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|Notifying Webmasters of Penalties|
Googles -30 Serp Penalty
According to Adam Lasnik in a post on October 20 at [groups.google.com...]
"...We really do our best to be as detailed as possible in our guidelines and our overall help docs. We also notify a huge number of Webmasters with regards to existing or upcoming penalties..."
1) how many out there active in these newsgroups have been notified by Google of: a) existing penalties and b) upcoming penalties
2) Since the hottest topic today appears to be the -30 serp penalty (which I have been a victim of for almost 11 months), how many out there have been notified of the reason for this specific penalty?
3) What reason did Google give you for this -30 serp penalty?
4) How many of you have actually recovered from this -30 serp penalty?
"he told me to make sure I was not buying or selling links to manipulate page rank."
Hopefully, Adam will comment on what I'm about to ask.
How does google distinguish between links that have been bought for advertising and links that have been bought for page rank manipulation? Or does google distinguish between the two?
If you have a good clean site and you pay a fee to be reviewed for inclusion in a directory and then get in, you have effectively paid for a link and whatever pagerank comes with that link. Are you then guilty of pagerank manipulation?.
If you buy text links from TLA, are you also guilty of pagerank manipulation? Because let's be honest, most of those links don't provide a lot of traffic. They provide pagerank benefits.
This has been mentioned at WebmasterWorld a thousand times: What is google really saying? That you can't advertise on other sites by buying links because this goofs with their silly pagerank algos?
And someone please give me an example of "buying links for pagerank manipulation", because if you want to be honest about it---
1. links bought from sites that actually have a reason to exist, such as newspapers, real blogs, and subject oriented sites, are for advertising.
2. links bought from directories that 99% of the public will never hear of, visit, or use, are for pagerank and anchor text. So is DMOZ and so is yahoo directory for that matter.
This being the case, can google ever penalize sites that have paid for directory links? That would knock out gazillions of sites. And google even states in its webmaster guidelines that you SHOULD submit to relevant directories.
So, I ask again, what the heck is buying links for pagerank manipuation. I bet google doesn't know, BECAUSE ITS NOT POSSIBLE TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN LINKS BOUGHT FOR PR AND LINKS BOUGHT FOR ADVERTISING PURPOSES.
|BECAUSE ITS NOT POSSIBLE TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN LINKS BOUGHT FOR PR AND LINKS BOUGHT FOR ADVERTISING PURPOSES. |
This is not true..it is all too easy for Google to figure out patterns for outbound links from certain sites...(that may or may not be "selling" links)...and chances are...if a site is "selling" links .. this equates to individuals or businesses looking to pick up some inbound PR value...
Now whether Google can see this as a site selling PR or a site simply selling Ads (text based anchor text link Ads)..this will depend on a specific set of historical markers for the site showing an increase in outbounds + the rate of PR acquisition...(and this is measured per global industry sector for historical PR/link patterns)
It would be very easy for Google to "see" this...based on a number of factors per sites showing an inordinate amount of outbounds with specific anchor text to a specific industry sector...OR ... a whole set of non-related outbounds to a wide range of sectors...
AND...which page or pages these outbounds originate from ...(root home vs. interior pages)...
Now if you have "purchased" a series of inbound links from small niche sites with a wide dispersion...then this would more difficult to nail down...
HOWEVER, Google can then take a look at the link acquisition ratio of your site(s) and do some calcs based on the site(s) history for link acquisition and the natural build up of PR...
"It would be very easy for Google to "see" this...based on a number of factors per sites showing an inordinate amount of outbounds with specific anchor text to a specific industry sector..."
But this would be very overt, very clumsy, and the site the links would originate from probably wouldn't be much of a site in terms of content, reputation, and traffic. It would be pretty obvious, given the parameters you list, what was really going on.
Let's suppose that a well known site charity that is completely whitehat decides to start selling links to raise revenue needed for their cause. The pages these links would originate from are 1. old, 2. have very low traffic, 3. have high pagerank (pr6, pr7).
If a webmaster decides to buy links from such a site and his/her own site has nothing to do with the charity (and would not get much related traffic as a result), then the webmaster would probably be buying them for the purpose of getting pagerank. But the seller (the charity site) might not even know what the heck pagerank is. So, one party is selling links for revenue, one party is buying links for pagerank. How does google look at this?
