Your Sites Might be In Danger…Mine Are

This is a post that I have been debating whether or not to write for the past few days.  Its a painful post for me to write, but I think you might find it to be one of the most useful posts that I have made to date.

In fact, I have a lot to say on the subject, so I am going to be breaking it down into 2 Parts – the second post will be tomorrow (click here to view it).

What Happened

As many of you know, about 6 months ago I wrote a post about some of my sites getting de-indexed (click here to read).  Unfortunately, it just happened again to more of my sites.

However, I am not the only one affected! As of October 20th, it appears that something happened at Google that has changed the rankings of TONS of sites.  Some people are calling this the “Halloween Update” (thanks to reader Jill for pointing out the name).

Many people have noticed a drop in rankings or other ill effects.  However, no one (including SEO guru Aaron Wall) can make any sense of why it has happened, or what caused it. Neither can I.

You can read up on some of the chatter in the SEO community in these posts:

Google’s Halloween 2010 Update

Who Benefits from Following Google’s Guidelines

I Changed My Strategy Over 6 Months Ago

If you have been following my blog for the past 6 months, you know that when my first set of sites were de-indexed, I stopped creating 1 or 2 pages sites, and I have been focusing exclusively on building larger authority websites.  I have written about creating quality websites since that time: Read Here – My Niche Adsense Future; and here – What I Learned From My Challenge; and here – I’m Ready for a New Challenge; and probably a couple of other places as well.

So, I have already been working on building larger authority websites for over 6 months now…so its not like I am all of the sudden changing my tune here!  I highly recommend that you do the same.

My Niche Site is Gone!

However, the problem that is arising for me is that the sins of my past are affecting my current authority websites!  In fact, one devastating blow that I received from Google was that they banned my niche site challenge site from their index:  Yep, its gone.  It was deindexed after only about 4 weeks and even before I started building any back links to the site.

I have done quite a bit of analysis on my sites to try and figure out the reason why, and I still don’t have all the answers, but I will do my best to  explain that here.

I want to mention that certainly not all of my websites were de-indexed.  So, that is actually helping me to compare which sites got banned and which ones did not and to really figure out the reasons why some are “good” in Google’s eyes, and some are not.  It also leads me to believe that my sites MAY HAVE been manually reviewed by someone at Google (although its very possible that everything was automatic).

Getting Reviewed By Google

I have heard it said that when your Google Adsense account reaches the point of about $100/day; Google will manually take a look at your account.  I believe this may have been what happened about 6 months ago to me.  I also believe that it may have happened again because I was still earning above that level. However, it could just be that Google made some major changes in their alogorithmn and my sites were discounted.

Either way, by doing well in Google Adsense I was drawing attention to my sites.  That was the first thing that put a target on my back.

The second thing that probably raised a red flag is that I have hundreds of websites that are in Google Webmaster tools and Google Analytics.  Google knows I own all of these websites.

There is not necessarily anything wrong with owning hundreds of websites; however, it does raise a red flag and probably warrants someone to take a look on Google’s end, or maybe the Google algorithm automatically detects webmasters like this.

So, let me be clear – I don’t think owning a lot of websites or earning a lot of money from your websites is going to get you deindexed from Google – but it is going to draw attention…enough attention for someone or something to have a look at what’s going on.

As you all know, and as I have documented quite well here on this blog, 6 to 12 months ago, I was building websites that could easily be considered “thin affiliate” websites (a term taken from the Google Webmaster Guidelines).

However, recently I have been building MUCH better websites, but I made a mistake on my new niche site about oil change coupons:  I used the same template as some of my crappy sites.

