What if YOU get removed from Google?

Such an interesting day… suddenly… ๐Ÿ˜€

… At some point this morning, I went to check on my Google status.

The way I do that is to Google the word “Bill” or the word “bill”.

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&safe=off&q=Bill&btnG=Search

On November 12, 2007, I was on page 4: (#37 of 41,600,000 English pages for “Bill”)

Page 4 Google for "bill"

On February 15, 2008, I was on page 1: (#10 of 42,000,000 English pages for “Bill”)

Bill Cammack on Google page 01 for "Bill"

On April 20, 2008, I was STILL on page 1: (#3 of 29,700,000 English pages for “Bill”)

Bill Number 03

Now, I could have taken a screenshot every single day, if I gave a damn, because I haven’t been outside of the top ten results for “Bill” or “bill” for the last five (5) months. In fact, everybody KNOWS that, because I don’t carry business cards. I just tell people to “Google Bill”.

So anyway, hahahaha ๐Ÿ˜€ I google my first name, and interestingly enough, I’m not on page 1. I look at the number of entries and notice that it’s ballooned to 395,000,000 English pages.

Google Search "Bill" 080718

So I’m like, ok. So what? This is interesting. For once, I get to see myself on page 2. When they get rid of those extra couple of hundred MILLION results, I’ll be back in position.

Nope! ๐Ÿ˜€

Page 3?… 4?… 11?….. Nothing. ๐Ÿ˜€

So now, I’m getting suspicious, so I start googling stuff that I *KNOW* I’m on page 1 for, such as “Bill Cammack” and the first thing that comes up is my Flickr set. :/

Michelle, Marissa, Bill & Lindsey
Photo by Jonathan Dingman

So now I’m like “oh. I see. My entire DOMAIN NAME has disappeared from Google”. :/ So then I did this search:

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=site%3Abillcammack.com&btnG=Search&meta=

and received this: ๐Ÿ˜€

Bill Cammack Site Disappears From Google

And… Yes… I tried it in “all languages” too, as if I EVER post in anything except English.

Now…

I don’t know anything about how sites disappear/reappear in Google’s results. This Page gives Google’s explanation of what could happen to YOUR site:

http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=34443

Also, as I mentioned, there are usually tens of millions of English pages for “Bill” and today, there are hundreds of millions, almost ten times the usual number. However, that makes no difference, because my site is currently not indexed by google AT ALL, as if it never existed. ๐Ÿ˜€

Now… Rewind a couple of days… On July 16, 2008, I was experimenting with Google Ads and wrote a post about it, so the two things that came to mind were that a) someone tampered with my site, or b) I messed something up when I added and then deleted my Google Ads within like two days, because they totally weren’t floating my boat. As I was discussing this with Tyme, she mentioned that my site might have been removed for some sort of Adsense violation. Googling removal situations, I landed on a page that said they usually send out some sort of explanation if they remove you themselves……

So I go to my junk mail folder, and lo and behold, there’s an email from “Google Search Quality”, which read:

Dear site owner or webmaster of billcammack.com,

While we were indexing your webpages, we detected that some of your pages were using techniques that are outside our quality guidelines, which can be found here: http://www.google.com/webmasters/guidelines.html. This appears to be because your site has been modified by a third party. Typically, the offending party gains access to an insecure directory that has open permissions. Many times, they will upload files or modify existing ones, which then show up as spam in our index.

The following is some example hidden text we found at billcammack.com:

and went on to describe the offending text.

Interestingly enough, I received this email on July 17, 2008, less than a day after my Google Ads post. When I mentioned this to Tyme, she pointed me to a post she recently made on her 9rules blog, called Securing Your WordPress Site. Thanks to Tyme’s post, which cited this article by Brajeshwar, which describes how he found foreign code in his site’s header file, I figured out what had happened.

Sure Enough… a simple “View Page Source” revealed that my site had been ‘infected’ with “hidden” text when I searched for one of the words that Google informed me was on my site. I switched themes, upgraded WordPress and did a couple of other things to prepare to “request reconsideration” of my site for indexing in Google’s search results.

I did that today, June 18, 2008, and we’ll see how long it takes, since this is what’s written on the reconsideration request page:

Please allow several weeks for the re-evaluation process. Unfortunately, we can’t reply individually to reconsideration requests.

So this got me thinking….

What if YOU get removed from Google?

Can YOU afford for your site to be removed from Google’s search results? Would that impact your business? Would it impact your social life? Would it impact your ‘cred’?

Personally, I don’t need google for business. I don’t need google for socialization. I am a REAL PERSON who does work for REAL COMPANIES and has REAL FRIENDS that I hang out with, regardless of whether my site is indexed in Google. The hits that I get from Google are all *RANDOMS*. The people that are wondering what Bill Cammack did last night or last week are either SUBSCRIBED to my site via RSS or have billcammack.com in their favorites or bookmarks somewhere. Being on Page 1 on Google for “Bill” is strictly a NOVELTY for me, because….. I never even BRANDED “Bill”. ๐Ÿ˜€ People ask me all the time, “What did you do to get to page 1 for ‘Bill’?”, and I can’t tell them, because all I did was POST. INTERESTING. ISH, like this post you’re reading right now. Granted, I can’t/won’t take credit for the popularity of my site, because other than Google (which, according to Google Analytics accounts for accountED for 56.04% of my page hits) I get a lot of referral traffic from people like Richard Blakeley & Lux Alptraum of Boinkology.com.

