It's not pretty.
Writes Goad: "Before it fell out with Google, this was good news for GoCompare as the comparison site had established itself as the top website within Google's natural / organic listings for the term. However, since being 'blacklisted' it has dropped down the listings and, at the time of writing, is currently on the seventh page of listings -- i.e. well outside of the top 10."
This can be very disconcerting for smaller businesses who frequently do their own search engine optimization, as a fall from grace in Google comes without warning and can be tricky to unravel. At first, Goad mentions that Google picked up on "irregular inbound links to the site."
But Search Engine Roundtable speculates that Goad's analysis shows that Google "is after your paid links. It appears that that is what caused the domain to be removed from the index to begin with."
Wired blogger Betsy Schiffman also tries to get to the bottom of the reason for the site getting the boot by Google. She writes: "Admittedly, we haven't heard the full story: It's possible that Gocompare somehow violated Google's terms of service and was penalized accordingly. Gocompare wouldn't comment beyond the fact that they've gotten the boot in Google search results and they don't know why."
Commenting on Sphinn, an Internet marketing forum, Goad adds some clarification. He says that it seems that "paid links were the main culprit" in this case.
But comments on Insiders View, an insurance blog, indicate that pleasing or angering Google is still, often, a hit or miss affair. One writes: "I can't see how these guys get penalised when other don't, if it is it will [be] political rather than the fact [that] there [sic] worse than anyone else."
Pleasing, and angering, the search engines, especially Google, is a complicated affair and one that smaller businesses need to take seriously if they want to get some attention on the very crowded Web.
It is possible to go it alone -- Goad includes a helpful link to Google's webmaster guidelines -- but this story illustrates, above all, that smaller businesses need to tread carefully when optimizing their site for the search engines.
As Goad sums up in his original post (in reference to the insurance comparison industry but applicable to all): "Ensuring that a website is well-optimised for search engines is vital in such a competitive industry, but this example illustrates the fine balance that needs to be achieved between effective SEO and breaking the ï¿¼rulesï¿¼."