So, just think about it for a minute.  A Google employee notices a bunch of activity (money and tons of sites) in my Adsense account; so they decide to just take a look.  They start looking at my account and notice a bunch of small sites with only 2 or 3 articles on them (my old sites from when I first got started…big mistake!).  The manual reviewer starts to think “okay, I got a spammer here…sweet!”, so he starts to deindex all the sites that are cookie cutter, have ads all over them, and essentially look the same. This probably made him feel all warm and fuzzy inside…

This guy is not going to slow down enough to realize that my website is actually much better quality than my other sites, with real value to HUMANS (and is only 4 weeks old!).  Nope, he is just going to see another cookie cutter website without even looking at the content – because it was the same template as several other sites I had!!  He’s not going to give me the benefit of the doubt and actually read through my site.  So, BAM!  Just like that, my site is gone.

The sad thing is that I had some really big plans for this site and now its kinda pointless.  In fact, I am going to be just starting from scratch; which is partly what I am going to discuss in part II of this post tomorrow.

What’s even worse however, is that some of my older sites were actually making some good money from Google search traffic, and now that’s gone!  In fact, I am expecting my income to drop from a typical of about $5k/mth to around $3k to 4k/mth this month (projected for November).  Its hard to tell at this point, but its certainly going to be less. Ouch!!

(In full disclosure, some of these deindexed sites are still making decent money because of traffic from Yahoo, Bing, Ask, article directories, and other traffic sources).

But this obviously, seriously puts in jeopardy my goal to quit my job by the end of the year.  Looks like I am going to have to keep working a day job for a while.  Although in tomorrows post, I will be discussing some alternative strategies.

I have also noticed that Google has really been on a rampage lately, and these penalties have been applied to a TON of sites from lots of people across the net.

Are Your Sites in Danger?

So, are your sites in danger too?  Well, if you are building low quality websites, using the exact same template on all your sites, and not really providing anything of value other than some articles and adsense, then YES, you are in danger.

In reality, if you only have a couple of sites, and you are not making close to $100/day…you are probably not raising any red flags; but Google is getting more and more sophisticated, and its time you changed your strategy.  I discussed changing mine over 6 months ago, and I have…however, I’m still getting punished for things I did over a year ago.  I don’t want the same thing to happen to you.

Stay tuned for another lengthy post on this subject tomorrow.  I am going to discuss how you can potentially prevent these problems in the future.

Anyway, I’m sure many of you have lots of questions, so feel free to fire away in the comments below.  I will do my best to answer everything.

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37 Responses to “Your Sites Might be In Danger…Mine Are”

  1. Spense

    I stayed away from google webmaster stuff and have had do problems with de-indexing. Perhaps you should too. Tell a lie, had one site de-indexed recently and it came back after a couple of weeks. Yep, it is by association with the Google thing and past efforts that is possibly the problem haunting you. I think you will see your sites come back!!
    Perhaps it is not enough just to get on page one and rely on search engine traffic. Need to find a way to drive traffic too so your not at the mercy of these things happening.

  2. Spencer I can feel your pain! This has happened to many of my sites, one that was making me $1000 per month, the others also making quite a bit.

    My niche challenge I was doing really well, on the first page for quite a few of my keywords and the others were on page 2. Making sales… Just checked my rankings today and noticed they are all in the 140’s.

    I don’t add google analytics to sites anymore and I recently started implementing 301 redirects from aged domains with high pr to my newer sites. I didn’t do it for my niche adsense challenge though. Unfortunately for the sites that are effected this is not going to help! I am also changing to a new host in the next week or so, as I have lost quite a bit. I expect the rankings to eventually come back.

    What I will start to do is use one of my domains strength and start building out from it targeting niche keywords.

  3. What I can tell here mate? I never install google analytics on my sites, not add them to google’s webmaster tools. I learned some really bad lessons that seriously affected my business and even health (imagine if you’re full time aff and google deindexes your main affiliate site (brilliant unique content, lots of it, white-hat methods) and 2 months later shuts down adwords.

    Google are suckers, bastards and MoFo’s – biggest here online. That’s sad reality, and yes we do depend on their traffic.

    During the last month I’ve seen some huge drops in rankings os some of my sites, and it resulted in losing around 1000$ in incomes. However, now I see my top 3 rankings are back, however some big site is still under some filter or so.

