The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Reason: Sneaky mobile redirect
Cause: Rogue popup script from an advertisement service
Length: August 10, 2016 — August 24, 2016
Reconsideration Requests: 2
Reconsideration Rejects: 1
To: Webmaster of http://www.confessionsoftheprofessions.com/,
Google has detected sneaky redirects for mobile users on your site. This means that mobile users visiting your site are redirected to another page or are shown different content than your desktop users. This creates an unexpected experience for Google Search users and violates our Webmaster Guidelines. Therefore Google has prevented the offending pages from showing in search results. This manual spam action has been applied to confessionsoftheprofessions.com/. To reinstate these pages in search results, remove the spam and file a reconsideration request. After we determine that you have complied with our guidelines, we will remove this manual action.
Taken straight from the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, you want to panic, you want to rage, cry, yell, and write a nasty letter or even figure out how to call Google just to tell them that you are angry with the fact that they penalized your website and you don’t deserve it! The best advice I have for you: Don’t panic.
Your website is not permanently banned. Your website has probably not lost its rank, and although you lost some potential visitors these past few days, weeks, or months, loyal visitors will always return, and you will get discovered, regardless of whether you have Google or not. Your penalty is temporary and unless you have been following “black hat SEO” methods and trickery with your website for years, you really have no worries. In a way, it has all been a misunderstanding that you need to clear up with Google.
Know that this is going to take time, anywhere from 2 days up to an average of 1–2 weeks. In worst cases, it could take months and even up to a year or more to clear up the situation, depending on the vastness of your website and the severity of your penalty. It might take a few days to fix a mistake or clear up a Google penalty, but if you know what you did wrong or you have an idea of how to fix what you did wrong, than really, Don’t panic.
In Google We Trust
There is no doubt that when Google decided to become “The Search Engine” for the world, they changed the course of history in the way we search for everything. They changed how websites were discovered, how companies were found, and even how some of these companies would do business on the web. They even changed the way emails were categorized and also searched when they released Gmail. Google’s own policies state that regardless of what the company does, it seeks to “do no evil” and all companies should, in a way, follow and adopt this policy.
While other search engines do exist, most of the world put its complete trust and faith into the Alphabet Corporation, formerly known just as Google, Inc. This has somewhat created a monopoly out of Google, as most search engines might bring in a few dozen to a few hundred visitors, while Google has mastered the art of bringing in hundreds of thousands of visitors, and mostly from organic traffic.
Millions upon million of people and hundreds to thousands of companies and websites rely on Google for the sole purpose of finding and indexing its website, and delivering the best search engine results to those who are typing in the correct keywords and looking for their webpages. Google is technically the representation of the majority of companies on the Internet. Without Google, many of these smaller websites would never have a chance to get discovered in a search engine result. While there are other search engines that do a fairly good job at discovering your website, Google is truly the master engineer of the Internet.
Unfortunately, there is a cost at which we put our trust into Google, who indexes the Internet and our websites for free. The cost is that we must always abide by the Google guidelines, no matter what they are, no matter how or when they change, and the trade-off we give for allowing Google to be our primary and dominant search engine, especially as web designers or businesses: We heavily rely on the traffic provided.
At any time, without a moment’s notice, Google can cut off that traffic and deny your existence on the Internet. Once the penalty is applied, no matter what term is typed into a Google search, even if your website’s name with the dot com is typed in, your website does not exist to Google, and in part, since the majority of the world is using Google to search, your website simply does not exist to the world.
No Stranger To Google Penalty
Back when the Confessions of the Professions first began, we solicited articles from Craigslist, Fiverr, and MyBlogGuest.com. Articles from Fiverr were paid for, while the others were given freely in exchange to be seen. We were simply trying to build a reputation of quality and unique articles. The website reigned freely and was beginning to have a place in the Google search engine.
This lasted for about a year and sometimes two or three articles per day were being published. We helped others gain notoriety with a place to be seen and others helped us by supplying unique content. Contributors linked to a variety of different websites including their own. The content was genuine and authentic. The relationship is and has always remained symbiotic and mutual with our contributors.
