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This 201 message thread spans 7 pages: < < 201 ( 1 2 3 4 [5] 6 7 > >     
Google's 950 Penalty
What do we know about it, and how do we get out of it?

 2:05 pm on Jan 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

I've read a lot about Google's -30 Penalty, where pages on a site drop 30 positions, but most of the comments about the 950 Penalty, where pages on a site drop to the very bottom or last page of the search results, have been comments made in other topic threads.

What do we really know about this penalty, what causes it, and most important of all, how do we fix our sites to restore normal rankings?



 8:18 pm on Jan 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

Last night after trying to find why some of my pages are gone I suddenly realized it was probably related to those 950 penalty messages on WW so here I go. I have just a few pages missing so far but the fear that more will go motivates me to find the answer.

An individual page all but disappears for the most usual search term like 'ancient widgets' but if I pick something else from the page like 'brass widgets' even though brass widgets are a minor mention on the page it will rank in the first 2 or 3 pages. So it is as if the word 'ancient' is blocked but from that page only. In fact if you search 'ancient widgets' another page from my site will come up even though ancient widgets are only mentioned on that page. Also pages from other sites that have linked to my ancient widget page will come up in the first few pages of the serps.

So I think it might be a one word penalty on that page only. Since this wasn't happening earlier it could be an algo change. I'm wondering if it might be word density as in my topic it is often necessary to repeat the word frequently when writing an article. I have tried decreasing the word density on one page which made for some awkward writing. It is too early to see if it will solve the problem.

I don't think affiliate links are the answer as I have exactly the same affiliates on the pages that haven't plunged in the serps. Also I don't think it has anything to do with high-value key words as the words that are hurting my pages would only be of interest in my niche topic. My sites are not retail either. I have links from gov. and edu. sites as well so that is no protection. Also this penalty seems to have nothing to do with PR. The pages still have the same PR3 or 4 as they had before.

far more common among niche authority sites

If not more common on this kind of site the penalty is certainly hitting them.

seems to be repetition of keywords on page title and in headlines on page.

Hmm, there may be something to this. I added headings throughout my articles a while back so it would be easier for people who skim to see what the page is about or to find what especially interests them. The missing page I worked on a couple of days ago had the key word in every one of these. I took it out of all but one so we will see if it helped.

I need to go back and see how often I use the two words together like 'ancient widgets'. maybe it is the words in combination.

I agree with Andy. It's insane that people with informational sites that have been around for years now have to pick through individual pages to try to change them so they won't have this penalty. I've spent 3 days on this instead of writing an article that I've spend weeks researching. Does Google want unique and informative content added to the web or not? I'm just spouting off here. I think we are getting caught in an algo meant to catch scrapers but it's catching a lot more pages than that.


 9:20 pm on Jan 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

in my case the pages, in addition to having keywords repeated in the page title and headlines on the page, are also repeated in the anchor text of incoming links to the pages...


 10:12 pm on Jan 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

That's pretty much it. You need it vary it up as much as possible between anchor text, title, meta desc and headings.

I've made some changes and I guess we'll see if it makes any difference. Now I think of it one of my pages that had this penalty a few months ago got it's rankings restored shortly after I changed some titles up.


 10:23 pm on Jan 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

Our site tanked today - we have:

title: Headline and Keywords
meta-keywords: Keywords
meta-description: Headline

bread crumb navigation: Keywords
H1: Headline

content: unique self written content

Up to now some pages went from #1 or #2 to #8 or #9. Some others went down to #43 from #2 and some are lost somewhere in Googleplex.


 11:01 pm on Jan 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

ok then, so def seems to be at least partly related to overoptimization of keywords that are repeated in anchor text, title, meta descriptino and headlines on page...maybe some dup content thrown in there too...

Are we seeing a war on sites with db generated templates or on sites that look like they have db generated templates?

not sure why this is a war G thinks is worth fighting, but anyway...

it puts those of with those kinds of sites in difficult position...not just little guys but giants, too, are affected by this...

i mean, i guess that we could all trash the existing cat > subat > listing navigation which has built much of the web...but wont this just mean that everyone is scrambling to replace what already works with something less clear, less logical and less effcient...and frankly spammier?

