Monday, 23 June 2008

Fragile Google Rankings

Over the past few weeks I've been experiencing a drop on traffic on one of my websites, and today finally I found the fix. It just goes to show how easily Google can turn their back on you if their bot is not being looked after.

GLASGOW, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 12: (FILE PHOT...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

So what happened? I hear you ask... Well, it all started with some changes which had been scheduled for release at the beginning of the month meant the site had to come down whilst maintenance work was being carried out.

As the laws of Murphy came into play, the site was payed a visit by Google's trusted Bot, and hey presto, the website was no more than a holding page in Google's eyes.

Confident that Google would be sending its most trusted agent back to the site in a matter of days, I decided to play the SEO waiting game once again (not uncommon in the SEO world).

A week went by and still no sign of getting indexed, which made me wonder if something had gone wrong with the release... could the changes had caused the drop? could the updated or deleted files have been so critical to Google that it simply decided not to come back at all?

Not having direct access to the website files, at this point I decided to have a chat with the project manager to air my concerns and left reasured that none of the files updated as part of that release would have had an impact on Google.

Another two weeks had passed, and all I could do was scratch my head and hope that Google would soon come back to take pitty on the traffic being sent through them (lowest volumes since records begun). Not even updating the sitemap file did the trick.

So what was the problem? I hear you shout... Well, somehow we ended up with a corrupt Robots.txt file, which even though available in the root of the site, was inacessible to Google (and all other search engine bots).

Recreating and uploading this file once again has done the trick... Google is once again seen as a friend rather than an enemy.

I'd be interested in hearing your stories.

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