One of the most common themes of posting here in WW starts something like: "Last night, my site disappeared..."
"Losing" a site can be a painful and frustrating experience. To help ease the pain, perhaps a starting list of potential issues might help. I'll probably miss more than I'm catching with this list, but at least it's a start.
Do a site search at the SE in question to determine if all of some of your pages are gone. Some think that their site has vanished, when in fact an algo update or tweak has occured causing their pages to drop. Or, individual pages have been filtered or penalized, but not entire sites:
If *all* of your pages are gone (search on URL's to check that), then perhaps:
• your server was down at an inopportune time.
• you have a robots.txt problem.
• you've been removed from the index based on a perception of bad behavior (not good).
If only some pages are gone, or if your pages have simply dropped badly in the SERP's, then perhaps:
• you have some other technical issue not noted above (e.g., badly executed redirects),
• the algo changed,
• you've done something recently that the SE did not like, or,
• the algo changed and something that was previously "OK" is now being filtered or penalized.
Here are some specific things to look at:
Start with the basics: Was your server down recently?
Server failure is always a good item to check off your list when searching for problems. No need to start remaking your site if all that happened was a temporary problem.
Are you using a robots.txt file [webmasterworld.com], and if so, has it changed. , Is the syntax correct [searchengineworld.com]?
There are a variety of potential problems that can be caused by improper code in robots.txt files, or placement of the robots.txt file in the wrong location. Search WW on this topic if you're not sure what you're doing. Use the WW Server Header Checker [searchengineworld.com]. At worst, a robots.txt file can tell a SE to go away, and you really don't want that. ;-)
Have you more aggressively optimized recently?
Internal changes that can lead to potential problems include:
• More aggressive kw optimization, e.g., changes to Titles, META's, <Hx> tags, placement and density of kw's, etc.
• Link structure changes, and especially link text changes. Updates to link text or structure, if done for optimization reasons, can push a site into filter/penalty territory. Look in particular for overuse of kw's.
Have you added redirects?
The SE's *can* sometimes become confused by redirects. Assuming that the changes are intended to be permanent, use 301's, not 302's. Be especially careful about large scale changes. If done properly, redircts are important tools. Done without proper knowledge, they can lead to short term pain, often on the order of 1-6 months.
Do you have a significant number of interlinking sites?
If ever there was a strategy that might be summed up as: "Here today, gone tomorrow..." interlinking is it. You can succeed with this strategy. But if you add too many sites or links to the mini-net you're creating, or interlink too aggressively, it can catch up to you. Penalties can range from soft filters to complete manual removal in rare cases. Even with no recent changes to your sites, the SE algo's can change, making something that squeeked by yesterday illegal today.
Are you linking to sites in "bad" neighborhoods?
If ever there was a strategy that might be summed up as: "Gone today..." linking to "bad" sites is it. If you think that you might be linking to the dark-side, lose that link instantly, if not sooner.
Could you be suffering from a duplicate content penalty [webmasterworld.com]?
Some practices or occurances that can cause problems in this regard include:
• Use of a single, site-wide template
• Use of one template across multiple sites
• Competitors stealing or mirroring your content
• Redirects from an old domain to a new one
• Over reliance on robots.txt files to exclude bots from content areas you don't want exposed. WebmasterWorld Thread:
Are you cloaking?
Some cloak merely to deliver "accurate" pictures of sites/pages to the SE's. Examples of this are sites with lots of graphics and little text. But if you're a mainly text based site that is delivering one set of content to the SE's while users are seeing something less...umm...optimized...then there's always the risk that you've been caught.
Are you using AdWords?
This is pure speculation on the part of some seniors here, but some do seem to firmly believe that if you place highly with an Adwords listing, it might actually hurt your position in the SERP's. Don't shoot me. I'm just the messenger.
IF OTOH, the only issue is that you're not as high in the rankings as you'd like, then a better place to start would be Brett's 26 Steps to 15K a Day [searchengineworld.com].
Best of luck! ;-)