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My legitimate co.cc site was deleted from Google, what do I do?
189 points by beatpanda on July 6, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 42 comments
I've had a legitimate blog at http://beatpanda.co.cc for several years(1), and Google just removed all co.cc domains from its search results, including my blog. Who do I appeal to in this case? Am I better off just getting a new domain, and if so, how can I recover the traffic that was previously coming from Google before they removed my site?

Thanks for any help you all can provide.

(1) I know some of you will go there and see that the posts only go back to 2011- the fact that my archives aren't up right now is a separate issue.

There is essentially no one to appeal to, unless someone on the Google webspam team takes a personal interest in this when it hits the top page of HN. (Which has been known to happen.) That will be to avoid the PR hit rather than out of the moral persuasiveness of avoiding collateral damage. Google does collateral damage on a fairly frequent basis.

They prefer to deal with it by "scalable communication methods" rather than by speaking to you about it. For example, to a certain philosophy within the borg, that blog post should teach you your lesson about being in a "bad neighborhood." (This euphemism has become a term of art in the SEO community. Google recommends you not link to websites in bad neighborhoods.)

how can I recover the traffic that was previously coming from Google before they removed my site?

You seem to be under the impression that that traffic was yours to begin with. I think the borg believes it is their traffic, though they would be circumspect about saying that in as many words. They'll sell it to you, for example. (Google makes scads on selling brands their own branded keywords.)

Most professional SEOs of my acquaintance would note that, if one has a site burned, redirecting that site to a new site is a fairly risky endeavor for that new site.

P.S. If one needs a new free web host and one is worried about getting smacked down again for being in a bad neighborhood, a cynical person might recommend blogspot.com. You'll still be in a bad neighborhood, but you'll be in a bad neighborhood which is highly unlikely to get hit with the orbital ion cannon.

"Most professional SEOs of my acquaintance would note that, if one has a site burned, redirecting that site to a new site is a fairly risky endeavor for that new site."

I don't think so. If that were the case (and we were competitors) then all I would need to do in order to hurt your rankings would be to stuff a website with a multitude of buy-viagra-penis-enlargement-type of spam/malware and then 301 to your site.

It is not impossible for Google to differentiate between "some site redirects to brand new site" and "some site redirects to existing site".

In the first case Google should try to transfer reputation. In the second case Google should weight that redirect less.

One thing wrong with your logic is that this sort of stuff does happen, and Google's algorithm does let cracks like this through.

OK, what about another form of redirect? Would a simple message be best?

This site has moved. Please go to the new site (no href - don't let google see) www.example.com.

The lack of an href is not required. Google explicitly will not fault you for links /to/ your site from "bad neighborhoods" (for the obvious reason).

An automatic redirect (w/ javascript) would probably be the best way to go, with a message explaining the move while the reader waits the 5 seconds for the redirect to take effect. (Google doesn't evaluate javascript, to my knowledge.)

Googlebot evaluates Javascript.

Actually when Google removes a site from the index, it takes away some of the traffic that belongs to the website owner.

Our startups' site was removed from the index some time ago (although we didn't use any kind of SEO - not even white hat. Our strategy was to not rely on Google for promotion).

What we discovered was that some of the browsers, namely Firefox, use Google's "I'm feeling lucky" when users type in the site name without ".com" at the end.

So - the moment Google removed us from the index, a blog article about our startup (which now took the first spot in Google when searching for our name) became the main source of indirect traffic. That was happening, among other things, because people typed in our startups' name in the navigation (not search!) bar, and the blogpost appeared instead of our site.

Google is a monopolist, and while users have a choice whether to use Google or Bing, website owners do not. If you're not in Google, you will loose traffic. Not just search traffic.

That's not Google taking away traffic that belongs to a website. That's either 1) user error (typing a string of letters != typing a URL) or 2) poor design on Mozilla's part.

Honestly, I would buy the .com and just move on. There's not much you can do except protect yourself going forward. If you own your domain you can always pick up and move to a new host.

For what its worth, people will probably search for you upon not finding your site. With an exact match domain, you should rank really well and your fans can find you. Maybe throw a HelloBar.com style message at the top explaining what happened, so they know they've found your new home.

Best of luck. Hate that this happened to you.

