This weekend in Milan, there was the iWordCamp, a BarCamp for developers and users of WordPress software (which I am proudly running). A cool thing is that the co-founder of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg, came and participated!
Any guy who can quote Zoolander gets a gold star in my book (and he noted my phone’s likeness to the one in the movie’s), but he went above and beyond and gave a million interviews. I did a last-minute one that I’m hoping to link to soon.
But this weekend got me thinking about my own installation of WordPress. I had wanted to upgrade to 2.5.1, especially when I heard that there were some significant changes and improvements, but my heart always does a bit of a flutter when I think about upgrading WP with my web host (they are still offering 2.0 as an install).
This weekend, I discovered I didn’t have a choice. Behold the following graph:
You’re probably thinking, what a beautiful exponential inverse curve! Yet, when I clue you in that this is my traffic from Google, it’s not so pretty anymore.
I took so long to do something about it, because I thought it was something I had done. Tinkering with plugins and settings, maybe I had done something. In the end, it was something I hadn’t done. I hadn’t upgraded my WordPress, thereby leaving it vulnerable, and some spam links were inserted in my template’s footer.
Over and over the “experts” have told us not to rely on Google as a measure of your blog’s success, but I have always been pleased with the new readers that find me via a search engine. Now, sites that are linking to my content are ranking high in the searches and I’m nowhere to be found.
Being Delisted by Google
If you’re not sure if you’ve been de-listed, why not try this easy check: Go to Google.com, and insert the EXACT title of one of your posts (try to pick one that is semi-long and unique). If you don’t show up (and you used to), chances are you’ve been penalized.
How You can Monitor your Site for Hidden Spam Links
- If you use Firefox for browsing (and you should!), install the Web Developer Toolbar – I use it all the time. To check for hidden links in a page, strip out the formatting by selecting [CSS] – [Disable Styles] – [All Styles]. This revealed a ton of spam links as hidden text in my footer. You can also do this by going to [Tools] – [Page Info] and the Links tab to see what links are embedded on the page.
- Set up Google Webmaster Tools account for your domain (you’ll need to verify ownership). Often Google will communicate problems of this nature to you here (though they didn’t with mine) and you’ll need an account to file a Site Reconsideration Request to be re-included in the index.
- Do a search via Google or Yahoo for any hidden terms (the Search Engines will find them!) The format:
spamkeyword site:yourdomainname.com (If you do a search like this for Viagra on my site, you find a ton of pages)
- If you’re using WordPress on your server, make sure you have the most secure release installed. If you’re using any other software, make sure you have the latest version and patches installed.
- Don’t rely on Google PageRank. If you use Google Toolbar, if you’re delisted that doesn’t mean that your PageRank will change in the toolbar.
After cleaning the links out of my site, I filed a “Reconsideration Request” via the Google Webmaster Tools site. Unfortunately, I was never notified of being delisted (like my friend Giovy) and therefore I think that the notification system is flawed at best.
So, hopefully they will re-index my site and see that the offending links have been removed. I know it’s happening to others but it’s frustrating all the same. Thanks to Sean Carlos for some assistance this weekend, and check out his post 9 SEO Security Tips for WordPress with some of the info he shared with me!
Do you have a tip to share regarding being de-listed and being reconsidered by Google? Has it happened to you?