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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?



 4:59 am on Jan 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'm not so sure this is a regional situation. I think it's just they rolled it out first in the US. They may be seeing how it goes in English speaking countries first. I think someone from the UK is seeing it if I remember right.

And to think a couple of weeks ago my biggest concern was that the best keyword phrase for a page on a popular topic was coming out 12th and I wanted to get it up to the top 10. Those were the good old days.


 5:13 am on Jan 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

I dont believe its regional.

I am in this penalty. I just searched for one of my main terms and like you guys, im at the very end of the pack. Actually i'm about 885, behind the scrapers, behind the spammers, behind the hackers, behind the mirrors .... Did we do something that bad? I dont even know what the heck it is so i can fix it. This isnt just a penalty, its an insult to all of the hard work I have done over the last 10 years to play fair and clean. Maybe if I ran duplicate domains, scraped my competitors sites and keyword stuffed my pages I would be in a much more stable situation.


 6:31 am on Jan 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

I checked my search query report from Google Webmaster Tools, that shows one of the exact search terms I've been monitoring at #9. My site is hosted in the U.S., has a .com domain, and according to the downloaded report, my search term is #9 on Google.com!

Please make sure this was set to "Web Search" Google Images does not seem affected by this, just the "web search". The sitemaps tool reports image search and web search results.


 8:51 am on Jan 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

Probably about time I weighed in on this one as this is my third time in the 950 penalty box in the last 1.5 years.

Our original site was created in 1995. We switched to a new domain 1n 1998 and 301 redirected everything to new pages on the new domain.

Since Google came out, we've been #2 for our primary search term. The only times this has varied is when the #1 position spammed and was removed for three weeks and when we've been 950 penalized. Other than that, years of great traffic from Google.

Note: This is only one of thousands of keywords we rank well for as our site has tens of thousands of pages.

Okay, back to the meat of our story:

First 950 Penalty
On September 22, 2005 we were kicked between the legs by Google. Our #2 ranking and thousands of others went up into the hundreds with many of in the 600+ range and a few in the 900+ range. I came on webmasterworld, read a ton about duplicate content, 301'd a duplicate domain we had back to the first domain, reduced keyword density tons and our listings came back on November 7, 2005.

Second 950 Penalty
On August 17, 2006 Google again kicked us between the legs. This time Matt Cutts mentioned that if you'd been hit that your site was probably over optimized. So I went about de-optimizing my site by stripping out keywords everywhere. Sure enough, our site came back on October 2nd, 2006.

Before I go on, many on this site have boldly stated that if you leave everything alone your site will come back by itself. Frankly, I don't like leaving things to chance especially when Matt Cutts actually makes a statement like he did. Maybe my SERP's would have come back if I'd left them alone. Then again, there are people on here whose SERP's have never come back so I prefer the idea that I have control over this.

Third 950 Penalty
On January 12th-15th, 2007 Google kicked us between the legs again. By coincidence, I'd just started re-optimizing our site after the last penalty figuring it was safe to start edging things up again. Please understand, when I de-optimized in August I really stripped the site down.

On the January 16th I undid some of the optimizing and three days later many of our listings improved. More specifically, it appears a 35 penalty was loosened.

So here I sit, for the third time, knowing that I'm the only site in my industry this has happened to. Well, on the first one two other sites with duplicate domains were hit which is one of the reasons I knew what had happened. In this case, the reoptimization I completed just before getting penalized was to add back keywords to internal links. Guess what I'm about to remove?

Final thoughts...
There's a lot of chatter on here about Google having lost it, gone to the dogs, whatever because of these penalties. I don't think Google's lost it, I think they're sending a message. If they penalized you by a couple positions you'd hardly notice and probably increase the optimization of your site. But when Google takes you from hero to zero, it's a wake up call. Honestly, think about it. Your ranking drops 950 positions -- who but an SEO guru would even know how to find a SERP at position 950?

Google is sending a message each time they do this -- de-optimize your site or languish in the pit of despair until you do. I for one am changing my site yet again. It's a pain and the first time I did it I nearly cried at undoing all the hard work I'd put in but it works. For me, that's simple enough.



 9:02 am on Jan 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

Google is sending a message each time they do this -- de-optimize your site or languish in the pit of despair until you do.

Well, I would like to do, but I don't know what I should do! I think the page effected is a white-hat page. I and competitors have much more other domains which are really "spammy" in this sector, but which are not effected at all. And the one which is - in my opinion - optimized, but far away from being over-optimized, gets kicked.