Will we have to put fields in our dbs for some kind of handwritten descriptions, titles, and anchor text? Find new ways to manipulate our data to make titles that are sufficiently quirky and non-standardized to pass muster with G? Stop slicing data into little bits to feed to userss, but give it all to them on a big plate?

I am really not sure what direction to take, where this is going or how users are better served, anyone have any ideas?

The only one that occurs to tweak a bit, and wait for Matt to turn down the dials. Oh, and maybe its time to get back off the wagon, too.

[edited by: PhattusCattus at 11:21 pm (utc) on Jan. 20, 2007]


 12:26 am on Jan 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

I agree. It wouldn't be wise to do anything beyond some tweaking. This whole thing could sort itself out and major changes could be all for nothing or worse.

Hopefully adjustments will be made or we can figure out for sure what it is causing the penalty. Part of the difficulty is that some of the people posting here may have some other sort of penalty. If you have lost all or most of your site I suspect it's some other factor that has caused it.

I did check the idea that it might be combinations of words that were penalized. But whenever the one word that seems to be the problem was in the search phrase the missing page was lost in the serps. I'm pretty certain it is one word that causes the problem for the page.


 1:12 am on Jan 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

The two page thing isn't involved, but it does show why it is a very good idea to have more than one page focused on key concept. It hurts to lose a #1 result, but if you also have a #7 to back it up, at least you aren't off the map entirely.

The thing that really pisses me off about (one type of) this stupid penalty is I have been adding pages below the directory index page penalized, and in all cases the new pages have been penalized. So, it's a certainty that it isn't a keyword or optimization penalty attached to the new pages. The penalty is penalizing a directory, not even a page really.

I'm either too stubborn to add the pages in the wrong directory to avoid this penalty, or too delusionally faithfull that somebody at the plex with FIX THEIR IDIOT SEARCH ENGINE one of these days, and then everything will be in the logical place.


 1:26 am on Jan 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

yeah, me too. like they say, hope is the last thing to die...


 2:10 am on Jan 21, 2007 (gmt 0)


I was happy to read your last 2 posts,
you have written whati i was thinking but couldn't write,
thank you


 3:43 am on Jan 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

I don't know how to build pages if you don't use the keywords in the page title, meta description, headlines, and body text. If you have a blue widget page, you can't make it work by using blue whosit in the title, pink doodad in the meta description, orange yaya in the headlines, and white widget in the body text.

It just doesn't identify the page properly.

Am I missing something? How do you do this without repeating the keywords in these critical areas?


 6:34 am on Jan 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

I posted the same info on the "Google serp change" forum, but I'm not sure if I am experiencing the 950 penalty or not.

Here's some additional information and my story, for what it is worth:
We have a site I started in 1998, with a PR 5/6 (seems to fluctuate recently).

We are still ranking at #1 for our two top-traffic terms, but we have dropped off of the radar (to the 80's or 90's) for almost everything else.

A couple of our important terms will still show us as #1 IF I put quotes around them.

For example, we currently rank at #88 for area widgets (no quotes), but #1 for "area widgets" (with quotes). Any ideas on this phenomenon?

I am also anxious to see if anyone is slowly showing improvement. Having weathered several of these updates, I am optimistic overall but I haven't seen this exact thing happen before with our site.


 10:46 am on Jan 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

seems like an anti-seo measure by dropping exact matches


 3:24 pm on Jan 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

I got caught, too. Strange thing: Yesterday, when using site:, I could see only 2 pages of the affected domain. The rest were "omitted results".

Today it seems that all the pages (about 800) are back. Had someone the same effect?


 3:29 pm on Jan 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

Putting quotes around search terms seems to bring pages up to the 400 range. Other pages that are normally at the bottom of the results with mine also seem to come up as well, although not in the same order.

One site, which actually is listed below my pages without quotes, had one of their pages jump to 300-something, way ahead of my pages.

