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Rankings havce tanked possibly due to 403 Errors

   
1:18 am on Feb 24, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



I logged into analytics this evening and noticed my traffic had dropped dramatically. This seems to have started on 17th Feb from 3500 visits per day to 100 visits.

Quickly checking my positions in Google I couldnít find my site in the first 5 pages of the results for all the key phrases I knew usually sat at the top positions and have been for the past 5 years.

Checking the server access logs I could see a lot of 403 errors being served to the Googlebot , yahoo and Bing but also to visitors coming from search referrals. Google Webmaster Tools was also reporting the 403 errors on the 20th but when I fetched the site no errors were being reported.

Iím coming up to the busiest season for my site which in previous years had resulted in my server being crashed due to traffic spikes. So at the start of this month I had migrated the site to a VPS on a different host and also added cloudflare in hope for some extra juice in keeping the site alive.

In the first week of the migration I couldnít see any error messages being served to the bots and thought all was well, until of course I check my analytics today.

The site is running WordPress so I quickly disabled all plugins but the access logs were still showing 403 errors being handed out every so often.

I started looking at Cloudflare and found other people were having similar issues but difference was they had been using the bad behaviour plugin, Iím not. I decided to switch off most of the Cloudflare security features and sit back and watch the access logs. So far in the past 4 hours no errors codes have been thrown, I can see Mediapartners-Google is getting a 200 status code so thatís a start.

My question now is should I just sit back and wait for Googleís bots to come back and hopefully my site will gain its positions again? If so how long should I expect for Google to place the site back into its original positions Ė thatís if they will or even if the above was actually the initial problem.

Sorry for the long winded post. Any advice by you guys would be greatly appreciated.
12:38 pm on Feb 24, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



Yes your site should regain its positions just give it some time like few weeks.

But make sure whatever s/w you run doesn't ban IPs. You could setup a firewall for your server and streamline the website code not to waste resources.

You should monitor the server logs directly and see what other 403s are served now and fix those too if necessary. You don't sent error headers for requests on existing and published links.
2:50 pm on Feb 24, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



Thank you so much for the reply.

Logs are no longer showing 403 errors and Googlebot is getting status code 200 again. I'll be keeping a close eye on this on a daily basis.
 

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