If your site isn't appearing in Google search results, or it's performing more poorly than it once did (and you believe that it does not violate our Webmaster Guidelines), you can ask Google to reconsider your site.


Thanks, this was the answer I was looking for.

You can appeal through the Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools but I wouldn't bother in your case. They are not likely to make an exception. I would recommend getting a new domain.

On possible way that an appeal might work is if you 301 redirected all content to the new domain and then go into GWT and do an appeal to be re-included stating the case that you were collateral damage from the .co.cc ban.

I would only do this if your site is without a doubt a legitimate site (if it seems even slightly fishy, I don't think they'll help and you're better off starting fresh) and doesn't have even a hint of shady SEOing.

I want to state for the record that I am meticulous about keeping my blog updated and thus hack-free, I do not use it for any kind of nefarious SEO purposes, and I don't even run advertising. It's just my blog.

In that case, would 301 redirects help or hurt? Am I better off just starting fresh, and hoping that anybody who cares enough about my content just updates their links?

It must depend in part on how people use your site and what you hope to happen with the move. If most of your users just go to the top front page every day to read what you've posted, you could almost certainly post the new URL on your front page (maybe not even link it and make them copy-and-paste it), a one-time slight inconvenience for your users and you start from zero on accumulating new Google juice. After a little while, you'll start showing up in Google rankings again.

If a lot of people have bookmarks and/or on-page links to your site, and you have a bunch of regular users that you want to transition, a 301 is the web-standard right way to do that; but the cost is that you'll have a longer walk in the Google wilderness. I have to assume that the "transferred from a bad neighbourhood" poison isn't permanent (especially if you take down the 301s after a few weeks or a month) but it seems like it would start you off with negative Google juice.

Which might be worth it, or might not. How many referrals were you getting from Google before the co.cc thing went down?

Get a new domain (second-level, that you actually own this time) and accurately 301 all your URLs to the new domain. You cannot "regain" your Google traffic. You'll need to rebuild, but 301s will at least help put your inbound links back on solid footing.

This has an excellent chance of contaminating the new domain. Consider Big Daddy G's view of the world: they've just declared *.co.cc persona non grata. 301 redirecting is designed to tell them that foo.co.cc is now doing business at example.net. I would not do that to a domain I didn't want to lose.

Google can't take this extreme position as competitors could do this to your site as well. While I would personally not 301 to the new site, technically the benefit should outweigh the possible negatives. See paid links and directories for past reference on this subject. If getting a site down-ranked was as easy as linking TO them from a bad neighborhood, black-hat SEO would be all over it and would abuse the technique enough to make Google adjust (which most likely has happened many times)

It is certainly possible to burn a new domain by pointing a penalized domain at it. If domain #2 contains the same content as domain #1 pre-burning, and domain #1 301s to domain #2, that's almost proof-positive that they're under the same control. Google's standard of proof isn't neaaaaaaaaaaarly that high.

_If getting a site down-ranked was as easy as linking TO them from a bad neighborhood, black-hat SEO would be all over it_

it has happened and it can work (but not always)

Having removed *.co.cc from their index, is Google going to continue to index it? There doesn't seem to be any reason for them to do so (they would just be throwing the information away), and if they don't then they would never become aware of the 301 redirect.

You know how Dropbox accidentally sent out DMCA notifications to someone because that was an unexpected side effect of using an internal tool to take down a particular file out of a public Dropbox? It may be the case that Google engineers are fully cognizant of the side effects of their internal tools, and they may never have unintended consequences or room for optimization.

A lot of SEO comes down to risk/reward guesstimations. Heads, Google does what you think would be optimal and you get a wee bit of extra juice to your newly un-burned website. Tails, Google hired a human at some point and you're on your third website this week.

I generally get paid to advise companies for whom losing the website is sort of a big deal, so I'm fairly risk adverse with these things. I know folks with different models.

How about a redirect that filters out googles bot?

Or even a Javascript one. Even Google cannot solve the halting problem.

Google can and does include a Javascript interpreter in their crawler: http://www.seomoz.org/ugc/new-reality-google-follows-links-i... . They don't need to solve the halting problem in order to run a Javascript interpreter for a certain amount of time(maybe 10-15 seconds) and see how that changes the page content or redirects to a different site.

