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So You’ve Been De-Indexed By Google

It’s Monday morning, you’re searching for your brand on Google and you can’t find your website. At all. It’s been completely wiped off the face of Google. How could this happen? What have you done? WHO IS SHE?!


Let’s skip a few panicked steps and get to the point where you realize your site is de-indexed or penalized by Google. How did this happen?

Manual Penalty

Uh oh. You did a bad.

screenshot of manual action
A manual penalty/possible de-indexation means an actual individual from Google decided your site had bad practices. This can be a variety of things, including:

  • Automatically generated content
  • Hidden links
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Pages with little/no content
  • Participating in bad link building
  • Cloaking
  • Suspicious redirects
  • Etc

Basically, anything sketchy. Sometimes, this doesn’t always result in removal from Google’s index, just a demotion in the SERPs. But don’t worry, it’s not a permanent problem. While a manual penalty sounds very intimidating,  it’s actually a best case scenario as far as penalties go -it can be remedied via a reconsideration request:

manual action solved

Learn more about manual actions right from the horse’s mouth.

Algorithmic Penalty

This one isn’t usually about de-indexation but rather a penalty and loss in organic traffic. Every so often, Google announces an update to its mysterious algorithm. Updates often come with a theme.

For example, the Panda update (2011) focused content. If your site got penalized in this update it was because of low quality or duplicate content/pages. Another significant algorithm update was Penguin (2012) which focused on backlinks. If you had a questionable backlink profile, you may have seen a significant dip in organic traffic.

Algorithmic penalties are the scariest. They can be difficult to recover from and while there are themes to each update, there’s no guarantee that updating issues on your website will bring back your glorious organic traffic. That said, it’s not impossible to recover! Adster has helped clients move domains and slowly rebuild their organic rankings. It’s a long con but in the end, worth it. Moz also has a great case study on recovering from an algorithmic penalty.

WHY WHY WHY have manual and algorithmic penalties? It’s to weed out the garbage of the internet – and there’s a lot. But sometimes it will affect legitimate sites like yours and it’s a clear sign to shape up your website.

But hold up.

Your site doesn’t have duplicate content. You don’t even know what keyword stuffing is. You’ve only been using the best SEO practices! So… what happened to your site!?

Something technical is afoot!

It’s possible there is a technical reason behind why your site disappeared from the search results – we’ve seen it happen!

  • Robots.txt file
    If your robots.txt file reads Disallow: /, then Google may not be able to crawl your site and so it may not be indexed. It’s common to block the Googlebot from pages like your CMS login (wp-admin) but you don’t want to block it from getting to your home page and all of your great pages!
  • A WordPress privacy setting
    In the administrator settings of WordPress sites, there may be a privacy setting that is purposely “discouraging search engines from indexing the site”. Find this and uncheck that box, girlfriend! It is not doing you any favours.
  • This is a very specific case but: a plugin in your WordPress site updates automatically, updating the .htaccess file, blocking Google from getting at your pages by causing 403 errors across the site. Specific, but it happened to one of our clients!

When caught early, these kinds of technical issues have minimal impact on organic traffic:


This client has recovered nicely, with new organic users up 75% since The Incident in March 2016.

There are many other zany ways your CMS can accidentally do something like this. The best advice is to become BFFs with Google Search Console or AHREFS and understand when something is fishy – look for 403 errors, a huge drop in indexed pages, fetch & render errors, and the like.

Has one of these things happened to you and you aren’t sure how to handle it? Contact Adster Creative today, we’ll help you navigate these tricky waters with ease.