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This 194 message thread spans 7 pages: < < 194 ( 1 2 3 4 [5] 6 7 > >     
The "Minus Thirty" Penalty?
#1 yesterday and #31 today

 2:36 am on Oct 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

Hello everyone,

I just got my site rank #31 on its own domain name and bunch of keywords/phrases I usually watch were bumped from #1 to precisely #31. Those #2 through #10 are sort of all over the map but generally within the first 60 results.

Does anyone have some experience with this? What would the respectful audience here think a most likely reason for such penalty is? What do you suggest as the best strategy to fix this?

There has not been any major redesign recently, just routine adding pages here and there. Some unique, some syndicated industry-related content.

Thanks for any idea or comment!




 11:31 am on Oct 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

My PR5 site was demoted by Google on April 26 to the 31 spot across hundreds of key phrases and the unique domain itself (xyz of xyz.com). All were formerly at No 1 or No 2 spot. I have documented the terms, and I also keep a weekly spreadsheet on Google site rankings and site counts.

We are >30 for every single phrase not just some phrases.

We have a Google webmaster account, and regularly submit in a new sitemap. We have copntacted Google via this account plus about a dozen other ways. All Google ever did was submit an automated response telling me to read the webmaster guidelines.

We have spent hundreds of man hours on this 4 year old site, which has several thousand pages of unique content, on a step-by-step basis trying to eliminate any potential problems . At several points we have updated Google that changes have been made and requested that they re-evaluate (whether manually or automatically - who knows or cares?). These corrections were mostly minor, a little inter-site linking, some 301 redirects that needed to be put in place etc. Some things we just can't help, like several spam sites that have duplicated bits of our content. There is no hope of getting these sites to remove it.

The rub is we have invested years of effort to build up a useful site that brought in some good business. It gets dumped by G, OK obviously you don't get told about this, and it matters not that we were a Tier 1 Adwords customer. But we rigorously try to detect the reason for this penalty, and having failed we waste more money contracting a top SEO firm to see whether they can pick up on something we missed. Still no luck.

Where is the communication from Google? It is the complete lack of any support or help that irks me. We have given up any hope of getting this site back up - and from all I have read on forums etc about PENALTY 31, none of the victims have recovered, even those who have completely rebuilt their site have not been restored. Which makes me wonder whether it would take manual intervention to remove a PENALTY 31.


 11:38 am on Oct 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

Can someone tell me in a few words what is PENALTY 31?


 11:39 am on Oct 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

when you search for your own domain name, and come in 31. likely, that's the highest rnaking you will get for any term on google.


 11:49 am on Oct 19, 2006 (gmt 0)


Its not a matter of what you would you think is reasonable, its a matter of do you think google thinks its reasonable and if not are they penalising for it? I think it is now part of the mix that trips a filter.

I can't find any top site anymore with massive keyword repitition in anchors.

Are you seeing them? I'm just not.


 12:13 pm on Oct 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

On the anchor text thing ( and correct me if i'm wrong ).

I think... no, make that i remember that having more than one kind of anchor text repeated for ( not on, but for ) the same page, just to have these keywords cast some votes for relevancy on all phrases it's supposed to rank for...

And all this under the same domain ( ie. nested in internal navigation, footers, whatever )...

...was spam.

I mean that was the one being filtered and not having the same link text all over your site.

Following the example of that page about cleaning tips for red cars.

If you have 150 pages on your site, which all have links to it, and

- 50 of these read "cleaning tips for red cars",
- 50 read "this widget to clean your red car" and another
- 50 "squeaky clean red cars"...

...as opposed to using "cleaning tips for red cars" a 150 times...
...meant that you were busted for sure. For those phrases at least.

As you were for having anchor text that is like... waaaay too long to be just a navigation link. But, i don't think these count anymore. If G finds either problems, i think the most that it would do is NOT to consider these anchor texts when deciding page relevancy. Unless the numbers of occurrences are in the millions.

