that your webmaster put on your front page, you removed it, and you sent your reinclusion request off to Google. How long do you have to wait now? That depends on when Google reviews the request and on the type of spam penalty you have. In the days of monthly index updates it could take 6-8 weeks for a site to be reincluded after a site was approved, and the severest spam penalties can take that long to clear out after an approval. For less severe stuff like hidden text, it may only take 2-3 weeks, depending on when someone looks at the request and if the request is approved.”
Browser Media has worked with a number of clients to help the reinclusion process, most recently with Manns Music. The online music shop had been banned due to some ill-advised SEO techniques being employed.
Having fixed the key issues, Browser Media submitted a reinclusion request, outlining clearly what steps had been taken to address specific issues that had previously contravened the webmaster guidelines.
As well as going through the official reinclusion request process, we created an xml sitemap and submitted it to Google sitemaps.
The site was back in the Google index within a week and the number of pages indexed is growing steadily.
This is certainly the fastest reinclusion we have witnessed and it is an encouraging sign that Google is happy to reinstate sites that work within their guidelines. The Google reinclusion process does work if you have adhered to the webmaster guidelines!
A more recent offering from Matt Cutts (and his cat) regarding the Google reinclusion process is available in this video.