I've also noticed in my logs that people seem to be digging deeper in Google for results. I'm finding a slight increase in referrals from Google, but they are listed at #111, 223, etc., in the SERPs. Could this mean people are having to go deeper into Google's SERPs to find what they want?

I'm sure it's not competition, there just isn't that much in this niche. If people are having to click that deep to find what they want, it doesn't bode well for Google.


 8:16 pm on Jan 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

Jason, If the search phrase is in quotes and the words are not a common term it is quite likely it will come up first. If you don't use quotes a lot of pages that have the words anywhere on the page can come up ahead of you. So quotes can be a way to see if you are in Google's index at all but beyond that they don't mean much.

For everyone, I also need to add that although the article pages that are all but missing on my site seem to be related to a key word the index page linking them is now in deep trouble and that pages problem doesn't seem to be at all related to any keyword.


 8:18 pm on Jan 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

I just checked my Webmaster Tools account. According to it, one of the search terms I'm currently hit with the 950 Penalty on has an average position of #9! Now, I know this is supposed to be averaged over the last week or so, but I've checked this exact search term every day, several times a day, several different C classes each time, and it's always been at the bottom of the results.

So how can the average position be #9?

I'm beginning to think something at Google is seriously screwed up. Or, maybe it's just Webmaster Tools. It's all very strange.

[edited by: AndyA at 8:18 pm (utc) on Jan. 21, 2007]


 8:33 pm on Jan 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

Just a quick comment on a few messages ago. Most of the pages on all of my sites have the same key words in the title, meta tags and page iteself (including headings).

If you were doing a search for "How to Make Widget Pie" -- you would expect to find a page with that exact subject in your results. If it was in the title, you as the user would know you are on the right track. If it was in the description, you have doubled your reliability for clicking on that link. If, when you do click on the link and open up the page and see a heading "How to Make Widget Pie" - you know you have hit pay dirt. Now all you have to do is print out the article, purchase the ingredients, come home and bake that delicious pie.

That being said, there must have been some big mis-step at Google that they will fix because if everyone is finding results for making cherry, apple and blueberry pie instead of widget pie, they might begin using other search engines.


 8:43 pm on Jan 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

(seems like an anti-seo measure by dropping exact matches)

what do you mean?


 9:17 pm on Jan 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

Exact match of poison words in URL may kill a page, but aside from that exact match isn't in play here (most of the time anyway) because the pages rank badly for everything, not just exact match phrases.


 9:27 pm on Jan 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

Is there any data or sites showing rankings in other regions? Or a "Misplaced" region, so ranking in a country that your site and address are not in? Like having a US domain extension, hosting and address and showing no .com rankings, but rankings are top 10 in another region like Google .co.uk, or google.co.in?

Any duplicate content found by performing searches with sentences in quotes?

I believe this may have something to do with a regional bug in Google that cannot determine the correct origin of the domain and misplaces it, so the filter is perhaps a regional misplacement filter.


 8:59 am on Jan 22, 2007 (gmt 0)

My main page (subpages were not affected) just raised from 950 to about 750. But it went to the supplemental results. Any ideas/wild guesses about that?


 9:24 am on Jan 22, 2007 (gmt 0)

From what I've seen looking at some pages, it isn't necessarily density in some cases - not for exact phrase match. It does seem to be keyword PHRASE specific, but it didn't seem to be an exact "phrase" density problem for the particular site and phrase I was checking out yesterday - the number of occurrences was minimal.

For people who have niche sites, would you be able to estimate the number of RELATED phrases that are being used, of different lengths?


 9:59 am on Jan 22, 2007 (gmt 0)

i mean, i guess that we could all trash the existing cat > subat > listing navigation which has built much of the web...but wont this just mean that everyone is scrambling to replace what already works with something less clear, less logical and less efficient

That might be the way it's going. I've contributed on a separate thread on this topic: What you have to remember is that Google does not want structured points of reference on the web. These serve to undermine the importance of a search engine. What Google wants is to encourage pages to be published in the most unstructured manner possible, so that only search engine technology can be used to find content.


