Yes, it has happened again … dumped by Google … no idea why, like many poor souls I have scoured the “Webmaster Guidelines” and checked that I do not fall foul of any of their criteria but still my traffic dropped 90% overnight (as did appearance in search results) and my position dropped from the first couple of pages to so far out of sight I have yet to find me anywhere.
Of course, what you might have done to get penalised you might have done any time in the 6 weeks or so prior to the penalty … so step 1 is to undo anything that might be considered “suspicious behaviour” – after all, what Google are trying to do is create a clean search result set, so anything that looks like you trying to cheat the system should be ditched.
Next, in Webmaster tools, check that you have verified the site and request a reconsideration … they will acknowledge that within 24-48 hours but actually do it between 14 and 21 days later (my experience, your mileage may vary). Read all the Webmaster Guidelines, ask for help on the Webmaster Forum (people are very generous with their time) but most of all, look at your site objectively and make sure that you are within the word, and spirit, of the guidelines.
Yes, I know, there’s lots of sites out there worse than you … but if you’re the one that has fallen foul of the Google algorithms there is no real point in moaning about others, you will have to pass inspection by a human before you are re-admitted and that is all you can worry about for now.
Google will provide guidelines, but no actual help … you will not be told what criteria you have fallen foul of nor what you have to do to legitimise yourself again – don’t complain, these are the rules. It is up to you to check, check and check again … and let Google know you have checked (update your reconsideration requests).
It is always possible that you have fallen foul of a simple change in algorithm, i.e. you have not been penalised at all, you just had a site that the new algorithm doesn’t like … this is a hard one to detect, check your competitors and see what has happened to others with the same basic content structure.
The check the following
Link farm … anything in your sites that looks like link farming – massive (spurious) cross-linking between sites you own … lots if irrelevant links in and out … these are bad news, clean up your act. Only relevant links are good, simply getting a link on some other unrelated site as part of a meaningless exchange really doesn’t help.
Duplicate content … if you’re site has no real content do not expect it to appear well in search results. If your site simply lifts and replays someone elses content … well, you’ll get what you deserve. If you have no unique content then you will be unlikely to do well, this is not a Google penalty as such, just a fact of search engine life – Google will pick just one of a set of duplicate sites to display and will basically let the rest atrophy.
Thin Affiliate Sites – are you just a bunch of links to affiliate pages trying to earn? Is your site “all-the-worlds- vacuum-cleaner-buying-links-with-commission.com”? Forget it because Google will forget you! If you misy have the links make them nofollow …
I admit, I do have a number of sites driven from the same database but they deliver different information and target different user communities … and I do have a number of affiliate links – I’m a comparison service after all and my site offers unique functionality! None the less, I am cutting duplication, increasing content and doing lots of housekeeping … let’s hope I pass muster, I didn’t on my first reconsideration request ;-(