On the other hand, what if the anchor text is always put on words and phrases like "click here" or "read the article" or "see more tips"... with a number of such types being used excessively ( and extensively too :P ) thousands, tens of thousands of times, sometimes even different versions for the same pages, sometimes even for crosslinking. Would you be penalized for it? I've never seen problems with that... and an... other site of ours is doing fine with all of its links being such.

I think the whole anchor text problem is set at a thresold where it's so obviously easy to spot that even we'd go "Yeah sure... come on, what's THIS?" when looking at it. And not some casual, contextual or navigational linking on an otherwise legit website.

If this is to set off a -30 penalty i'd be surprised.


 12:57 pm on Oct 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

1:Got it about penalty 31 ,I am OK #1
2:anchor text problem
No problem if your site never had a penalty ,you can rank for blue widgets with some anchor text links point to your page as the best -blue- widget factory....
thats for the SEO heads or eggheads?


 1:02 pm on Oct 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

"if your site never had a penalty"
Well that is past .....
we can now all create duplicate penalties to our competitors if we want ,don't we?
especially if we put faulty links ti wikipedia :)
Is not my fault is Google's fault.


 3:11 pm on Oct 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

daveblake, I feel your pain. I have also been in this mess since late April with zero signs of recovery on a site that follows and has always followed the rules.

Perhaps the filters we are tripping is the "you've used to many vowels on your site" ha! It's getting to that point.. ha!


 3:59 pm on Oct 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

AustrianOak... nah that can't be it, Google has 50-50 vowels.. if that were true they wouldn't be number 1 for search in their index.

Oh, wait! I just checked and MSN is #1 for that term right now, Google is #3 :o

Eegads, you might be onto something ;)


 5:20 pm on Oct 19, 2006 (gmt 0)



 9:24 pm on Oct 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

I am aware of two sites, old sites, one has been around since 96 the other since 2000. Both have been hit by this penalty for over a year and a half, all results -31 including domain name.

A result of -31 for the domain name is the only way to be clear that it is the -31 penalty and not something else.

They have both tried everything to recover, anything that they considered a bit grey has been changed, but to no avail. It leads one to wonder if this is a kind of ban and not just a penalty.

It would be interesting to hear if anyone who has had the -31 for domain name has ever recovered.


 9:38 pm on Oct 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

I was wondering if this is a ban as well.

One of my sites got hit with it. I'm not sure when the -31 took effect, just that it wouldn't rank for it's name for a year and a half. I just within the last few moths noticed the -31 rank when I read about it here.

I've tried everything I can think of, nothing helps. This site is well linked, ranked well for a variety of competitive terms since it's creation in 1998 until it got penalized / banned or whatever has happened.

I know of at least 3 others with the same penalty in the same area, looks like they tried major cleaning to, no positive results for them either.


 10:26 pm on Oct 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

Adam Lasnik just commented on this in the Google Groups.



 11:20 pm on Oct 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

I wonder sometimes how hypocritical those googleguys can get giving comments like that one by lasnik

Well, from what I'm seeing a couple of our sites hit by this penalty in August are crawling back up to the first page with NO changes done to the sites at all and I see some more old sites hit by this penalty in the past few days.


 11:21 pm on Oct 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

Now it's clear, it is a BAN and you need to file a reinclusion request otherwise your site will never recover. So what Adam Lasnik is telling us is that you will suffer this penalty:

- if someone scrapes your site
- if people stay on your site below the threshold they set (thin content)

[edited by: SEOPTI at 11:29 pm (utc) on Oct. 19, 2006]


 11:24 pm on Oct 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

The example given, is a thin affilaite.

They are totally displaying the results from the parent site, and adding no extra value.

The majority of their content is not just duplicate, its framed pages from the other site.

The answer from google, was a bit cryptic. You may recovere without submitting a reinclusion request, or you may have to, but you WON'T recover either way unless you fix the problem.


 11:27 pm on Oct 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

and they have a mess of dead internal and internal links

plus they are linking to a stack of pages with 302 redirects.

No argument that this may not have been penalised before, but these transgressions now seem to be on googles radar.