    If you want to go full-time, DIVERSIFY your earning sources and traffic sources mate!!! I’ve been there….

    Take care!

    • Anton,
      Thanks for the advice! Yes it is all about diversification for me at this point. In a way, its good to know its just not me having issues…

  4. Thanks for the insights. I was warned about Google Analytics by
    Greg Jacobs in one of his webinars. But if you don’t use Google Analytics how do you guage traffic without it costing money?

  5. I keep a handwritten notebook of things I think about while reading this (and other stuff). Notes to myself from today so far:

    1. Diversify Everything:
    a. Diverse traffic sources
    b. Diverse revenue:
    * AdSense
    * CPA
    * Amazon
    * eBay
    c. Diverse Sites / Niches (multiple industries)
    d. Diverse templates
    e. Diverse hosting companies

    It’s almost like building an systems infrastructure. You need to build fault-tolerance into your business. What is the contingency if some part of your process were to dissappear tomorrow. Can’t have any “single point of failure”


  6. Several of my sites have dropped traffic a BUNCH in the last month. It sucks because I’ve only used SEO and some article marketing. Now I’m learning how to do paid traffic and media buys – this is way stressful!

  7. With Google “anything you say (ie. google analytics) can and will be used against you”.

    In addition, adsense itself is an identifying marker.

    If you are making some good money from adsense I would think that setting up separate accounts might be a good idea to spread out the tracking and dollar revenue. (you can at least have 1 personal and 1 business but they should be listed at different addresses and even accessed by separate computers…for example, use a library PC for one account) IP addresses and even MAC IDs can be tracked.

    As the others have stated, diversity is essential.

  8. Hi
    I have experienced virtually the opposite-a crap load of my sites have just shot up and are experiencing much more traffic.

    I now have 3 number 1s in Google and a handful more on the first page.

    And when I checked my rankings last week I couldn’t believe the numbers and ran the tool again so I knew something was up.

    Only on this blog have I seen it described as the Halloween Update.

    But the last big change in Google in May/June really hit me hard so it is swings and roundabouts I guess..

    • Congrats, that’s great! Some people like you, have benefited from this update, and others (like me) have not. Its just hard to deal with because its difficult to pinpoint the reason.

  9. ExClubber says:

    First of all,

    John, your site articles are value-overloaded-with-useful-data-overdrive.

    Thanks. I truly gained a lot. In fact, anyone who has done AdSense for a few months will gain a LOT from here. It contains almost all the essential information to become successful with AdSense. These little extra information themselves don’t get discussed too often by AdSense gurus i.m.o.

    This article has brightened my perspective about this whole de-indexing issue.

    Everyone talks about disabling Analytics and Webmasters. Even if you did, Google can STILL track your sites via AdSense tracking ID. It only makes sense. On the creative thinking side, Google might even buy and own other analytic tools companies! They are known to do that, don’t they?

    Well John, if I were you (especially having the capital), I’d build sites that look like SBI sites (super authority with at least 100 pages) with less clutter and more professional design. Well, no offence to SBI people. But I personally think SBI sites are a little on the clunky side. With the minimalism-inspired AdSense experience, one can improve such a big site. Often times, less-is-more concept works well with AdSense, doesn’t it? But I don’t know how well they earn (especially about their CTR). These sites are like the Wikipedia niche markets. Maybe a few SBIers here can chime in. You also NEVER hear about people saying their SBI site getting deindexed!

  10. I’ve had similar problems in the past and I can tell from my own experience that it’s in most cases due to a poor backlink profile that these things happen. Also, sites with few to no backlinks at all may diseappear from Google’s index relatively quickly. If I were you, I would focus on analyzing your backlinking strategy and figuring out where the problem lies. In my experience getting backlinks from many different sources and IPs in a “natural” manner usually solves the problem. I also noticed that if a site disappears from G, it is usually within the first 6 months of its online presence. It is far less likely to happen after that period.