If you want to make your visitors wait until after the heat death of the universe before you actually redirect them, I'm sure you'll be able to fool Google too.

I wonder if 301s would help, as in: Do deindexed sites still get crawled and have other impacts on search results (like feeding link juice to other sites)?

I do not think appealing (or trying to) will get you anywhere. But you might try contacting them (http://www.google.com/contact/)

If being searchable through Google is really important for you, get a new domain. If the contents of your site where that important, Google will index it and will be available sooner than you think.

Whoops, you were collateral damage.

Yeah, google does not care about you. Sorry.

Have you contacted Google with you question yet? I would imagine if enough people ask them about this, they would have to come up with a solution somehow. Perhaps you might start a campaign requesting Google to provide a tool for legitimate businesses and companies to "migrate" their .cc traffic to a new domain name. Again, it wouldn't happen if you don't ask and if you don't ask, it would never happen. If there are enough people asking --> publicity --> Google will answer. But sometimes, all it takes for things to change is one person. That person can be you :)

Yes, I have, but Google makes it especially difficult to direct a message to an actual person as opposed to a message board. I figured it was more likely they would catch wind of the complaint if it was here.

beatpanda, if you haven't seen this article in Technology Review, it's a good read: http://www.technologyreview.com/computing/37718/ and discusses co.cc. It's definitely the case that we saw a ton of spam on co.cc, which is one of the reasons why I posted at https://plus.google.com/u/0/109412257237874861202/posts/eanX... to remind people that if we see enough spam on a freehost, that can affect the reputation for the entire domain and result in us taking action on that freehost.

It remains to be seen to what degree co.cc can remove or clean the amount of spam on their domain. In the mean time, if you want to have a long-term presence on the web that's also in Google's index, you could get your own domain name or check out other freehosts such as WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger, Posterous, etc.

Props to you for getting back to me. I'm not mad, and this isn't even the first time being on co.cc has bitten me in the ass, so maybe now's a good time to move on.

What about 301 redirects though? Am I going to be penalized for directing traffic from the old domain to a new one?

Harras Matt Cutts here (http://www.mattcutts.com/) (in a nice way, obviously).

He is the head of search quality at Google.

One interesting point this brings up is that it's sometimes difficult to tell whether you're in a "bad neighborhood" or not.

In other words, if I'm considering using co.cc to host my (legitimate) blog, there's no realistic way for me to browse through all 11 million subdirectories; notice that some 6,000 are spammy; and conclude that the site has a high risk of being burned by Google.

Of course, there are indirect methods of discerning a host's reputation and likeliness to attract spammers -- starting from the fact that co.cc is a free service -- but they may be too difficult for a layman to pursue.

Hence, I am going to start offering Google Burn Insurance. For a low monthly premium, you'll have peace of mind knowing that if your legitimate, non-spammy site is ever banned as "collateral damage," you'll get a tidy lump-sum payment that you can use to rebuild your site somewhere else.

Any takers? :)

Here's a hint: If it's free on the internet, spammers and scammers will try to take advantage of it. If you can't see anything to stop them, then there's probably something you can't see that will stop them. Like Google delisting the entire domain.

Pay for your own domain and hosting service and this won't happen to you.

co.cc clearly advertises bulk purchases of 1000 domains from their front page. if you can't tell from this that it's a 'bad neighborhood', maybe you should be hiring somebody else to handle your web stuff for you.

1) Spend the 10 bucks on a real domain (beatpanda.com,.net, .co and .org are all available).

2) Diversify your traffic sources.

beatpanda.com is available, better go ahead and buy it

Who your DNS provider is counts.

This topic came up very often in the last months. bit.ly is not just a cool name, it is the Lybian official domain and when Gadaffi has a problem with it he can shut it down.

There has been a case where a free-subdomain hoster linked everyone to an advertiser one day.

I am sorry to see you get hit like this, but relying solely on one company's ability to send traffic your way is also a bit blunt.

Like I said, it's sad, but they got the power over their traffic and can do whatever they see fit with it - even cancel it.

While sounding harsh, say "lesson learned" and diversify your traffic sources into more baskets. If one does the lemming thing, you still got others sending visitors your way.

Get a real domain, have your old domain do 301 redirects to the new.

Move it to a different domain. Not much else you can do.

>what do I do? register new domain

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