Unfortunately, Google had some issues with this too, as they gave “follow” and “nofollow” meaning when it came to links, and all links on Confessions of the Professions were originally follow links, as in my own mind, a link was just a link. To make a longer story short, MyBlogGuest.com and all websites associated with it were penalized. In order to undo this penalty, I quickly took action by adding a nofollow attribute to every single link on the website, and within two days, the penalty had been lifted without issue.
Why Google Penalizes
Google is not always wrong in penalizing websites and de-indexing them or banning them from its search engine. Google seeks to give their customers, those using their search engine, the best possible experience no matter what device they are using, and no matter what screen size it is being viewed on. Google wants to deliver an experience that is trustworthy and honest, not filled with ads, false websites, or “spammy” material. With this power of Google comes great responsibility in ensuring that every website they index is actually following their rules. Some websites purposely do not follow the rules and try to bend or break those rules, while others just happen to accidentally break a guideline rule.
Sometimes Google penalties are by accident, in which a website may have mistakenly copied or scraped several other websites’ content and has now been deemed to be a website that is producing “duplicate content”, which in Google’s eyes, would deem the website as not having true value or contributing anything new to the Internet. In other instances, a website may contain some keywords or words to try and bend Google’s will to index it and get it to a higher position in its search results. As Google technology and algorithms advance, this has become harder to bypass, as Google is able to detect websites that are doing this.
In my case specifically, Google penalized one of my websites because of a rogue advertisement that seemed to dominate and redirect the website on mobile to its own website, unbeknownst to me. Instead of any warning at all, the entire website, Confessions of the Professions, was de-indexed and removed from all of Google.
Google Webmaster is the tool that Google uses to communicate with webmasters and most of the time, the messages and warnings are automated, while other times, for which a manual penalty is applied, Google robots have informed Google staff that a website needs attention, and special attention is given to the website, by a human, for which the website is reviewed and manually given a penalty if found to violate Google policy.
I received a message from Google on Webmaster Tools stating to me the problem. I fixed it, removed the code, and re-submitted my reconsideration request. About a week later, I received a reply that my request was denied because the website was still redirecting in mobile to another site.
Reconsideration request rejected for http://www.confessionsoftheprofessions.com/
To: Webmaster of http://www.confessionsoftheprofessions.com/,
Google has reviewed your site in response to your reconsideration request. Based on this review, Google believes that your site still violates Google Webmaster Guidelines. To resolve all manual actions, review your site again, correct the necessary items, and file another reconsideration request.
A note from your reviewer:
View your website on a mobile phone to see that mobile users visiting your site are redirected to another page or are shown different content than your desktop users. If you do not own a mobile phone, use the mobile emulator tool in Chrome (http://developer.chrome.com/devtools/docs/device-mode) and select a mobile device such as Google Nexus 5 or Apple iPhone 5. Here is an example which illustrates the issue: http://www.confessionsoftheprofessions.com/affordable-care-act-and-nursing-infographic
I checked to see if it was doing it on several of my own mobile devices, including an iPhone, an iPad, Google robots vision (in Google Webmaster tools), and a site above that Google gave me to check mobile devices, only to see that whatever the employee at Google was describing was not actually happening on any of my screens, leading me to the conclusion that this Google employee, whoever it was, did not actually clear their cache, or see if it was actually cleared on multiple devices.
I let them know to clear their cache or try a different browser or refresh the page or do whatever it is they could do, or send me a screenshot, or even a URL to the site where they were being redirected. Whatever the problem was, I could not duplicate it, so I re-submitted another reconsideration request. Each reconsideration request can take a minimum of a week up to 6 weeks or more, as the rumor around the Internet goes, so anyone knows that this amount of time takes its toll on a website, whether you are an e-commerce website or a website that makes it money through advertisements, you are losing traffic with each passing moment and there is no doubt that you are losing money.
