I'm an 'part-time' webmaster helping some non-profit sites exist on the Internet. I'm not a good programmer, but I've been interested in Internet marketing and SEO for over a decade now.
About a week ago I was shocked to find out how easy it is for an established website to get a 'manual penalty' and be basically removed by competitors from Google search index. Here is some background:
1. The site that was removed from Google has been online since 2004. It (still) has over 5,000 pages indexed in Google. Never penalized until a week ago.
2. Now it shows up in Google results only if you search for the site's domain (including domain extension). For example, example.com (but it won't show up when searching for: example).
3. Before the penalty, the domain hadn't been set up with Google Webmaster Tools and didn't have Adsense or any advertising (besides some nofollow links to external websites); it is purely informational website. After I signed up with Webmaster Tools (I noticed less visitors in Cpanel stats), I noticed a message about 'unnatural linking pointing to the affected website.' There were around 10 domains (mostly with .ru extensions) that appeared to be linking to the affected site. For example, a few sites linked to the same page from hundreds of pages. It surely didn't seem natural; most likely the links were put in the footer, site-wide. However, it's even hard to find the links - on most of them the page source doesn't even show the outgoing links! Maybe they put it randomly (OR maybe they only show it to Google bots to fake the results, who knows). And some of the dishonest websites had Google Adsense on them.
That's all there is. It took several low-quality foreign domains and some questionable links for a 9-year old website to be severely penalized by Google. I never believed it would be possible, but it apparently still is.
I hope Google spam team will look into it and our website will fully recover (I used the Disavow tool to disable the linking domains and submitted request to review the site). In my view, Google should either not count these links or penalize the sites that link to it. It's not fair to penalize the victim.. Google should find better ways to address such situations because it is very stressful, confusing, and time-consuming for the affected parties. What am I supposed to tell the owners - that some spammy sites linked to their website and that was enough to kill their Google rankings? I doubt they're going to believe me :(
[edited by: aakk9999 at 3:42 pm (utc) on Dec 11, 2013]
[edit reason] Replaced exampledomain . com with example.com as exampledomain . com is a real domain [/edit]