Let's adjust the scenario and say that the seller states "our pages are wellranked in google, have high pagerank, and will probably help your own site rank well in google". What then? Is the seller guilty of selling pagerank versus advertising links?
What if the seller simply says "drive traffic to your site by buying a link from our site which is highly valued by google? What then?
I DON'T think it's easy for google to identify paid links or to distinguish between links that have been bought for advertising versus links that have been bought for PR.
Google can catch the ones that are obvious schemes conducted by idiots.
Interesting topic, since the discussion of the -30 serp penalty came up in webmaster world we looked at our sites and noticed a few keywords in the serps were like that for our sites. After looking at the pages and determining that they were within the guidelines we took a close look at the sites that replaced us and deterimened they had more content than we did. So we added a few more pages that we felt would be useful to the person on the site and a week later the pages were indexed and we went from -30 to the top 10 once again.
Sometimes a drop in ranking can be from your competition having just a bit more useful content. Check the sites that replaced you... Do not always assume its a penalty on your site....
interesting idea, but the -31 position is right across the board, it doesn't just affect a few pages but an entire site. Even if you search www.site.com it will come up at 31, with 3 pages of other sites before you, they have your url on one of their pages.
So as an example say for a range of keywords your site would come up say, 6, 3, 2, 9, 12, 5 etc in the returned search results for the various keywords. Now it will come up exactly position 31 for each of them. Its not that G has added 30 spots to previous results, it places you at exactly 31 for them.
Also, if say you came up 49 for a search term, you still come up 49. It only seems to affect results that you did relatively well for.
trinorthlighting, congrats! I wish it were that simple in most cases. 99%+ of my penalized pages have more useful & original content than my competitors in relation to similar pages (my opinion).. yet I am still #31. How odd.. always that special #31.. :)
Also, I think is it clear that the -31 is a penalty.. because most of us under it have our domain results as #31 as well. It's impossible for 30 pages to rank more relevant searching for your domain.
.. to be continued.
Anyways.. this thread is about letting us know of our penalties that do not appear on the guidelines yet can cripple valuable sites.
Let's keep the -30 stuff in the -30 topic
[edited by: AustrianOak at 7:11 pm (utc) on Nov. 5, 2006]
|So as an example say for a range of keywords your site would come up say, 6, 3, 2, 9, 12, 5 etc in the returned search results for the various keywords. Now it will come up exactly position 31 for each of them. |
Not quite how I saw it when it happened. It's not 'The 31 Penalty' its 'The -31 Penalty'. I'm sure others will report different and so on.
For many years I've kept a spreadsheat of the search terms the site has ranked for ( from the web logs + any that I came accross) and check them to see any movement.
When the site first dropped, I didn't notice the -31. It was a post here on www that mentioned thier site had dropped 31 positions. I checked this against a few kewywords and found we had dropped exactly -31 postions. So previous serp of say 12 went to 43, 4->35 etc.
If the penalty was to put the site at position 31 then ...erm its not going to work is it! Only one site per search term could be penalised.
where I agree with avalanches post is. Only one url www.site.com can be position 31.
(SEO guys, check some domains they at 31? Customers for you!;)
So if we accept the -31 penalty exist. Then I think there's a bit of a chance for research.
Looking at sites < 31 is not going to help you. You should realy already know what not to do.
However looking at sites >31 may reveal some sort of patterns (maybe). We should be able to assume that 'most', 'some', 'a few' sites > 31 have had a penalty applied.
If you know your niche/area and have noticed other sites disapear check their url. Check positions > 31 See anything?
Which leads me to this... Why hasn't someone come up with 'Search Archive'.
G any chance of being able get the search terms in webmaster central emailed every month like adwords reports?
You'd be much better working on your site and checking for any problems. But for those bored stoopid with no customers left... sommat t' do.
That's me then!
"However looking at sites >31 may reveal some sort of patterns (maybe). We should be able to assume that 'most', 'some', 'a few' sites > 31 have had a penalty applied."
Excellent point.. been at it since late April.. still nothing new found that hasn't been covered to be of any reasonable aid.
Feel free to post any new observations that may be helpful.
I have been stickied a couple of examples. On each example I looked at back links for the sites on msn and yahoo. Each site screams of paid links or a link exchange programs! I have easily identified three link exchange companies just by looking at the source code of the pages linking to the sites within five minutes. So, those who have penalties, look at your back links and where they came from.
Looks like google is cracking down on paid links and link exchanges.