The Cost of a Google Penalty
The amount of traffic and revenue that would otherwise have been is unknown, but most companies know that whatever they were making before, they certainly are not making now. The traffic drop is significant enough to notice and the most clearly defined is in Google Analytics. During the pending review of a reconsideration request, as Google takes its time to review the thousands of websites who took the time to clean up their mess and abide by Google guidelines, everyday is another day without traffic and without potential revenue. This does not even take into consideration after Google re-indexes your website that it needs to work its way back into the “main flow” of searches again. In a way, Google has your website by the balls, and each day you do not receive an answer from Google is yet another day with lost business.
In the case of traffic for Confessions of the Professions, we normally receive about 1,000+ visitors a day to the 2000+ pages we have on the website, with a majority of those visitors coming from Google. After our penalty, our traffic dropped significantly to about 200–300 visitors a day. Far more than the traffic we were receiving when the website was in its infancy, but far less than in our prime. Unfortunately, every day that we were not receiving the extra hundreds plus visitors was another day without a significant source of the potential traffic delivered by Google.
It is understandable that Google must do things a certain way, considering the “thousands of customer websites” they have indexed that are under penalty, but there has to be a more efficient way in the process. Sure, someone sits at a desk for 8 to 9 hours a day, reviewing websites, following up with claims, but being the billion dollar industry that Google is, they should consider that for every day that they have de-indexed a website, they are also taking the hit in lost revenue, as there are less websites and less answers that Google is able to give because of a relevant website not coming up at all in their search engine queries.
It brings to point another point: Google has tried to automate every process it can, because for every job a human is not doing, it means a computer is doing it and leads to more profit for Google. In this particular area, however, Google has yet to automate the review process, and it also means that human error can and will happen during its penalty reconsideration.
The Google penalty on Confessions of the Professions dropped the traffic from the thousands to the hundreds. While we have made efforts to not solely rely on Google, instead opting to be discovered on social media, our visitor count is certainly felt. This, however, yielded an interesting outlook on the number of emails we had been receiving before and after the penalty: The number barely changed at all and we were receiving the usual half dozen to dozen weekly emails for our visitors looking to contribute their articles to the website.
Observations of a Google Penalty
Our website publishes articles for individuals and companies who wish to contribute useful content and knowledge to the Internet. From daily rants about the workplace, or a bad boss to more professional information such as new technology a company uses to more productive measures in order to profit. Contributions of articles are completely free, though there is a pending review period of one to two weeks. This never stopped anyone from contributing and even after the penalty, the amount of people wishing to make contributions remained about the same, not once decreasing. While Google increases the number of visits greatly, it does not change the amount of people wishing to contribute to the website, or the type of information being released. Google penalized our website because we had a rogue ad, not because we were producing poor quality articles, only driving to the point that Google is actually losing searches, not our website losing authority on the information we choose to publish.
While traffic from Google certainly helps, the people who are landing on the website from Google are not all contributors, nor does their opinion of the website being listed in a Google search actually matter; rather that the quality of information, and the content and topic of the website, pertains to the relevancy of their article. In other words, our website is dedicated to the focus on understanding people in jobs, careers, and the workplace. There is an appeal of the website to people who go to work everyday and are simply looking for a website with similar values and interests to distribute their knowledge and information.
While we did not make it known that we were penalized at the time, it was important for us to observe the behavior of our visitors during this time, and the conclusion was: While the traffic dropped, the same amount contributors kept sending in their new articles, while we also saw the usual expected amount of new contributors sending in articles. Google had no significant relevance on this number.
Time without Google
Whether we have Google or not, we still published at least one article every day, Monday through Friday, like we have always done since the beginning. The motivation for our website does not rely on the existence of Google, just like most websites don’t form because Google exists. Websites are created for a variety of reasons that I will not list here for this lengthy articles’ sake.
Our website (mine and all of the people who contribute to it) exists because of our innate desire to truly understand our passion for the topics of our website, and we are just trying to help distribute knowledge and information about jobs, careers, and the workplace to the Internet. If Google chooses not to reveal this information to the Internet, we’d like to believe it is actually Google who is losing those potential extra visitors.
