Credit where credit is due: I used the article below as a guide to solve this issue:
I had a patron come to me asking if I knew why their site wasn’t showing up in a Google Search. At first, I thought they were simply using too broad a search phrase. Turns out they were hacked and the hackers messed with some pages and their Robots.txt file. Oh, and did I mention it was a nursery school? Who hacks a nursery school?!
The recovery process is painful and time-consuming. So I wanted to share my experience in hopes I can help another unfortunate soul.
Search with Site URL
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process a web designer undertakes to aid the search engines in finding her site. There are many ways to do this and SEO is something we could spend weeks on. Suffice it to say, the main way a site is found is through keywords. Since SEO is also so competitive, your site might just not rank too high. A surefire way to see if Google sees your site is you go to google.com and search your URL exactly as it appears but put site: before it. For example:
Confirmation of Penalization
If Google sees it, the next thing you should check is if Google has penalized your site by going to https://ismywebsitepenalized.com and putting in your site name.
If you get an ugly read error like the one above, then you’ve got work to do.
Make Any Edits To Robots.txt
The easiest fix is to make sure the Robots.txt file is allowing all the search engines to index the site. In my poor patron’s case, the hack messed with this and disallowed certain agents. We reset it to the default:
User-agent: * Disallow:
You can read all about how to use the file here: http://www.robotstxt.org/robotstxt.html
If you want to see one in action, click here: http://www.robotstxt.org/robots.txt
Make a Sitemap
Sometimes the penalty is because you don’t have a sitemap file. A sitemap is a file (usually xml) that lists each page on your site. If you have a simple page, you can just create it yourself. If you have a site that’s a little more complex or don’t want to create it yourself, visit http://xml-sitemaps.com and you can create on there. Caveat, if your site is over 500 pages, this site won’t be able to help you.
Once we added the sitemap and uploaded it to the site, Google was saying it STILL couldn’t see the file, even though we were looking right at it. I thought it sounded like a permission issue, but we didn’t have access to change the permissions on the HTML root folder because the login we had dropped us in that folder. Enter the .htaccess file.
I’ve run across this file on one of the websites I manage. But in those cases, it had to do with permissions. Apparently, it can also be used for redirects, which is where this journey ended up going.
The patron himself ended up finding this issue and ultimately resolving it. I love it when that happens. That means I’ve taught him how to fish…so to speak.
Here’s a resource on the issue: http://www.htaccess-guide.com/redirects/
Make a Reconsideration Request
If your site still refused to show up in Google, you can always make a Reconsideration request. The process is essentially this:
- Sign into your Search Console account.
- Verify all versions of your site to ensure you have complete and accurate data.
- Visit the Manual Actions section to see if Google has taken any actions on your site.
- Fix issues on your site as described by the manual action.
- Review Security Issues in Search Console for other possible issues with your site.
- Click on ‘Request a review’ to ask Google to reconsider your site.
I took those steps from here: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35843?hl=en