Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Day I Disappeared From Google

If you search Google for "Yehuda", I'm third, after and . That puts me ahead of Yehuda Amichai, Yehuda Poliker, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, and other far more illustrious Yehudas Google-wise, although certainly not in any real significance.

It took a long time after I began blogging before I received any sort of traffic from Google, and this really didn't bother me. I was, and still am, concentrated on providing a good reading experience to my regular readers. These are the people who bookmark my site or subscribe to my feed.

In fact, when I began to get Google visitors, I was rather annoyed at them half the time. They often came by mistake and left just as quickly. Some hit my site with ridiculous keywords. Others found one particular post of the week and then left. While the increase in traffic meant a slight increase in income from ad impressions (a penny here or there), it just made slogging through my site stats more difficult.

The Post

Last November I wrote a post regarding the history of sex in board games and a survey of the different types of ways sex is used in board games today. Nothing prurient.

The article was picked up by Brenda Brathwaite, who posted a link to it on the IGDA Sex blog. I got a swamp of traffic from the link. This has happened to me before after certain other posts, so I didn't think much about it and thanked Brenda for the link.

Something strange then happened.


After the initial swamp, my traffic didn't settle back to normal. It stayed about three times what it was before. And this traffic wasn't from clickthroughs via the IGDA link, it was from Google searches for "sex games" and similar. Brenda's link apparently shot my Google value through the roof for these search terms.

I was now getting more than 95% of my traffic via Google, the vast majority of it to that one post. While annoying to have to wade through this extra traffic to see what real traffic I was getting, it didn't significantly bother me, again.


I was standing in the street on Friday with someone who wanted my email and, smiling, I happily told them they could just Google "Yehuda" and click on the third link.

When I got home, I tried it myself on a lark, only to discover that my home page was no longer the third link on Google. In fact, you could not get to my home page via Google at all, on any search results page, using any search terms. Unless you literally typed in the URL of my site, mysite had effectively disappeared from Google.

Oh, you could find some of my pages that had strong links to them, such as my Monopoly listings and tabletop video game adaptations, but otherwise I was gone.

I began to feel like my very existence was in doubt. If Google didn't know me, did I really exist?

Just kidding. But it did seriously annoy me.

When I went to check on Google's tools to find out why I was gone, I discovered that they don't tell you why you have been booted, they only tell you good practices and how to petition for reinstatement. But I saw the records of searches to my site and could only suspect that this was the problem: I had been flagged as a spam site and automatically de-listed.

I sent in a request and shut my computer down for shabbat.

Tonight, I checked and found my site back on Google. It could be that they accepted my explanation that I'm not a spam site. Or it could be that my site was automatically re-added and the entire thing was just some sort of glitch. I don't know, because Google doesn't email you when they de-list you or when they re-list you. At least, I never got any email. Although I included my email in my petition, I don't know if they have it stored anywhere.

One Problem Remaining

A year of so ago my site was knocked down from Page Rank 6 to Page Rank 3. Many other sites experienced similar happenings around the same time. Net consensus was that this was because we sold text link ads.

According to Google, text link ads are often sold simply to boost the other sites' ratings, when they have no otherwise relevant reason for being linked to. But the three text links that I sell on my site are all to game related sites.

I don't know if this makes a difference. I mentioned this in my petition to Google, but my page rank is still down at PR3.


It was a bit disconcerting, especially since I noticed recently that my Technorati ranking has slowly been falling for several months from 10,000 to 60,000 (Technorati rank, like Google rank, is based on the quality and number of incoming links). But I'm back to recalling that I write for my regular readers, not for transient hits from Google.


(Update, June 08, 2008: I've decided to remove the page from Google, to see what happens.)

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