Blakeley, Lux & Bill

So, like I said in my posts about Fame and “Star Power”, I couldn’t possibly give a damn about people that I don’t know at all googling some topic that I happened to have posted about and enriching their own lives by reading what *I* wrote. ๐Ÿ˜€ Therefore, it doesn’t matter to me AT ALL, that according to Google right now, my site doesn’t even exist.

But what about you?

What would happen to YOUR business if Google suddenly didn’t see your site?
What would happen to YOUR standing in your field amongst people that don’t know your CV yet?
What happens if nobody can google YOUR company and see years worth of posts and videos and pictures and awards and accolades and recommendations?

I have over 1,000 posts on BillCammack.com that are currently absolutely ****ing INVISIBLE on Google. It’s funny, ๐Ÿ™‚ because this is such an odd feeling that I can’t really explain it. ๐Ÿ˜€ It’s relatively unique. It’s like the world suddenly caught amnesia when it comes to anything you’ve said or done over the past umpteen years.

The closest I can come to explaining it is… We’ve all seen what happens when Twitter fails.

What happens if Google fails YOU?

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11 Comments

  1. Michaelverdi.com used to be banned from google search results. Michael Verdi didn’t do anything wrong, and his site wasn’t hacked by a third party. Verdi guessed maybe the guy who was using the domain before him (a real estate agent named Michael Verdi used to own the domain) had done something that’s not allowed. In any case, the domain got on google’s blacklist, and despite repeated attempts to get someone’s attention and get it un-banned, michaelverdi.com was dead to Google for years. Years. Michael meanwhile co-invented videoblogging, wrote a tech book for Peachpit, and taught thousands of people about video on the web. The whole time his site was still banned.

    Until magically, after 5 years, one day it was unbanned. Maybe by a human at Google set things right, or maybe by the robots figured it out. It’s all a mystery.

    I hope Google puts billcammack.com back on the allowed-list much sooner than that. It’s like unjustly being on a TSA no-fly list. We all need the google!

  2. @Jen: Very interesting… As well as disgusting.

    Thanks for that history. That’s absolutely ridiculous.

    I’m trying to see how long this process takes. Obviously, I have friends at google that I could contact to look into this for me, but that would defeat the purpose. It would only prove what you can get done when you know people… It wouldn’t prove that their current system of evaluation works fairly and swiftly for the average Joe/Josephine.


    Marissa Mayer @ BlogHerBiz รขโ‚ฌหœ07

  3. Wow Bill this is messed up. Jen’s totally right. I still have no real idea how I got on the list or how I got off the list. Your search results look how mine used to look – every site about you but your own. I hope this gets fixed soon.

  4. @Verdi: Thanks, man. This is a very weird situation that I’m constantly psychologically processing. It’s like when you thought you were standing on a solid foundation, but you really weren’t.

    Even though it’s obviously a BUSINESS, it used to feel as if Google was a public service, like THE LIBRARY. You can go to the library and look for books that were published. You wouldn’ think that the librarians or their automation were sitting around going “no… you can’t be in the library… no… YOU can’t be in the library…”.

    You ALSO wouldn’t think that someone with an obviously legitimate site for YEARS could/would be removed for what they describe as “at least 30 days” in their email.

    It’s very weird, but gives good insight on what *not* to rely upon as far as the future availability of one’s content.

  5. Given that this WordPress vulnerability has been known for months, it’s your fault for not watching out for it and taking precautions. Every serious business owner backs up his site daily and watches the WP dashboard for news. You can’t hang this one on Google; this one falls squarely on your head. Google doesn’t want to index infected sites. Sounds like a reasonable rule to me.

  6. @Mark: Of course this is my “fault”, for not watching out and taking precautions. Competely agreed.

    My point here isn’t to say “look what Google did to me, waaaaaaaah ๐Ÿ™ “. My point here is that just like it happened to ME, it can happen to THE NEXT MAN or THE NEXT WOMAN. Period. And when/if it does… How is that going to affect YOUR business?

    I disagree with your statement that “Every serious business owner blah blah blah”, because it should read “Every Nerd-Ass Geek Business Owner who cares about the inner workings of WordPress or whatever platform their site is built on and cares to learn about how to maintain and defend their site backs up his or her site daily and watches the WP dashboard for news.”.

    That’s part of my point. There are lots of people who have no reason whatsoever to visit the WP dashboard (meaning /wp-admin/index.php ) because they use favorites to access the pages they need… write post, edit theme, manage posts, etc. I’m now aware, and I think other people need to be MADE aware that if they don’t keep up with these day-to-day announcements and updates (as you’re suggesting), then this exact same thing can happen to them.

    Another take-away from this situation is that if YOU don’t want to handle site security, maybe you should HIRE SOMEONE who wants to spend THEIR time making sure your site isn’t tampered with.

    So, no… I’m not hanging anything on Google YET. I agree that it’s a reasonable rule not to index infected sites. Let’s see how long it takes them after I submitted my “I fixed the problem” notice (July 18, 2008) to check the site, see that the problem was dealt with and either replace my site in the google listings or not.

    Actually, the “fault” for the takedown isn’t really the main thing… It’s the ABILITY. I’m sure anyone can press a button and remove a site from Google if they feel like it. Now that I’ve had a site disappear entirely out of the listings, I’m aware of what that feels like, and I’m not sure that building a web presence that’s archived to an incredibly high degree ONLY BY GOOGLE is in my best interests or anyone else’s.

    At this point, it’s the only game in town.

    Thanks for the comment.

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