Regarding reinclusion requests... if you feel that your site has been penalized (not just naturally re-ranked due to ongoing algorithm changes) due to something you've done on the site *OR* something that was done before you took ownership of the domain, then by all means, file a reinclusion request. It can't hurt, and it may help.
|Adam, most people are claiming that they have unwiitingly broken googles rules, and would gladly fix the problem, except they don't know what the problem is, or that if they fix it, whether it will do any good, as the penalty may last for years. |
I think it'd be a rare occurrence to see rankings or penalties lasting for years. With that said, I also know that there are some cases in which Webmasters genuinely don't know how their site is violating our guidelines and would indeed "gladly fix the problem" if they had more information. We're constantly trying to think of ways to effectively balance disclosures to well-meaning Webmasters while not helping the iterative process for Webmasters intending to deceive Google and Google users. As I noted earlier, we're also improving and expanding our documentation so that there'll be more "ah ha! That's what I need to fix!" moments.
|Is it possible for a competitor to get websites removed? |
Thankfully, this is extremely unlikely, and in fact I've not seen a single case of it myself, despite the enormous number of situations I've reviewed.
|What I do not understand is why Google feels it is necessary to penalize an entire site -- why not simply remove all the offending pages, and leave the rest alone? |
There are many reasons why we focus on sites rather than pages in this context, including:
- It sends a more clear signal to Webmasters so that violations typically get fixed ASAP.
- It prevents Google users from seeing a domain rank highly, despite spammy practices on many pages.
- It makes it harder for Webspammers to experiment with thresholds ("Let me try keyword stuffing and nasty redirects on THESE pages... and keep these other pages as the control group and let's see how Google treats the individual pages...")
|How does google distinguish between links that have been bought for advertising and links that have been bought for page rank manipulation? Or does google distinguish between the two? |
Yes, we do have a pretty strong ability to discern intent in this area. A site that's buying links on high-PR sites with *clearly* no interest in or reasonable expectation of actual traffic... it does set off alarm bells. And sometimes it's rather amusingly blatant ("But Adam... I really do expect thousands of eager targeted visitors to my Icelandic-Cheap-Flights.tv site from that tiny white-on-white text link buried 3 levels deep on PR7 HotGardeningTips4U.info!")
No system is perfect, and we're always refining how we interpret intent and how we use this and related information to improve our search results. And not just in the aggregate sense: many of us Googlers are regularly using individuals' sites mentioned around the Web (including on our own Webmaster Help Google Group) as valuable data points. :)
Only person I've ever paid for traffic is G.
It seems accepted that if you buy link exchanges google frowns upon you.
What's realy a scary thought. If they do penalise you for buying link exchanges.
Then G you have opened up a whole new pandoras box.
Who paid for the link exchange?
Most people who buy links that are questionable are doing more than just than just buying links (Blackhats) Its obvious that some people just got caught and penalized. Google has given us all fair warning on these subjects for quite some time.
Thanks for the comments! Good to see you posting!
|There are many reasons why we focus on sites rather than pages in this context... |
Thank you for taking the time to come to this forum and help explain why things happen in Googleworld the way they do -- your feedback is much appreciated.
That said, the explanation reminds me of the old "we must destroy the village to save the village" philosophy -- you are punishing many to capture a few. It remains my hope that a reasonable system could be developed where flags could go up to let webmasters know that they are on the edge of a penalty. I've been saying for some time that the sitemap.xml control panel is the ideal place for this "fair warning" -- if the storm warnings are ignored, then no one can complain when their site is washed away.
You know, reading over my previous exchanges with Adam I think I missed his 'hint' as to what I needed to do to regain my good standing with Google. I think I understand why Google representitives often need to be vague in describing issues to webmasters, but sometimes we (I) need things spelled out. Sorry for being so dense.
Fortunately I have implemented Adam's suggestion 2 weeks ago already and hopefully I'll get back into G's good graces soon.
I have just filed a reinclusion request. I had not done so before because I assumed a reinclusion request was only if your site has been removed from G's index completely and needs re-included, but according to Adam's advice above, this isn't the case. Isn't this a misnomer?
dataguy, keep us posted if you return and what changes you made.
|Adam_Lasnik said I think it'd be a rare occurrence to see rankings or penalties lasting for years. |
I know one site that still does not know what was done wrong and can get no response from Google and it has been 13 months so far.
