E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

6 Things I Learned While Being Banned from Google Search

You may have noticed how, over the last couple of days, things have been relatively quiet over at one of my Internet blogs: http://www.elsua.net. Well, things have gone quiet a little bit there on the front side of things, but on the background it has been one of the most intensive weeks I have had ever since I started blogging nearly 5 years ago! Yes, indeed, and that is not an understatement. And here is why…

A couple of weeks back I got an e-mail from the Google Quality Search Team where I got told that my site, i.e. http://www.elsua.net may have been compromised and that I needed to look into it or it would get banned from Google Search. Of course, with the limited amount of technical knowledge I have for these things I contacted my hosting provider folks, who told me that it was a spoof e-mail & that I could ignore it. So I did.

Big mistake!!

A couple of days later, and, while I was reading through the blog post from one of my colleagues, and good friend, Luis Benitez, (Yes, people confuse us quite a lot, too!) on the topic of his new business card I noticed that I could no longer find http://www.elsua.net through Google Search. Oh oh. No, that can’t be right! My comment in Luis’ blog post was going to be along the lines of "I hardly ever use business cards any longer. I normally just tell people "Hi, my name is Luis Suarez. Google me! #1 on the list of results!"". But apparently, not any longer! I could no longer find a single reference to my blog site.

I was banned! (Fun, fun, fun … NOT!!!)

From there onwards I went down into a spiral of frenetic activity, behind the scenes all along, except for my twitterings on the whole thing, sharing my views on what it is like being banned by such a powerful traffic driver as Google Search is and how to overcome the problem. So I contact my hosting provider once more and I mentioned that I was eventually banned, so it wasn’t so much of an spoof e-mail, was it? No, it wasn’t. Very real!

From there onwards, the interactions with the hosting provider have been rather sporadic from the perspective where they first tried to identify the problem as something to do with Bloglines, but Ben Lowery, came through to me on Twitter and mentioned there was no way it was a problem with Bloglines since the javascript I was using is not crawled by search engines. So second time I am being let down by the hosting provider. The search for the root of the cause continued…

It was then suggested that the problem had to do with http://www.elsua.net running a very back level version of WordPress, v 2.0.2, to be more precise, and that I needed to upgrade to the latest version, v2.6, as soon as possible in order to start addressing some of the issues. Yes, I already knew I was running a very back level version of WordPress, but given my limited technical skills in that area I procrastinated long enough to, apparently run into these problems. So I had to manage a way out of it and, again, with very little help from the hosting provider. Just a single URL link of where to get help! And it would take days before it could be actioned! Nice!

And here is where I got started with some more frenetic activities, because in no time I had to learn how to make the upgrade with the least disruption possible and get back in business soon enough. So, oh the irony of things, I used Google to find my way around and found the super nifty InstantUpgrade WordPress plugin and I made use of the 1.0-beta2 version.

The upgrade of the blog went by rather smooth and in less than 5 minutes! I tell you, if you would need a quick, clean, comprehensible (Even for non techies!) & easy to use plugin InstantUpgrade would be it! Yes, I know that you also have WordPress Automatic Upgrade, but that gave me errors that the former didn’t. Probably because I was running such a back level version of WordPress. Either way, I was getting, slowly, back on track. Or so I thought!

Once the upgrade was completed I noticed how everything seemed to be in place with the new 2.6 release, which is a fantastic upgrade, by the way, with plenty of great new features!, but there was a minor glitch. My entire list of categories was gone! Yes! GONE! All of them! By this time I was pretty much running into panic mode, not knowing what to do next! So I used Google again and I found the wonderful tutorial post from David Cumps (Thanks ever so much, David! Great giveback to the WordPress community!), where he explained, step by step, how to get them back! A bit of a labour intensive job, but since I only have 30 categories it wasn’t too bad.

I still needed to shape up my technical skills on how to get it all done, so I had to get a crash course, over the course of a few minutes, from another good friend of mine, and fellow IBM colleague: Brian Olore, who was patient enough to explain to me how to work and operate things with the SQL database (That was fun, once I got the hang out of it!)  and came to my rescue! Many many thanks, Brian! Appreciated the time and the just in time tutorial!

From there onwards I spent some time re-populating my categories back into the blog and despite some initial glitches here and there things worked out in the end rather smooth and there I was: fully upgraded to 2.6, categories all back to normal and with a huge sense of achievement for something that earlier on in the week I didn’t have a clue where to get started!