As I stated above, if Confessions of the Professions was receiving over 1,000 visitors a day before the Google penalty, and then after the Google penalty the website was receiving only 200–300 visitors a day, this means that when people were searching, they were actually finding our website useful. During the time that our website was not listed in Google search results, people were likely still finding the information they were looking for, but the information may or may not have been as relevant, and that results to a few hundred people that may have not found what they were looking for, and this may have turned them on to another search engine or they may have just given up.
If Google chooses to penalize our website, of which there are over 2,000 pages that have the potential of showing up in a Google search result, that is probably more than 2,000 opportunities Google is missing out on by not showing our pages in their search engines while they continue to delay in checking our reconsideration request. In reality, this amount of people losing interest in a Google search and the amount of pages not being listed in a Google search really means nothing to Google, who has banned sites with thousands of pages in its search results. People will eventually search again, choose a different search keyword, or just forget about it altogether and come back later and search for something else, and other websites will spring up with similar information, so in the sea of the Internet, no one really ever loses, but no website is significant enough to be “beyond the rule”.
While we would love to rely on Google for all of our needs, we knew this was never the best course of action, and from the beginning, we had been utilizing other sources for our means of getting discovered through the distribution of at least a dozen other sources including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Triberr, Tumblr, Pinterest, and a few dozen RSS feeds and distribution sources, rather than just waiting for Googlebot to index the website and await the listing in search engines. Our large reliance, far greater than Google searches, comes from our visitors sharing our articles on their own social media networks. If there is anything that Google underestimated and cannot conquer: It is the power of social media. Google ended up losing this battle when it was realized that Google Plus was an immense failure.
It is certainly understandable that Google must do what it needs to do in order to keep “customers” searching for things on the Internet and keeps sites relevant and competent to be a legit website. When they penalize websites that are true offenders who purposely do things, they are certainly legitimate in what they do, but when Google penalizes websites that have accidentally done something wrong without any warning at all or an opportunity to fix it before the website gets penalized, both Google and the website suffer.
Since I am the one who keeps Confessions of the Professions running, it was only natural of me, as a human being, to become upset with Google for not even giving a warning until after the penalty was applied. It upset me even more when Google denied my reconsideration request the first time, despite the “ad code culprit” no longer even being present on the website, leading me to believe that whoever looked at the site at the time was experiencing their own cache issues.
As a repercussion to Google’s actions against me, and I certainly take it personally since I try to maintain a legit and authentic website, I chose not to use anything related to Google, except my Gmail and Google Hangouts account. As far as a search engine, since we cannot live without one, I was using DuckDuckGo and not once did I suffer or not find something I was looking for in a search engine result. The lure of DuckDuckGo is that while they certainly know what people are searching for, they do not record your information or keep a history of what you are doing, making it very appealing for the person that wants to remain more private when using a search engine.
Does this mean that Google can do without me? Absolutely. I am but one person, so one person not using their service is not going to make a difference to them. It is my only stance against being upset with Google and simply making the choice not to use their service while they have a “penalty” on me. Not using Google simply makes me feel better because it just re-iterates that if other people cannot use their search engine to discover my website, than I will not use their search engine. Penalty upon me is a penalty on everyone else. Might seem a bit selfish or childish of me? Sure, but its not like those websites I searched for with Google will even notice I was not using Google. Don’t worry, I probably found your website on DuckDuckGo.
Not that I will remain mad at Google forever, just disappointed in the fact that their reconsideration review process is slow for a high-tech billion dollar company.
Final Thoughts on Google
I did not write this article to complain that Google gave my website a penalty. My penalty was well deserved, as I had an unsafe script on my website that I was unaware of which was attacking my mobile visitors. I wish that Google had given me a warning and given me a few days to clean it up before they applied the penalty, but they delivered the penalty immediately. My major complaint about the penalty is not the penalty itself, but the amount of time it takes Google to review a reconsideration request for a penalty, and not giving those websites priority that actually make efforts to clear them up as soon as possible.
If Google penalizes a website, they obviously caught something that violated their policy and they took action to ensure it is fixed. This makes sense, but you must abide by anything Google tells you to do in order to get that penalty removed. They literally do have you by the balls until you do exactly what they want you to do, because in the case of a manual penalty, a real person is reviewing the charges against your website. Until they approve that your website is no longer in violation of your product, they can continue rejecting your reconsideration requests for weeks, months, and years at a time, and there is nothing you can do about it.
