I have been building a website that’s been doing quite nicely for some search terms (surprisingly well, actually) that is about a year old, has had no “Black Hat” SEO tactics applied to it, but does have very high quality well researched articles, many of which are over 1,000 words in length.
A couple of weeks ago though, I noticed that it was dropping in Google’s SERP’s like a rock thrown into the ocean, until finally, the entire site appeared to be completely deindexed. I quickly set up a profile and registered the site with Google Webmaster Tools, and as I suspected, Google reported that zero pages had been indexed. It was a rather astonishing situation that a site that had been doing so well and was getting great feedback from visitors, would suddenly disappear from Google’s search.
There were no “warning” letters in the GWMT account, no security issues, and at first, nothing that I could see for being any reason to have it deindexed completely. Except, I then noticed that Google was reporting an inordinately high number – over 400 (there are about a total of 415 pages on the site) of “Soft 404” errors! Just about every page was listed.
I then requested from within GWMT’s to “Fetch as Google” with the “Render” option selected. When I could see what Google rendered, I finally was able to nail down the reason – a plugin that I had installed called “Slimstat” seemed to be generating an error when the Google Bot visited, but not when I or other human visitors visited!
The error message that Google Bot received was:
Fatal Error: Unsupported operand types in /home/…wp-slimstat.php on line 728
I was using both the latest version of WordPress and Slimstat at the time. I did not have a chance to do much research into the error message, but I immediately deactivated the Slimstat plugin and then requested Google Bot to refetch the site. This time, I could see that the error message was gone and the full site appeared.
It took about five days, but my previous rankings are gradually returning. They are not all back yet, but it’s nice to see some traffic again from Google (traffic from Yahoo has actually increased in the past month).
So, if your site appears to have been deindexed by Google (when even doing an exact phrase search with quotes shows nothing in the SERP’s), it may not be for the reasons you first suspect. I had to admit I was wondering if perhaps someone had attempted to sabotage my site, perhaps by sending a ton of crappy links to it. But that was not the case. One of the first things to check is to see how Google is actually seeing your site, and then fix that asap if you see something wrong!
Let me know if I can help you.