In a Google Office-hours hangout, John Mueller answered a question about how long it takes for Google to re-rank a website that disappeared and returned. Part of his answer revealed an insight into a rare problem at Google that stops a website from ranking for any keywords at all, not even the name of the domain.
John Mueller described it as a state of limbo, an in-between state.
Something I’ve only encountered a few times that is so rare that it doesn’t have a name, so I call it a legacy domain penalty.
Legacy software is old software that can’t be replaced because so many people use it. For this domain related issue, it’s a penalty that is attached to a domain but does not show up in Google Search Console so it cannot be removed.
There is no way to detect that a domain is affected by this kind of penalty other than the site cannot rank for anything, not even its own domain name.
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But because Search Console doesn’t register the penalty there is no way to submit a reconsideration request because search console reports that there is no penalty.
John Mueller was presented with a legacy domain penalty in an office-hours hangout two years ago. He asked the person who managed the site to pass along the URL.
I monitored the URL for a couple months and after about a month and a half the domain began ranking normally.
I wrote about that issue here: Site Can’t Rank on Google: Is It a Legacy…