Google is and always will be the default search engines for most people. They spent a lot of money and time to become ingrained into the minds of the world. They offer great quality products for free that mostly solve problems, from search engines to email to finding images to scheduling calendar events. Google has become the primary source for most of our Internet needs. For this particular service, Google does care about delivering a quality and uninterrupted experience to its users. For the most part, they are good at what they do and they do a great job.
While I am not trying to be biased in this writing, as I could have written this article at any time, whether penalized or not, Google taking away business from any company is its ultimate demise: it operates as a capitalist company in a capitalist society. There is no right or wrong in stealing business away from others: that is what drives competition, innovation, and new business everyday. So most companies that Google has penalized cannot actually sue Google because technically, Google did nothing wrong, except chose not to display a website, for one reason or another.
Unfortunately, any company that decides to rely on Google for gaining business is putting its own reputation, finances, and traffic at risk. When a website gets penalized and it takes weeks to months to reach a verdict and a decision, this lets you know just how much Google cares about your website and your business. The experience of waiting for a reconsideration request is almost traumatizing, as you wait, not knowing what the final decision is going to be, and if it is rejected, than there is just more and more weeks of traumatized waiting.
For this reason, Google tends to somewhat violate its own policy of “don’t be evil”, because once a corporation forgets about the human being, and it becomes all about just another indexed website in the system, Google has pretty much become a non-empathetic, non-sympathetic company, which certainly makes following some of its own policy irrelevant. This is not to say that Google should forego its policy, but it should be more willing to work with businesses rather than remain so indifferent that a business must suffer because of an automated or manual decision by Google.
If you were to order something from a business, particularly a very large well-known corporation, and they took several weeks to respond to your questions or even offer you support, how long would you continue to do business with that company? The fact that a billion dollar company, a company filled with brilliant engineer minds, lacks in the area of reviewing websites at a faster and more considerate pace, shows just how important every website really is to Google, and unfortunately, the truth is that Google does not care about your website or my website. The only website Google really cares about is Google.
For my own personal reasons, as Google will review penalized websites for an unlimited amount of time and tries, they can still be considered a human company with some faults, but just like Google has and will never turn their back on my websites completely, I can never turn away from Google completely, and will still come to rely on their services from time to time, although my experience with Google during this penalty has taught me a lot about the company that Google is, and it has instilled into me plenty of doubt in fully trusting and being confident enough to rely on Google for their services.
While I certainly would never urge anyone to turn away from Google completely, I do leave you with this:
If you run a website and are receiving a fair amount of traffic, just how much have you really come to rely on Google; and if they took that away from you in a split second, just how would you feel about the company you came to rely on for too long?
Reconsideration Request Approved
The waiting time is a time period that you reflect on things you did, things you did not do, things you will never do again, hoping and praying that Google accepts you into their search engine again. There are always lessons to be learned. It seems that remaining honest, being genuine, and not evil, is what Google wants you to do, and the moment you decide to step away from any of those things is the moment Google knows, and they will penalize you for it.
Minutes turn into hours and hours turn into days and days turn into weeks, and hopefully — just hopefully — they don’t turn into months, but that day comes, where you did everything right, you fixed your website problems, and now, in the eyes of Google you are golden again. It sure does take time to recover and even trust Google again, but Google has its reasons, and for whatever reason, they flagged your website. In a way, you were relevant enough to get flagged, so you also must secretly thank Google for keeping you on track of becoming a trusted website. While you might think you can do without it, Google certainly helps more than you think.
This email is the email all penalized websites wait for, the email that says it all, and this just happens to be another great moment in your website’s history.
Reconsideration request approved for http://www.confessionsoftheprofessions.com/
To: Webmaster of http://www.confessionsoftheprofessions.com/,
Good news! Your reconsideration request has been approved and Google has removed any manual action on your site. Keep in mind that removal of a manual action doesn’t guarantee that your site’s ranking will increase.