 11:41 pm on Oct 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

Hmmmm.. Adam Lasnik points:

- Is my site providing unique and compelling content?
- Would most consumers find my site to be more useful than others in this space?
- Am I abiding by all of Google's Webmaster Guidelines?

Well questions 1 and 2 are opinion based.. googles. Of course most webmasters will answer yes. Most will argue #2 that many sites above them are NOT more useful, do NOT provide compelling content, etc., but still rank higher.

I answer all questions without a doubt.. YES, YES and YES! Have tried re-inclusion several times since April.

Yes we know it's a ban/penalty.. just seems to be applied with one eye open.

[edited by: AustrianOak at 11:43 pm (utc) on Oct. 19, 2006]


 11:53 pm on Oct 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

AustrianOak - Have you had any second opinions on your site to give you an objective sense?

Nobody, including our good friends at Google knows everything at the finer levels. That's the way the "secret soup" works. On a more general level there is hope.

Something's not right when this happens and there is either an automated algo filter or a flag has caused the site to be manually adjusted.

If a reinclusion request has gone in and it's still not moving the chances are you still have some work to do.

[ You're not alone! ] :)

[edited by: Whitey at 11:53 pm (utc) on Oct. 19, 2006]


 12:23 am on Oct 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

Whitey, I appreciate the concern. Yes, I have had a half a dozen people look at it with the same conclusions.. everything is fine.

I understand this is how google works, just very frustrating when there seems nothing left to do but sit and wait. Trust me after 6+ months I've looked (and others) over everything.

It's great to have a board like this.. sooner or later someone will recover and will give us more insight.


 2:10 am on Oct 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

Austrian Oak - I posted some opinions over on [webmasterworld.com...] - since i felt the criteria for dealing with a reversal ofthe filters is generic at a general level.

For what it's worth, and purely from a supportive standpoint , be very hard on yourself with the specifics of what you have done. It's like a kind of audit of what you've done and may reveal missed areas.

When filing a reinclusion request, i think the representation has got to be compelling both to you, your team of advisors and Google. Treat it professionally and make it simple for the operator to understand.

An example of someone that has not done their homework [ i mean it respectfully for us all to learn from ] is the site over in Google Groups to which Adam responded.

I wish the siteowner well [ although i don't need to be as polite as Adam ] , but i see that many of the people who are complaining, have sites that are not much better or they've missed the points to fix completely . Sadly, i cannot yet report that i have completely fixed the plank in my own eye :)

If all we say is "How beautiful my site looks to Google " we'll all pass away waiting for a suitor - we must be specific on those fixes to the needs of Google and represent the reinclusion request in a compelling manner. Likewise for the algo's.


I fixed a, b , c
My site has unique value because it provides a , b , c

IMO :)

[edited by: tedster at 3:21 am (utc) on Oct. 20, 2006]


 10:02 am on Oct 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

*.. be very hard on yourself with the specifics of what you have done.*

I'd agree with Whitey, if penalised most webmasters seem to only take the last step back and submit a re-inclusion, IMO once penalised a lot of stuff that previously flew under the radar no longer does and also needs addressing.


 2:31 pm on Oct 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

Whitey, great post - other thread.

And I second that, there should always been a hard look at your website. No matter if your penalized or not.


 3:21 pm on Oct 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

If I were having a problem, I would try to find someone who doesn't know me, or my site, is not a friend, or someone who would be wary of telling me the truth, and preferably knows a little about the subject. i.e., I'd probably solicit one or more people from the boards and forums I frequent.

But that's just me. (And I HAVE done it for certain sites)


 3:38 pm on Oct 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

Agreed. The irony for mecomes when people ask me, and I tell them what I see, and then they try to argue me out of it. So why ask, if you are just going to defend against what you hear, eh?

In my opinion, what Adam said is extremely clear:

- Is my site providing unique and compelling content?
- Would most consumers find my site to be more useful than others in this space?
- Am I abiding by all of Google's Webmaster Guidelines?

