You do a Google search for your keywords. You scroll through results and – surprise! – you don’t find your site. You go to page two of Google results – still nothing. If you are one of the webmasters who experienced this problem, we understand your frustration. We also have an explanation for it, given by Google’s John Mueller himself: a weird Google algorithm bug that puts website in a limbo state.
What Causes the Google Algorithm Bug?
According to John Mueller, this bug is a legacy one, having been identified for the first time way back in 2004. Back then, a marketer noticed that his website would not rank at all. True, he was a SEO beginner (but so were many of the top specialists we have at the present), yet he did everything by the book.
Also, the Google toolbar (now retired) showed that the site had PageRank. Upon further investigation, it became apparent that the domain name had been previously used for a spam website. Thus, the Google algorithm bug had put the site in a limbo state – both appearing to rank and permanently penalised from appearing in search results.
The same issue has been recently detected, more than 15 years after its first occurrence.
How to Know If Your Site Suffers from Ranking Limbo?
Now that the Google algorithm bug has resurfaced, web owners are honestly worried about their sites. How can you tell if your site is penalised, if it has the green light for page rank?
Here are a few ways to identify the issue:
1. The Site Does Not Show Up on Google Search Console
The Google Search Console is the go to place to check if your site has good standing with the search engine. If you cannot find it listed there as your registered domain, then most definitely you have this problem.
2. You Can’t Find Your Site in a Domain Name Search
For further clarification, open a Google Search page and start searching for your domain name. Sites affected by the Google algorithm bug will not appear in search results for this very specific search term.
3. Find If Your Domain Name Was a Spam Site
Many domain names have a past – and some of them not a very savoury one. You may have purchased your domain name in good faith, as it is a good description for your business. But do you know who used it in the past and for what purposes?
Actually, you can. Archive.org is the largest internet archive. It saves snapshots of all the websites that have ever existed, taken at various time intervals. You can search for your domain name and go back as far in time as possible. At a certain point, you may discover that it was a spam site.
How to Solve the Limbo State of Your Website?
Now, after all the bad news, is there some silver lining for you? How do you get rid of the Google algorithm bug? Unfortunately, the problem is complex. You want to report a problem to Google, but it does not appear as a penalty problem. Thus, it is impossible to choose an option and submit the query to the Google support team. Technically, your page ranks.
However, John Mueller encourages site owners to reach out to the support team through any channels available and describe the issue in your own words. He also says that the chances of a random website getting in a limbo state are very rare. Nonetheless, do not be discouraged if you are one of the unlucky few. The Google team promises to solve the technical issue very quickly and get your site back on the whitelist for ranking.
A Separate Google Crawling Issue Affected AMP Cache
Related to this issue, SEOs identified a separate Google ranking issue. In the middle of November, they noticed a flat line for the crawling of their AMP cache. Through various tweets they reported that the Google web crawler seemed to have stopped working completely for most of the web
The new bug was also confirmed by Google’s John Mueller. However, he explained that this was an isolated issue and not very well spread He ended his tweet saying that “there were no negative effects overall”.
Finally, the Google team sent an update announcing that they resolved the bug.
Even a giant like Google has glitches. Sometimes, you may notice significant drops in traffic or other issues that you cannot explain. The best policy is to check whether Google issued an automatic or manual penalty for your site.
If you cannot find any explanation, contact the Google team. It may be the Google algorithm bug or you may have stumbled upon a completely new problem. With patience and friendly communication, you will eventually get your website to show up on Google Search results again. Good luck!