5 Ways to Be Banned By Google Overnight

Google’s algorithms may be a black box, but its Webmaster Guidelines are meant to leave little room for speculation, yet some gray area remains. While the guidelines are written in easy-to-use language and outline some of the illicit practices that may lead to a site being removed entirely from the Google index or otherwise impacted by an algorithmic or manual spam action, there are no real-word examples, albeit for good reason. 

Here are past and present examples of how to get your website banned by Google overnight. 

1. Participate in Link Schemes

Any links intended to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered a link scheme, as was the case in 2011, when the New York Times uncovered a link-building scheme by J.C. Penney. The retailer ranked number one for bedding, dresses, area rugs, and other vague and specific keywords, with “uncanny regularity” for several months. After consulting with an industry expert, the New York Times found 2,015 pages with phrases like “casual dresses,” “evening dresses,” “little black dress” or “cocktail dress,” which all bounced directly to the main page for dresses on 

NYT excerpt: There are links to’s dresses page on sites about diseases, cameras, cars, dogs, aluminum sheets, travel, snoring, diamond drills, bathroom tiles, hotel furniture, online games, commodities, fishing, Adobe Flash, glass shower doors, jokes and dentists — and the list goes on.

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J.C. Penney said they did not authorize and were not involved or aware of the posting of links that the New York Times sent to them. J.C. Penney immediately fired their SEO agency, but not before Google took manual action against the brand for violating its guidelines. Overnight, J.C. Penney was vanished from search results for anything other than branded keywords (a.k.a. direct searches for J.C. Penney). It took about three months for J.C. Penney to move up the rankings and regain lost rankings

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2. Include Doorway Pages

Google defines doorway pages as those that are large sets of poor-quality pages where each page is optimized for a specific keyword or phrase. Google always frowns upon manipulating search engines and deceiving users. In 2006, BMW suffered Google’s wrath for setting up doorway pages to attract search engines and redirect traffic to its German website, BMW’s page rank was reduced to zero. While BMW stated it did not intend to deceive users, the company added, “However, if Google says all doorway pages are illegal we have to take this into consideration." 

3. Sell Links that Pass PageRank

Selling links that pass PageRank violates Google’s quality guidelines; this includes advertorial pages with embedded links that pass PageRank. Google recently penalized Interflora, even removing it from branded search results, for using advertorials to solely influence search rankings. An example of this, is that Interflora reportedly sent bloggers floral arrangements in exchange for links. This was once considered a gray area, but is clearly black hat now. 

Google’s Matt Cutts responded, indirectly, to this incident with this blog

4. Scrape Content

In 2012, Google blacklisted a network of websites run by the family of U.K. Parliament member Grant Shapps after the search giant found the sites breached rules on copyright infringement and that they were based on scraped content. This latter black-hat tactic is typically when webmasters use content from other sites to try to increase credibility and the volume of pages. 

According to Shapps’s spokesman (as reported by the Guardian UK), the Parliament member “is quite simply not involved in this business.” Certainly, it was avoidable bad press nonetheless.  

5. Use a “Bad” Blog Network 

If your site belongs to a blog network whose purpose is to create backlinks, Google will de-index them and penalize you. In 2012, this happened to Build My Rank, which ultimately closed down and relaunched as HP Backlinks. The relaunch, however, has many people wondering if (and when) Google will go after the network again. 

Check out this guide to identifying bad links and disavowing them.  

Bonus: Start Cloaking — If you want to get on Google’s bad side, present different content or URLs to human users and search engines. Google bans this practice, because it provides users with different results than they expected. Unfortunately, some sites unknowingly use cloaking. For example, if your site is compromised, hackers may use cloaking to make the hack harder for the site owner to detect. Use Website Magazine’s cloaking checker to avoid a penalty. 


Comments (8)

These are things that have always been able to get you banned, but were only enforced within the last couple of years.
Fixing Mshtml.dll Errors
03.03.2015 11:05 PM
I have never had a problem with any of this because Its very simple, just be honest.
03.22.2013 05:16 PM
It can be scary what techniques are still being offered from so-call internet marketers even after the 'Panda' update concerning link building, traffic, etc.
03.22.2013 01:08 PM
If #1 truly is accurate, then what's to stop "negative SEO attacks", where unscrupulous firms do massive link building with "dangerous" links to their competitors in an effort to get them banned? It's possible as private studies have shown, regardless how much Matt Cutts wants to deny it.
Edward Y
03.21.2013 03:53 PM
Amberly thanks for the info on the cloaking checker. Did not know that existed.
Web Design Firm
03.20.2013 05:45 PM
Good article with simple approachable points. I wonder however where the lines between content "scraping" and content building and sharing fall. Since white papers, guest blogging, e-books, and other content sharing are encouraged (crowd content in a sense), people need to realize that building quality content takes time and attention. I feel that we will see more regulations on content and how quality Google considers it to be, as our online community becomes more and more social.
Jacqueline S
03.19.2013 05:17 PM
Nice article. I continue to be surprised that becoming a Webimax customer isn't a surefire way to get a site blacklisted. Their tactics (at least of two years ago) included two of the above as core to their service.
Ben Harrison (@OnlineOutcomes)
03.19.2013 04:32 PM
This is a great article and really gives a site owner a good idea of the fine line between what is known as "Black Hat SEO" and true "White Hat". We in the SEO business are all too aware that when up against a higher ranking site using the wrong SEO methods we must stand fast to the Google guidelines as it is only a matter of time before the site using methods like those described in this article will bring them down.
David S Freid aka SEO Seattle®
03.19.2013 04:12 PM

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