Ripoff Report is completely gone from Google’s index and Google says it’s been done at Ripoff Report’s own request. But, the question now is whether that request was made on purpose or an accident.
Update: As our postscript below explains, Ripoff Report is now back in Google’s index.
As the image above shows, a site:ripoffreport.com search brings up Google’s standard “Your search did not match any documents” message. We learned about this via Jeff Quipp’s tweet this afternoon, but Sean Hakes seems to be the first to notice.
A Google spokesperson says the site is not banned, but was removed after Google received a request to do so via Google Webmaster Tools:
The owner of this site delegated access in our webmaster console to multiple email accounts, and one of those email accounts submitted a url removal request for the site. We’ve emailed the site owner to check whether the site removal was an intended action, or whether the removal was a mistake.
We’ve also reached out to Ripoff Report for comment, but have not received a reply.
Back in March 2010, Google simplified its verification system for adding multiple users to a Webmaster Tools account. Google’s own blog post even contained a warning about delegating ownership to new users:
…remember that anyone you delegate ownership to will have exactly the same access you have. They can delegate to more people, submit URL Removal requests and manage Sitelinks in Webmaster Tools, etc. Only delegate ownership to people you trust!
Bing continues to show about 500,000 pages indexed from Ripoff Report.
Postscript, 10:00 pm PST: An attorney representing Ripoff Report contacted us via email tonight with this response to our article:
Ripoff Report did not intentionally request Google to delist the website, and we are still investigating what occured.
We also updated the text above to clarify how we learned about the situation and who was first to report it.
And finally, as Karun Verma reports in the comments below, Ripoff Report is back in Google’s index now.
Postscript #2: Ed Magedson of Ripoff Report has confirmed to Search Engine land that one of his company’s employees accidentally caused the company to be removed from Google’s index temporarily. Here’s the full statement he sent us:
Hello everyone, this is Ed Magedson, Editor and founder of Ripoff Report,
Yesterday, I nearly had a heart attack when I learned that Ripoff Report was not being listed on Google search results.
It was an “in your face” reminder that sites like Ripoff Report depend on Google to survive. Of course, I was worried that it was the end of Ripoff Report. While I would love to sell the website someday, I sure don’t want it to vanish. I didn’t know it when I started the industry 15 years ago, but review sites are the voice of the people and have changed the way business is done today. Sure, there are copycat sites out there — some of them literally copied our content to get their start. But Ripoff Report is not just the original, it is the only review site that I know of that doesn’t cave to bullying by businesses who want to hide negative information and that protects anonymous authors.
Plus, if Ripoff Report were gone, what would happen to the “reputation management” companies whose business model is hiding the truth by pushing Ripoff Reports down on the search engine rankings? They would lose the ability to charge ridiculously high rates to companies who don’t want to use our fair arbitration program or join our CAP program because it would require them to improve their customer service and provide refunds. How would they feed their children?!
Anyway, all these “what ifs” went away when we learned what really happened. A big “thank you” to Matt McGee, who has much better connections to people at Google than I do. Based on the explanation from Google that Matt posted, we were able to figure out what occurred.
It turns out that one of the tech people hit the wrong button. I still don’t completely understand the technical explanation for happened. What I do understand is that it is fixed. Ripoffreport.com is back on the Google index, defending consumers and freedom of speech on the internet as vigorously as ever.