The Google Blacklist: What It Is & How to Avoid It
Every process on the net is a logical journey, including the Google blacklist – even when it’s done in error. Nothing kills profits like losing your web traffic; so here’s all you need to know about blacklists, how to avoid them, and – if your site is branded with a red warning banner – how to get off them.
Malicious domains are identified by major search engines, security providers, and browser manufacturers via web crawlers, (spiders and bots), which run on algorithms, and look for elements that don’t belong.
What is Google’s Blacklist?
Death-sentence? Curse? Nightmare? A blacklist is a registry of blocked domains, email addresses, and IP addresses.
Operators build reputation systems to manage domains that may automatically install malware/viruses to machines. Domain blacklists are the curated results of these systems. When your domain is put on one of these lists: users aren’t able to access your site directly, the site is removed from search engine indexes, and servers block email from your domain.
Who Owns Blacklists?
Blacklists can be published publicly or kept private and require a query process. The white whale of public blacklists is put out by Spamhuas whose security ranges from checking hyperlinks embedded in emails, to detecting newly registered domains.
Of the private lists, Google’s is arguably the most influential but others like the Barracuda Intent List will target spam URLs specifically through hyperlinks embedded in spam.
How Does Google Blacklist Sites?
Each blacklist has its own criteria for including a domain – all centered around user security. There are the obvious malicious reasons like:
- Phishing scams
- Automatic downloads without notification
- Information scraping
…and some slightly less obvious structural reasons:
- Poor site security
- Outdated plugins & libraries
- Plagiarism or duplicated content
- Poor site mapping that inhibits crawlers
- Third-Party add-ons (may expose your site to potential attacks without your awareness)
Black Hat SEO
SEO is playing a much bigger role in blacklisting as content is becoming an invisibility cloak for embedded keywords and hidden text. Some over-ambitious organizations use Black Hat SEO techniques to try to elevate their search ranking.
When Google discovers sites using techniques like these, they remove them from search engine results entirely. These are some favored Black Hat methods:
- Copy content from other sites
- Google crawlers duplicate content and flag the site for a penalty
- Buy links to your website
- Overpopulating site with spam ads and affiliate links
- Hidden links and text;
- Grayed out content containing keywords, hidden text in scripts, etc. aren’t sophisticated enough to hide from the ever-evolving crawlers.
- Low quality content with excessive use of keywords
- Be careful with content mills – outsourcing risks plagiarism which google penalizes as unnecessary duplication.
Will You Know if You’ve Been Blacklisted?
A sharp dive in site traffic is a sure sign you may have been blacklisted but you are not always directly notified; or the notifications, (which can be subtle or easily missed), are sent via a console; as Google does via webmaster tools.
Uptime.com accounts include a domain blacklist check that scans over 100 of the most popular blacklists each day. If the check is down, you’ll receive an alert with details. The same check is a part of our Monitor Entire Site scan (free to all users) which will also check:
- Mail Server
- Web Server
Valuable tools like the WHOIS check work with the Domain Expiry Check not only to generate an expiration timeline but to monitor changes made to the domain registration information. Alerts here can indicate hackers or other vulnerabilities that contribute to blocked sites.
The best medicine is the preventive kind. Use routine monitoring not only to receive notifications if you are added to a blacklist but to avoid getting stuck on one in the first place.
Clean up Your Site for Review
Each blacklist has its own removal process but before you submit your domain for review make sure you’ve fixed the elements responsible for getting you blacklisted in the first place.
Start simply. Confirm your site securities are updated and functioning. Run an SSL Check to verify your certificate is not expired.
Remove any viruses. Confirm your site has not been compromised, check your third-party add-ons and ad links for integrity.
- Install vetted extensions from web Stores
- Check the permissions required by the extensions
- Limit the number of extensions & add-ons you use
Read your content. Sentence structure and phrasing do play a part. In emails, language is a giant indicator of spam, the same is true for your domain…or maybe you really have been chosen as the beloved friend of foreign royalty to receive 20% of a trust fund for helping them escape their country?
Double check your documentation. If you have downloadable apps you have to have accurate descriptions for function and security. Auto downloads without fair warning will likely be seen as malware/viruses.
Check your email health. Blacklisting via information in your email campaigns is common and not only results in your email address being blocked but affects your domain as well. Monitor your email server and check that email is being delivered as expected.
- Don’t purchase email lists
- Ask your subscribers to add your email address to their contacts
- Keep your contacts updated, offer recipients the opportunity to unsubscribe
If it’s too late for avoidance, Google blacklist removal is possible but it can be tedious. Each blacklist has its own removal process and you may find yourself on more than one.
Here are some resources to manually request your site be removed from a blacklist:
Google Blacklist Removal
Getting your site removed from Google’s blacklist requires a little more effort. The best way to resolve problems with your site is to login to the Google Search Console.
Click on the Manual Actions menu on the left, and correct all the issues noted. Once everything is fixed, go back to the same section and request a review. After the review is completed and no problems are found, your site will no longer on Google’s blacklist.
Once you’ve gotten your site removed from a blacklist you will go through a period of closer scrutiny so put your best foot forward and establish healthy routines; regular monitoring, a consistent content-posting/email schedule, and up-to-date security will all build trust and an improved user experience.
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