 10:38 am on Jan 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

>>this is my third time in the 950 penalty box in the last 1.5 years

So then it isn't a new thing but is more widespread now?


 11:02 am on Jan 23, 2007 (gmt 0)


All these posts on optimizing and now de-optimizing!

One of our sites took a big hit by this and so has a few others in our sector. Bottom line is that the google serps imo are now worse than ever because of this filter.

It hasnt improved anything one jot - its a weak attempt by google to filter out more pages to push up adwords revenue, its that simple

The junk sites are still in the serps and a number of good sites got hit and are out - thats how good it is! Those that have the time to invest into seo more can adjust their pages and get back in, ie as discussed here "now de-optimizing". Those building content for customers get shafted by google.

Think about it, so if you have a site dedicated to widgets and you build pages that have "Blue widget" in the title tag,url, h1 tags on page and has links on your site pages to "blue widgets" and links from outside to "blue widgets" its prime to be hit.

The fact that its a page specific to the subject matter is no longer relevent. Google is not delivering results that are 100% relevent any longer. Its delivering serps that are Ok ish, in the ball park but not spot on.

In closing, i can tell you all that i have a section on the one site that was hit by this that is specific to a search term that is popular. The content took about nine months to research fully and write and is imo probably the best written information available on this subject matter - yahoo, msn and ask all have this section at 1 in their serps. This section doesnt rank at all in the google serps, its at the back of the pack. Meanwhile utter junk sites and spam sites about the subject that were probably thrashed together in no time rank perfectly in the first set of results.

So you tell me exactly how these results are now better? - they are not - why should you change pages to suit google?, if youre section is about widgets and your titles, links and headings say so - so what! - if google prefer to rank junk over your site let them do it!


 11:06 am on Jan 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

September 22, 2005 seems the consistent first appearance.

I don't think deoptimizing or doing anything makes the slightest difference in terms of this penalty. Pages that recover sometimes aren't touched. Pages on the same topic that have zilch actual duplicate content as a penalized page also get penalized. If an index page of a directory gets penaliized, the pages below do too; if it gets unpenalized, the lower pages do too.


 11:29 am on Jan 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

"I don't think deoptimizing or doing anything makes the slightest difference in terms of this penalty."

Agree with that we have tried this

"If an index page of a directory gets penaliized, the pages below do too; if it gets unpenalized, the lower pages do too."

Not for us - we have a directory index page at number 1 but lower pages at the back , where most of our pages are.


 12:17 pm on Jan 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

Same with me: Only the main-page is > 950, other pages of the domain are ranked as usual on the same keyword (for example pos 80).


 12:50 pm on Jan 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

But, how to know if a website gets penalized? There are many websites with problems right now... If we spend time updating pages, and this is a Google problem? who know?



 1:07 pm on Jan 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

@ optimist:

I do have it set for Web Search, Google.com only. I've checked several of the queries listed, one at #4, one at #9, one at #12, and none of them are in those positions - they are all at the bottom of the results. And I know for a fact they've been there for the last 7 days, which is the period of time the results represent.

Google thinks my page for search term "blue widgets" is at #9, but it's hit by the 950 Penalty, buried at the bottom of the SERPs. Could this indicate the penalty is manual, overriding the algorhythm? Google's algorhythm has the page at #9, but it's been manually pushed to the bottom and the algo doesn't realize this?


 1:53 pm on Jan 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

How widespread is this?

I just went to Matt Cutts blog and he did not mention it in his 1/23 "report" -- it was only a mention in a comment (by Jakomo). Obviously, for every one of our pages that got demoted, there is someone else that received a nice promotion in the SERP.

If there are only a few (even a few hundred) of us that have been "penalized," I do not know if Google would really make a fix, especially if it percieves that it's change was ultimately good to its own company. However, I (and all of you) would still like to know why this happened. Although we would all love to know what the full Google algo is, right now we just want to know why we have been penalized and what we can do to fix it. We have also spent a lot of time creating great content related sites and do not want to allow surfers to find this information. [I think that one of the issues is that I do have some good content, and do provide information at the bottom of my articles that allow others to copy them if they provide the given information and a link back. This may have resulted in too many dupes that I have been penalized for.]

For those of you who have been around for a while -- has Google provided feedback or support in the past for similar issues, such as the Florida update? or Did they maintained their silence, such as in the present case?

Also, as an FYI, this "bug" has hit my two sites with over 1100 pages. However, my few smaller sites with under 300 pages do not seem to be affected.

TO THE REPRESENTATIVES OF GOOGLE - If you are reading this, please provide us with some feedback.


