Tag Archives: WordPress

Google Delisted My Site – Now What?

Google delisted my site in December of 2008.  This was due to my site being in violation of the Google quality guidelines. As it turns out, my site had actually been cracked and hidden spammy links had been added a many of my pages.

Getting back into the Google index isn’t a quick thing to do.  It took almost a month before I showed up in the index again.  I did learn a few things along the way though and I’d like to share them with you.

Avoid getting delisted

The best advice I can give is to avoid getting delisted from Google.  Yeah, I know that’s pretty obvious but if you are trying to run a site to make money, getting delisted from Google can get you the coffin and all the nails required to seal it up. Getting delisted from Google sucks, especially if you are relying on organic searches to find your site. I watched my traffic from organic search drop by over 98% within hours of getting delisted.

Google Analytics graph showing how our visits were impacted by being delisted from Google

Here are a few things to help you avoid getting delisted:

  1. Monitor your site regularly
  2. Upgrade your CMS/Blog software as soon as an update/fix is available
  3. Use strong passwords and change them on a regular basis
  4. Monitor your site regularly

Yes, I said to monitor your site twice.  That was intentional and I’ll explain why.

Monitor your site regularly

If you’re not a full time blogger, you probably don’t login to your site on a daily basis.  Heck, if your like me and just blog for the helluvit, you’re lucky to login on a weekly or even monthly basis at times. It’s important to keep track of your site. One way to do this is with the Google Webmaster Tools. Once you register your site with the tools, you can see many useful things about your site.  The most important one in my opinion is What Googlebot sees. This provides you with a top 100 list of keywords that Googlebot has found on your site.

This is the one thing that I missed and what could have kept me from getting delisted.  Googlebot was seeing a bunch of strange terms on my site.  Words like popular drug names and related words.  I ignored those warnings signs as I couldn’t figure out where they were coming from so I assumed it was something Google had messed up.

If Googlebot sees something, it’s there.  You just need to look closer.

Google has a page My site’s been hacked, now what? that has a lot of different things to check on if you think your site has been hacked.

Upgrade Your Blog/CMS

Make sure you keep up to date on the latest version of your blog/CMS as older versions typically have exploitable security bugs.  This is what happened to me. I had been lax in upgrading to the latest version of WordPress because it was going to require me to change some minor functionality. In the end, the days and weeks I spent trying to recover my site and get back into the Google listings was much more time consuming than the 15 minutes or so it would have taken to upgrade.

Use strong passwords

I can’t stress this one enough. Having a simple password is just asking for trouble. Make sure that all users have strong passwords, especially any users with escalated privileges (like your admin account). There are numerous sites online that will generate a strong password for you. Also, tools like LastPass make it really easy to generate and use strong passwords.

Don’t forget to ensure your database also has a strong password. Lots of web hosting companies provide web based interfaces for your databases. If your database hasn’t been configured to only allow connections from specific IPs, anyone on the net can connect to it. The problem with this is a malicious person can take random guesses at your database host name and if you don’t have a secure password, they can guess their way into your database without even having to access it through your CMS.

Getting Delisted from Google Sucks

Getting delisted from Google sucks a whole lot as you can see from the graph below.

Google Analytics graph showing how our visits were impacted by being delisted from Google

Google Analytics graph showing how our visits were impacted by being delisted from Google

Some of you may recall that my site was cracked late last year. This resulted in a large quantity of hidden spam links getting added to my site which resulted in Google removing Ivany.org from their search engine.

I was averaging somewhere around 200 hits a day (not bad for a silly little site like this) and I watched that go down to about 3 in a matter of hours. Ouch! I did get a few direct visits from people I know and a very small number from other search engines.

On January 3, 2009 I was added back into Google and that day I jumped back up to to about 75 hits. I’m not back to where I was before I got delisted yet but I hope to get there soon.  I’m still showing up on the first page for most of the major topics on this site so I can’t complain too much.

I have learned a few things from being delisted though and I’ll try to put them together into a couple posts over the next couple weeks. There was one big warning sign that I missed simply because I didn’t know what I was looking for.

Happy New Year and a Site Redesign

Happy New Year!

I’m kicking off 2009 with the launch of a new site design for ivany.org.

Ivany site redesign based on the Leviathan theme - a child theme for the Hybrid theme framework.

Ivany site redesign based on the Leviathan theme - a child theme for the Hybrid theme framework.

The redesign is based on the Leviathan theme which is a child theme of the Hybrid Theme frameworkJustin Tadlock has created a fantastic framework for theme designers.

Unfortunately, I’m not a theme designer so I’m stuck with tweaking existing themes to do what I want. I’m not overly attached to the current colour scheme though so it may change from time to time. I found I was spending too much time on silly details so I never pulled the trigger and committed to the new theme framework and the options it opened up.

Now I have and hopefully, this will be the start of more interesting stuff here. No guarantees.  ;)

Broken Link Cleanup

Today I finally got around to doing some needed cleanup on my blog.  The Google Webmaster tools have been complaining to me for a really long time about the number of broken links I had on my site.  As it turns out, I had about 5 times what Google said I had.  Ouch!

I discovered this by grabbing a plugin for WordPress called (conveniently) Broken Link Checker. This nifty little plugin ran in the background and searched through my 6+ years worth of blog entries to find all of my links that no longer resolve to anything useful.

So I spent the better part of the day fixing broken links. The majority of my broken links came from linking to the various CBC websites for any of the news articles I posted about over the years.  It seems that CBC has moved a lot of their articles to new locations.  Some I could find but many (especially the ones not linked thorugh the main website) are no longer available.  Unfortunately that meant I had to delete the relevant links on the posts.

As for the Broken Link Checker plugin, it seems to run a lot.  I’ve been watching my logs all afternoon (yeah, me=geek) and it seems to run on almost every request coming to WordPress.  That’s probably a little excessive.  The easy fix is to simply disable the plugin the majority of the time and only run it every few months.

Upgraded!

Well, it was painful and took almost 2 days to get this far but I finally upgraded WordPress on my site.  Getting cracked recently was definately the kick in the pants I needed to take the time to upgrade and re-work all of the stuff that got broken during the upgrade.

I’m living on the bleeding edge now and I like it!

There’s some stuff that’s still not quite working on the site but at the moment, I’m not too concerned.  Anything that isn’t working is going to be disappearing soon. I hope. Stay tuned and hopefully I’ll have everything back to where I want it before the end of the year.