But that was step #1, I was still banned from Google. Still am, by the way. But thanks to various different folks, mainly through Twitter with the superb help from Laura Fitton, a.k.a @pistachio, and various folks behind StopBadware, I managed to find the way a couple of good links to follow to try to get me back in shape (Thanks much for that, folks! Great tips coming through all along!).

And just coincidentally another good friend of mine, and fellow IBM colleague, put together a blog post sharing some further details on a common problem we partially shared. Yes, indeed, Rob Smart (Thanks a million, by the way!), over at Google Ate My Blog, explained with screen shots, and step by step, how to get your Web site back into Google’s Search Index through Google’s Webmaster Tools (Yes, I know most folks out there would be familiar with those, but it was the first time for me taking a serious look into them, specially now that I was banned from Google).

Thus earlier on this morning, and after a rather hectic week with lots of activity behind the scenes on http://www.elsua.net, to try to get things back to normal, I have submitted a request for re-consideration by the Google Search Quality team and, hopefully, (Keeping my fingers crossed at this point in time!) I will be back into Google’s Search Index rather soon. Rob told me it took him a couple of days to have the request processed, so I am hoping the same would happen with my own blog as well. We shall see.

For now, I feel like I am at the end of the roller-coaster ride, and what a ride!!!, having had an exhilarating time experiencing what it is like not being indexed by Google. I have learnt lots and lots about managing your blog out there in the wild open Web, but at the same time here are a few other things I have learned along the way:

1. I need to find a new hosting provider… I wasn’t too particularly happy with the one I have got now, given their reaction & involvement with the problem(s) I had. Looking for one here in Europe, reasonably priced, too. Suggestions welcome!

2. http://www.elsua.net is going to go through a major facelift in the next few weeks. It would be about time! So if you see weird things on the main site itself, hang in there, will try to keep the disruption to a minimum (May want to subscribe to the RSS feed for the time being)

3. WordPress is an amazing CMS & blogging platform, but without the community around it of incredibly smart and talented people it would be … nothing! Yes, I just said that! How can you release a full upgrade, v 2.6, which you know is going to create a massive set of issues with missing categories, and don’t inform people about it ahead of time?!?! I had only 30 of them, but folks who have several more dozens, I am sure they weren’t happy. And a fix, v. 2.6.1 or v 2.7, is not going to help much. The harm is done! Long life to the WordPress community!!! (Thanks, David and the folks behind the InstantUpgrade plugin!). Oh, mind you, I still *heart* WordPress. Still think it is one of the most powerful blogging engines available out there! But, take the community with it, please!

4. I have got an amazing network of friends, both inside and outside of the company I work for, who went the extra mile to help out and they surely did! Many many thanks to Brian, Laura (And her network!), Rob and the folks behind StopBadware! Next time we meet up face to face drinks are on me! 😀

5. I should not procrastinate any further with WordPress releases and jump into the latest one at a reasonable time, instead of waiting for far too long! And you shouldn’t either! Dive in, the waters are not too bad & trust your network(s)!

6. Google may still be my friend. After all, a good bunch of the pointers I have mentioned above were provided by Google’s Search engine. Would have been incredibly more difficult having to use any of the others, I can imagine.

Hopefully, I will be back into it over the next few days, so that when folks search for Luis Suarez, a.k.a. elsua, they would find who they were looking for in the first place: yours truly!

Now you know why things have been rather quiet over here this week… Have a good one, everyone!

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  1. Glad I could help out 🙂 Quite a story there, google *is* powerful, seeing how much traffic they bring to a site is amazing, I notice it as well, the major part of my visitors comes from Google 😉

  2. Have you considered hosting at wordpress.com? You can transfer your domain name for only $15 per year and purchase additional space as needed. There may be a limit on how much old data you can transfer, but I’d drop them a note and see if they can do it. I have a few domains (not my main one) with them and wordpress.com handles all the upgrades.

  3. Hi Luis, I left this comment over at it.toolbox before noticing how old the post there was 🙂 — so I’ll copy it in here as well, seeing how your “contact” link goes nowhere. I’m sorry to hear that your site was hacked… it seems they try every older CMS that they can find 🙁

    Looking at your site, I think you might still want to double check that everything has actually been removed. I looked at your site’s indexed URLs together with a pharmaceutical keyword and it looks like there are still some URLs with hidden links to strange sites (using tinyurl to prevent the keywords from being added to this comment :-)): http://tinyurl.com/3rc8qt

    You can see the hidden links by going to one of those URLs and viewing the source code.

    For more feedback, I’d encourage you to start a thread in our Webmaster Help group at http://groups.google.com/group/Google_Webmaster_Help

    Hope it helps!

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