  11. – did not match any documents. – did not match any documents.

    Yet the Google toolbar in IE & FF shows PR0?

  12. Whilst I can understand your bewilderment Spencer as to what has happened to your sites, I think you are over-analysing the causes and effects.

    In my experience, it is perfectly normal for new sites to disappear for a while even if they were ranking highly for keywords. Whether this is the ‘Google dance’ or the Sandbox, who knows.

    What you need to do is to keep adding new content to your sites and just wait! I bet that after a few months maximum, your sites will suddenly leap back up the rankings and start earning money again.

    I’ve had sites that have performed poorly that I’ve just left alone doing no work at all on them, only to find after a year or so that the Adsense starts to trickle back again.

    Patience is a virtue!


    • The problem here Richard is that my site has been completely REMOVED from the index. No amount of waiting will bring it back; this is different than a “google dance” or “sandbox”. The site has not dropped in ranking, it has been banned from Google. There is a big difference.

      In other words, when you type in google, site:, its not there.

  13. Hey Spencer,
    Your site has come back, yes? I’m viewing it in my browser A-OK.


    • There is nothing wrong with the site itself. The problem is Google de-indexed it so he is nowhere to be found in SERPs, not even at the 1000000000th page, that sucks.

      Spencer, as you said the site was very young so you haven’t lost anything, just buy another domain name, copy everything except change the theme of the site and kill the old one. I don’t think there would be any duplicate content issue but i may be wrong.

  14. This was a great post! Thanks for saying not only what happened to you and complaining about it, but providing some great insight as to why you thought it happened. I appreciate that extra information, and it’s what spurred me on to leave a comment!

    A few of my niche sites got significantly bumped back or disappeared completely from Google. Sucks! Luckily it only happened to my more recently-establish sites and I don’t rely heavily on them.

  15. Curious, how many days did you earn $100 before your sites were indexed?

    Also, you should multiple gmail accounts so that you can have multiple analytics accounts.

  16. I have about six, 2-3 month old niche sites that got their balls chopped of in October. They had all been on page 1 and 3 of them had been in the top 5 spots or higher! I’m guessing it’s my back linking efforts and lack of updated content and new age. They’re great looking sites and they don’t deserve to be on page 7+, I’m giving customers exactly what they want. I see other sites in the top 10 spots that are horrible…I guess I’ll just wait and see.

    • Gabe, sorry to hear that. You might need to focus on adding some content and then building some higher quality back links. This is usually a good way to improve your rankings. Best of luck!

  17. Hi Spencer – Yeah, I have had this happen to me a couple of times – not sure exactly what triggers this happening.

    I had a plan about a year ago similar to yours – build as many adsense sites (goal was around 100) each earning at least $1 per day.

    Seems like I would be cruising around and could see traffic and earnings slowly rising than all of a sudden – wham!

    So it was then that I knew I had to diversify so that If indeed any 1 sector of my business was effected it wouldn’t be catastrophic to my income.

    So a mix of the following was developed:

    Minimum daily goal 100 – 150 dollars us

    Adsense 10 – 20 percent
    Other site income – links/banners/adverts – 10 percent
    Affiliate 20 – 30 Percent
    Info Product Development/Click bank products – 20 – 30 percent
    physical product sales (ebay/websites) 20 – 30 percent
    Coaching/Memberships – 10 percent

    It does take a lot of time to set up and maintain, but this way no one area of my business can cripple my income.

  18. This happened to a Squidoo page I had, annoyingly about Halloween costumes. It disappeared for a day, came back, went again and then finally returned after Halloween night. Google playing tricks on me.

  19. I like the oil change site Spencer it looks really nice. What a shame.

    I get google traffic but also get traffic from other sources like multiple twitter and facebook accounts and using and and others.

    Very important to diversify everything. Monetization as well.

  20. It is actually a revelation for most of us when you find good knowledge accessible on the internet. sim card iphone 3g


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