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Google thinks site offline - but it isn't!



10:55 pm on Jan 13, 2009 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Hello all,

I haven't seen an issue like this in all my... well, 6 years of doing websites.

I have a site that has been pretty popular making it all the way up into the Alexa top 15,000 for what that's worth. It's been going downhill due to bad code and db build that makes it crash when I get more than a few hundred users online at the same time - that's not the issue, just a bit of background.

The issue is that the site was PR6, even had the Google sitelinks display in the SERPs and was humming long. Today it's PR 0 and nowhere in the search results for anything other than one lonely page that says the site is offline (but if you click it takes you to the site).

Things have stayed this way for months. I go to the Google cache and it does indeed show a site offline page.

The funny thing is, the site isn't offline and never has been for more than perhaps hours at a time as far as I know. The site is clearly up and running and doing over a million page views a month. All based on brand recognition (as it really can't be found in the SERPs and I do zero advertising for it).

I have no idea what's going on and why the issue is not correcting itself after so long in the search engines. I don't know where to turn. I've done a re-inclusion request, but heard nothing back. I've showed the issue to others and no one can figure it out.

Here is what I know it's not caused by:

1) Penalty - How do I know this? a) There is nothing we're doing to be penalized for and more importantly, b) It's the same story in Yahoo and MSN - they all think the site is offline.

2) It's not a misbehaving robots.txt issue.

Any ideas?

Many thanks,


[edited by: tedster at 11:38 pm (utc) on Jan. 13, 2009]


11:39 pm on Jan 13, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Have you checked your server logs to see what happens when googlebot makes a request?


12:46 am on Jan 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jdmorgan is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Use a user-agent switcher add-on to your browser to examine your site using Googlebot's user-agent string. You may find that your site is yet another victim of a recent rash of PHP hacks, where PHP code is used to serve alternate content to search engines -- including links to "objectionable sites." We've discussed this cloakied exploit here fairly recently.

If you are in a highly-competitive market or if you've got (or recently had) an unhappy Webmaster, this could be a case of targeted/intentional sabotage.

Alternately, you may have some problems in your access-control code (if you use any), or perhaps you have a script that dies or malfunctions when a search engine user-agent or requesting-IP-address is detected.

Another thing to check is to look at Google's cache of your pages, and do a View->Page source, looking for links, includes, or text that you did not put on your pages or custom error pages yourself.



12:53 am on Jan 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Good points, jd. Rollo, if you haven't yet seen this front page thread [webmasterworld.com], it may give you some other ideas to check out.

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 2:17 am (utc) on Jan. 14, 2009]
[edit reason] fixed link [/edit]


4:25 am on Jan 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Thanks, I'll try some of these things... it's been dead for so long the shock has worn off. I'll let you know what I come up with. I'm trying to narrow things down...

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