About half a dozen re-inclusion requests have been submitted asking whether a variety of problems * might be the cause and there has been no response.
* 302 vs 301; www. versus non www.; links from newspaper and TV station sites; renegade free stats provider changing name and starting to use popups; etc.
We're constantly trying to think of ways to effectively balance disclosures to well-meaning Webmasters while not helping the iterative process for Webmasters intending to deceive Google and Google users.
This is the Key Adam. Goog lcuk with that.
BTW, site of mine penalised 1 July with +30 penalty, just went 29 on all terms. WOohoo! This is after I submitted a reinclusion request, admitting i did wrong and detailing the following errors
a. Accidental hidden anchors from brokden code.
b. Accidental duplicate content from broken CMS.
c. Many hundreds of thousands of orhpaned pages still being served to search engines from broken cms afte page name changes.
d. Thin affiliate shopping system.(I think). Google still indexed the pages, so no idea if this was a problem, far more helpful if google jsut removed them from the index if thin affilaite was the problem, then I'd know that I needed to make them fatter.
e. Broken sitemap presenting form search results for many search combinations with same, incorrect, duplciate results.
f. Used some syndicated content, now removed.
g. ok, dagnammit, I DID do a massive link exchange. Sigh. No, they could not seen to be naturally added, though I could argue, they are all relevant, being related to my industry. Would I ahve done it if rankings were not an issue? Probably not, so removed most.
Still left to fix.
f. Have duplciate titles etc and paged pages, eg pg2,3,4 of a search results have same titles as page 1.
g. Adding more content to site.
h. Presenting content in a better way so more different content on each page. Fact is, much of the content I display, is identical to the content on other sites, its how much value is added that makes them unique.
So, 3 months in. I did do a reincusion request 30 days ago as well, but realised only recently that I had not got all possible problems.
ANyone else gone 29?
still at #31 for all terms. Interesting that you have made it from the 4th to the 3rd page.. keep us posted please. How does your "domain" rank in google?
[edited by: AustrianOak at 2:48 am (utc) on Nov. 6, 2006]
If you were indeed penalized for the links and you get out of them today, expect at least a three to six month penalty.
The majority of the "links" and "resources" pages that google probally has indexed are in the supplemental index. Since google is very slow in crawling the supplemental index, those penalties will stick around a little while.
I am still at 31 for domain name, but some of my lesser search are now at 29, and yes, there are more than 29 results.
Links were added, and killed, 90 days ago.
Other sisues found and addressed, only in the last 3 weeks.
|("But Adam... I really do expect thousands of eager targeted visitors to my Icelandic-Cheap-Flights.tv site from that tiny white-on-white text link buried 3 levels deep on PR7 HotGardeningTips4U.info!") |
But what is with "Powered by" links?
Links to the company which created the web site?
All my sites have text links to the web site of my own internet promotion company.
Can this cause a disastrous penalty?
It seems to me that this 'penalty' is applied by an other algorithme than the normal Google algorithme. I have a site about blue widgets, bluewidgets.com and when you search for bluewidgets it always ranked first with sitelinks beneath them. That means is it the best top result for that keyword. But now it's ranking 31...with sitelinks...
Seems to me that the normal algorithme thinks the site belongs on the nr 1 spot with some extra sitelinks, and after that the second algorithme adds 30 positions to it.
There's one thing I can imagine that could trigger the penalty. We added some extra pages with good content to get the site more content-rich because there was not much content at all. We put those pages in a subfolder and now that subfolder is penalized? It is really good content that adds good value to the site.
It is a filter, the -30 penalty is a warning sign that your on the way to more than likely getting banned. At least google gave a -30 penatly and is giving people a chance.
"It is a filter, the -30 penalty is a warning sign that your on the way to more than likely getting banned. At least google gave a -30 penatly and is giving people a chance."
True. There may be hundreds of filters that are setting off the -30 penalty. I would not jump to say that it's a sign of being banned.. since I've been in it for nearly 8 months.
Google is giving us a penalty.. some will get a chance that have mistakes that can be found in the guidelines. Others are not given much of a chance at all.. just a penalty with no reason.
Hopefully soon, there will be more guidance as to the cause(s) of -30 penalty.
I am patient and will find the solution in due time, however what kills me the most is at least 50% of the sites that rank above me are filled with spam, deceptive doorway pages, etc. Hard sometimes for the good guys to get hit instead.