 2:36 pm on Jan 23, 2007 (gmt 0)


Yes, please, we want to know, maybe someone can say, you are doing it bad, you are doing it good, but we are working hard to provide unique and useful content. Maybe we did something bad, but we'd like to know about...



 3:21 pm on Jan 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

Could Google have started to look at the search phrases that have clicked through and dropped them to the last place...maybe to cause advertisers to bump up the Adwords spend?
You see, the phrases that haven't been effected for me by the 950 penalty are probably not searched that often. Anything valuable seems to now be appearing on the last SERP page.
No matter, this quality, white-hat, semi-authority site has been severly hurt.
My hope is that this is glitch, but as more time goes on, I am beginning to entertain other ideas.
Of course, if Google would come out and say what is the point of the 950 penalty, then webmasters could correct the problem.
I, for one, have no idea what is causing this.


 3:22 pm on Jan 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

I was hit with a penalty on Jan 14-15, I went in, deoptimized my site, 301 duplicates and sure enough, today, I am back (not in the top position in all areas, but close enough, 1-4)

I believe I was hinged on the brink of a filter or penalty and my changes swung me back to the right direction. For other people, if you think you are doing something wrong, correct it. I wouldnt want to sit on my heels. Also teaches me a lesson, dont get greedy, accept 1-10, it is MUCH better than 900+ - not touching a thing!


 3:25 pm on Jan 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

When we went through this with Florida and other major updates. Google always left some pages or a few sub domains and we received some traffic. Over the months traffic slowly returned and we eventualy recovered.

This time all pages and keywords dropped to the same spot around 30 -50 and other sites in this group much further. Seems more like a domain manual penalty to me. I would like to think otherwise, we all know things are always changing in the results.

With this penalty and no feedback from google I'm starting to get the feeling these sites maybe toast. It seems for the first time we don't have the answers. It's not a good feeling and i hope things change.

Some of you have posted that you have squeeky clean sites, no affiliate links, and totally original content yet are buried deep. To me rewriting or starting over is not the answer until we find out what really happened.

Google has a plan....maybe a new look and feel....and we're not in the picture.

:( northweb.


 3:28 pm on Jan 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

Here's a list of what we have <b>dismissed</b> as factors causing this 950'ish penalty.

Obviously our site only and my opinion only.

1. Titles similar
2. H1 headers equal to title and/or descriptions
3 Page design overall including word density, text length, internal linking structure, number of graphics.
4. Percentage and number of any affiliate links on a single page of useful content ( except those pages that are only affiliate links to products and we don't expect these to get very far anyway as they never did! )
5. Purchased links -we don't purchase links or get involved in link farms etc
6. Index page "filtered" or "penalised" affecting lower pages in subject subdirectory
7. Large amounts of content and pages copied by other sites. There is some copying but we have more pages with no copying than copied that has been noticed.
8. Spammy content wording and boilerplate - as occupiers of the top spots use these methods - we don't and will not as a matter of policy.
9. Overuse of keywords and phrases on a page
10. Spamming in blogs/own blog etc -we don't do this

Think thats all - conclusion none -except perhaps its outside our control due to some external factor.

<Added for clarification>Not all our pages are in this position some are still riding "high"


 4:10 pm on Jan 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

i was also hit sept. 22 2005, came back stronger oct. 17 2005, with no changes


 4:22 pm on Jan 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

>>6. Index page "filtered" or "penalised" affecting lower pages in subject sub-directory<<
This is exactly what is happening to me.

>>7. Large amounts of content and pages copied by other sites.<<
I'm not finding full pages copied but all have snippets on scraper sites. I have long wondered in some way one of these sites caused the problem in how they linked. I've had that happen before.


 5:04 pm on Jan 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

Large amounts of content and pages copied by other sites.

this is a huge deal and has been so for some time. Scraped content on copy and paste sites as well mfa sites ranks streets ahead of the pages with the original material. Its got to the point where if you spend all day going through each site that has copy and pasted your content for each the stolen content, as their hosts require you to do, you simple will spend the rest of your life doing just that. I was also coming to the conclusion that the sheer number of sites scraping bits and pieces of your content leaves google unable to determine that you have original content. Its not a straight page for page comparison which is easy, but when sentences here, sntences there, are being pciked up daily it seems that you become the one that looks like your scraping. And then when you move your own content to new pages its impossible for google to track the original source.

< discussion continues here: [webmasterworld.com...] >

[edited by: tedster at 10:39 pm (utc) on Jan. 23, 2007]

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