 2:26 pm on Jan 22, 2007 (gmt 0)

I've just figured out that I'm in this 950 penalty group.
Here is the wierd thing: the Google results are only now going up to the 700s (there are no longer 800 and 900 position results being shown).
I have no idea why my site has been hit. We have lost nearly all G traffic and are a totally white hat, semi-authority site.
We do have some affilliate links, but they are not the purpose of the site, and are not on all pages.
We did recently put an Amazon aStore on a page - but I doubt that had anything to do with it.
And if affilliates are the problem, then why do we still rank well for the keyphrases pointing to the pages we have with the affilliate links?
But keyphrases that are the majority of our business have been downgraded to the last page.
Maybe this should be called a "last page penalty".
The site is 100% hand-coded html, uses no redirects, no black hat, nearly no link exchanges, and is PageRank6. All pages have unique meta tags, original content, etc.
I'm staying calm, thinking this must be a Google bug that will get straightened out, but am growing more worried as this has been going on since January 14th-ish.

indias next no1

 3:45 pm on Jan 22, 2007 (gmt 0)

i am also affected eventhough mine is a white hat site.

one of my competitor website in my industry launched some 1 1/2 years back is now in the top position. the title and description of the website is dumped with keywords. nearly 7 reptition of the same keyword in the title tag
eg: widget white widget black widget red read widget.....

google giving priority to meta tags?

my new company's official website which has not yet been launched still with "under construction" page has been spidered by google.
i have not submitted the url to google or even any other search engine / websites, no links from other websites , how this is possible?


 3:51 pm on Jan 22, 2007 (gmt 0)

my new company's official website which has not yet been launched still with "under construction" page has been spidered by google.
i have not submitted the url to google or even any other search engine / websites, no links from other websites , how this is possible?

If you browse to the url with the google-toolbar pr-display enabled, the url is transmitted to google and to their bot to get indexed. I read some examples where this could be the only way Google gets to know the site.


 3:57 pm on Jan 22, 2007 (gmt 0)

I did a little more research, and when I search for "0097 Acme Widget" my site has two pages at the bottom of the results. If I search for "0097 Widget" it's the same. If I search for "97 Widget" it's the same, two pages in each search at the bottom of the results.

But if I search for "97 Wid" (Wid being an accepted and widely-used slang name for Widget) only one page on my site comes up, at #154.

In every example, the same site is at #1.

Doing these additional searches did turn up pages that didn't come up in other searches, so there is some relevancy, although in each case a lot of pages were included in the SERPs that had little to do with the specific search. They might have 0097 on them, and they might have had "Widget" on them, but not in the same sentence, and not used together at any point. i.e., 0097 Wimple or 2157 Widget. In that context, those pages do not have any relevancy to the search.


 4:00 pm on Jan 22, 2007 (gmt 0)

Forgot to ask in my previous message:

Is anyone showing their search terms ranking in Webmaster Tools? I have several search terms ranking in the top 10-20 in Webmaster Tools, but when I click on the links, they are no where to be found. A few are also showing up as most clicked query, and again, when I look for them, they do not exist, or are buried at the bottom of the SERPs.

I'm wondering how Google can say a search term shows up at #4 or #9, yet it has never showed up in those spots over the past few weeks that I've been monitoring them.

Webmaster Tools issue? Or am I not seeing something that Google is seeing?


 4:11 pm on Jan 22, 2007 (gmt 0)

For those who are seeing good rankings in webmaster tools, download the csv file. I think you'll find that those rankings are regional, i.e. google.ca, etc.


 4:15 pm on Jan 22, 2007 (gmt 0)

Hi as a fellow last-page sufferer I must ask

Has anyone tried a reinclusion request? If so what was the outcome - if any.


 4:22 pm on Jan 22, 2007 (gmt 0)

I requested but no answer.

Just wondering if I should do a complete rebuild tear down 5 years of work and drop the affiliate program.

Has anyone recovered from this penalty? Any luck with test pages or directories?

other option...back in the real world working.

oh hummmmmm.

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