[edited by: AustrianOak at 3:06 pm (utc) on Nov. 6, 2006]
some of my results are also appearing on spot #29 from #31 I am seeing today. Very insignificant key words.. however it's something new.
domain still ranks at #31
I must say that as long as I've been reading threads like this, when looking at the actual sites in question, there were invariably such clear violations of G's guidelines that, like it or not, G's actions were not too surprising.
But more recently (last 6 to 12 months?) I've been approached by a number of individuals who've shown me sites that have been severely penalized or outright banned when even a quick survey reveals them to be equally good versus other competition, and in a number of cases, far better behaved. In virtually every recent case like that, my guess was that the issue had to do with these site's marketing programs, meaning: ads that are paid for. However it's not just about links.
G claims to be getting "better" when it comes to finding and assessing bought links but the results are ill considered IMHO because they are arbitrary and inconsistent, often favoring larger sites over smaller ones, even when the larger players are behaving far worse ... an issue that seems to be pervasive these days. It's getting harder and harder to be a little guy. The algorithmic playing field has not been level for quite some time, and the same seems to hold true even on the human review side of things.
Real world guidelines:
- It's Low Risk to buy links for traffic and manipulation if you're big enough.
- It's High Risk to buy links even just for traffic, if you're not big enough.
- Stealing competitors' content, running faux sites for anti competitive reasons, and any other number of tactics are viable, if you're big enough to support them in part through the use of bought links.
Whether or not I agree with a given policy is my concern. Whether or not a policy is implemented unevenly is another matter.
Its a huge double standard for ecommerce sites. They buy links for traffic in hopes that they convert to sales. When they pay for links they are renting space on someone elses website.
How many times do people watch television, say a football game and see advertisements for cleaning supplies? That is not relevant to football at all so should television decide to stop airing those commercials? A paid advertisement is a paid advertisement. If webmasters think that paid links will convert to sales even if they are not relevant sites, then why should google care?
They should not penalize or ban sites for link purchases or buying links, only discount the links!
|They should not penalize or ban sites for link purchases or buying links, only discount the links! |
Absolutely right. And when did it become OK for a $450 Billion worldwide corporation to start dictating how small businesses can generate income? Simply refuse to index the pages that have significant infractions; ignore the paid links, affiliate banners, et al; and judge each page by the quality of its CONTENT.
Am I wrong in remembering that ranking quality content was how they started out?
"How many times do people watch television, say a football game and see advertisements for cleaning supplies? That is not relevant to football at all so should television decide to stop airing those commercials? A paid advertisement is a paid advertisement. If webmasters think that paid links will convert to sales even if they are not relevant sites, then why should google care? "
That sums it up nicely. The problem is that google's ranking methods don't quite fit with reality. They should discount the links they don't like, but don't penalize a site for getting all the links it can. It's only natural that sites would attempt to get as much visibility as possible.
Adam said this in regard to detecting links that have been bought for advertising versus links that have been bought for page rank manipulation: "But Adam... I really do expect thousands of eager targeted visitors to my Icelandic-Cheap-Flights.tv site from that tiny white-on-white text link buried 3 levels deep on PR7 HotGardeningTips4U.info!"
The only problem I see with that scenario is that the link is white-on-white and hidden. It's obviously for pagerank purposes. But if you take that out, who's to say that people who garden a lot wouldn't be interested in cheap flights to iceland? I would doubt it personally, but then I don't understand the appeal of teletubbies, elmo, most sitcoms, and hiphop.
I'm hoping that Adam was really referring to the hidden link aspect in that example and wasn't inferring that a link between sites should conjure some obvious similarity between the two sites in order to be valid---Because when I watch the superbowl I see all kinds of ads that have nothing to do with football. But the advertisers are placing their ads there because of all the eyeballs they can catch.
If I had a chance to get a somewhat unrelated link from a PR 9 site, I might take it because it would likely mean high traffic and a lot of eyeballs. That's advertising and PERFECTLY LOGICAL. However, because of Google I might (i.e. would probably) hesitate due to the fear--illogical but well-inspired by google--that my site would be singled out for a smack down.
That sends out a very bad signal to webmasters who are looking for adword alternatives. Search really needs to think this through a bit more before it opens up a very large can of worms.
When webmasters buy links, we are spending money with another company in good faith that links will be placed on good sites and we will get traffic. If that company uses hidden text google should inform me so I can fire them. They should not penalize, just discount!
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