The first two points almost scream out -- WE REALLY WENT AFTER THIN AFFILIATE SITES!

And the last point reinforced all the hints Matt Cutts has been dropping for weeks -- There will be trouble coming for those who over-do it on any optimization techniques.

What you always thought was a whiter shade of hat may now be seen as a dusky shade of gray.


 4:19 pm on Oct 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

Not to disagree with your summary of what is going on tedster but to add a bit.

The first two points also point out the danger in presenting your content on more than one url and in having your content copied and presented on another site.


 4:20 pm on Oct 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

What you always thought was a whiter shade of hat may now be seen as a dusky shade of gray.

What did you mean here, tedster ;-)

Right Reading

 4:29 pm on Oct 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

Regarding previously banned sites coming back with a lowered theshold for what kinds of things might be tolerated, does anyone have any insight (or educated guess) about the actual mechanisms of this? Can a once-banned site ever reach the level of trust of a site that has never been banned? Is recovery steady and gradually over time or does it happen in steps or in some kind of curve, or is there a release point where it happens all at once? What kind of timeframe are we talking about? Are there different timeframes for different degrees of infractions (as perceived by G)? If a penalized site comes back but is then penalized a second time does the situation become completely hopeless for that url or is it just back to square one, the same as for a first penalty? Etc.


 5:16 pm on Oct 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

*Can a once-banned site ever reach the level of trust of a site that has never been banned?*

Interesting question, back in the day the suspicion was a once penalised site would never quite regain its previous status, these days with e-mail penalty notifications and official re-inclusion requests things may be different..


 5:23 pm on Oct 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

What you always thought was a whiter shade of hat may now be seen as a dusky shade of gray.

What did you mean here, tedster

What I mean was for many years people may have been doing lots of things they thought of as legitimate "optimizing" -- they were jumping on the SEO flavor of the month that they picked up from forum posts, blogs, newsletters, etc.

Sometimes they may have only half understood. Sometimes they may not have appreciated the true color of the forum they were reading -- and that the tip involved assumed a depth of prior art that they themselves were nowhere near. Like the fact that this technique was for use on a disposable domain, for instance.

Sometimes they may have executed poorly. Sometimes they took one or two techniques and went crazy but ignored the many important factors that go into creating a clear and trustable "signal" for Google. They were looking for the magic pill, or the way around instead of the way through -- however you want to say it.

Some of these optimization gyrations and incantations may not have been helping very much -- or in some cases, they may have slipped through a blind spot in the Google algo. But the website involved still thought it was all "white hat" -- because at least they weren't obviously being penalized. They thought they were still cool with Google because they weren't using autogen scripts to build a family of 200 domain shadow networks, piling up scraped MFA pages, creating wild card subdomains, or whatever they thought of as being a black hat approach.

But now, there's something new at Google -- and when isn't there something new at Google, after all. The website has been building a massive footprint that says "I am trying a lot of things that have nothing to do with serving my visitors". And Google sees it.

That is, all these strange little tips that the *quote* SEO *unquote* has been executing over a long time period have reached critical mass. What they thought of as honest white hat is now clearly seen in Google's eyes to include more than a few black pixels around the edges, and maybe some black pixels are dead center, too.

For a while, Google tried various algo approaches to catch a lot of this, but those earlier approaches created too much collateral damage. Now they've got a new approach.

Sure, there still may be some collateral damage involved here as well. But if I had a site that was showing a "minus thirty" penalty, I would not start out by assuming my innocence. I would assume that I was doing something that Google doesn't want to see influencing their SERPs.

[edited by: tedster at 6:12 pm (utc) on Oct. 20, 2006]


 5:42 pm on Oct 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

It would be interesting to hear if anyone who has had the -31 for domain name has ever recovered.

Sure, all of the time and worse than -30. See Ted's post above.

I've only had one penalty that I thought was really undeserved, wrote to Google about it and my site got put back in the index.

[edited by: Jane_Doe at 5:46 pm (utc) on Oct. 20, 2006]

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