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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?



 5:46 pm on Jan 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

From the reports I read, I got the impression that the 950 penalty is not something that happens site-wide (like the +30 penalty) but rather is specific to certain searches. Have I got that right?

< We've now got a related thread to summarize this long discussion: [url=http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/3354323.htm]-950 Quick Summary >

[edited by: tedster at 9:23 pm (utc) on Feb. 27, 2008]


 7:38 pm on Jan 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

My site has been nailed with the -30 penalty for 56+ weeeks now. That is verifiable with the site:domainname tool. However, since this penalty has been so much discussed, the domains rankings now fluctuate between #28-#45 across all the DCs. This penalty is sitewide.

For that entire time, my targeted search terms, hundreds of which I was ranked #1 in Google for during most of 2005, also ranked #31. That all changed last Friday. The targeted search terms are all over the place from #283-#913. But they are specific to the search terms.

So there is something definitely going on. Positive I hope. Fluctuating all over the place in the serps is a lot better than hitting that #31 wall and not being able to climb over it.

We also put up new content on December 18. And for a week or so, site:domainname rendered all but about 67 supplementals. That has all changed. Only 3 of the visible 1,000 pages are supplemental today.

Googlebot has crawled very aggressively this entire time. Hopefully, it will like the positive changes


 8:08 pm on Jan 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

Tedster wrote:

From the reports I read, I got the impression that the 950 penalty is not something that happens site-wide (like the +30 penalty) but rather is specific to certain searches. Have I got that right?

Yes, I would say that is correct based on the limited knowledge I have. For instance, on one site I watch, one search term turns up two pages on the last page of the search results.

While another search shows a similar page (but different search terms) on the same site at #11. The domain comes up at #1 when searched, and there is a mix of supplemental and non-supplemental pages on the site.

What is the cause? Any speculation?


 8:20 pm on Jan 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

One thing that puzzles me is the harshness of the action, coupled with the reports we see that it seems to come and go for some urls.


 8:42 pm on Jan 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

I should add that this site does not utilize anything black hat. Obviously there are some issues with it, but nothing intentional, and I wouldn't think anything worthy of such a harsh penalty.

And the relevant pages on this site, which are spot on to the search term, are buried under others not anywhere close to the search query. And in some cases, higher ranking pages have NOTHING TO DO with the search term. Why they are listed is a mystery to me.


 10:32 pm on Jan 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

This is the boat were in but in the interest of discussing what this is I don't think you need to go all the way to # 950 to be in this group. If your site went from the first page to # 680, my feeling would be it’s the same phenomena.

For us, on the night of January 1st something very dramatic changed. A small change for Google would be my guess, but for some reason that particular change we were overly susceptible to.

•Linking; We don’t do a lot of link exchanges, maybe a dozen each site, and we haven’t done a new on in two years. The sites are not linked to one another. We link out to authoritative sites in a non reciprocal fashion on each site, maybe 4 or 5.
•Age; Sites range in age from 1996 to 2003
•Content: Unique, but admittedly it has not been changed a great deal in the past year. Each site is a totally separate subject.
•Pages; Sites average around 50 pages, with one site at 2,500 due to a PBB discussion board.
•Title and Meta Descriptions; Every page, on every site, has a unique title and meta description.
•Server; The sites are on the same server, that only has our sites and its managed hosting. We have other sites that are on the same server that did not get affected.
•IP addresses; they each have a unique IP address.
•Ranking; high prior to this and they dropped to anywhere from # 50 to # 700 for their main key words.
•Domain names; Some hyphenated, some not. Some key word rich, one not at all.
•Optimization; I would say, yeah their optimized for particular key words, especially the home pages. Title, H1, text, anchor text in some out bounds to authority sites. Overly? I don’t know; whenever something like this happens that is the first thought to cross your mind.

You gotta believe its some sort of penalty.


 10:41 pm on Jan 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

Yeah it doesn't have to be 950, although that is the easiest way to describe it... a few dozen spots up from the last result desplayed. Sometimes the pages can do better, like for searches for the eight words in the title a page might turn up in to 400s.

The penalty seems most often directory-wide. I had one directory recover yesterday, 54 pages now all back to number one or two, while another directory gets hit, with 152 pages dropping from the the top ten to 950. Heh, unfortunately I saw the good news first, then checked and saw the bad news a minute later...

"how do we get out of it?"

Buy Google, build a decent search engine.


 7:55 am on Jan 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

My case:

5+ year old informative site linking to an ecom site where you can buy the products described on the main site. (It's the site of a wholesaler)

Has an all text page menu on every page.

Not seeing supplementals.

Was 2 to 3 for one very competitive keyword for 2+ years for the top page of a section about that keyword (a product).

That page was dropped for that keyword and any phrase containing that keyword but not combinations of other keywords.

The page exists, is cached, isn't supplemental, and there is no intentional spam.

The meta tags and titles for that product and all related pages on that product (original, real content) were the same and we changed them.

They have been spidered since the change, but won't come back for that keyword.

It ranks #6 for the same keyword on Yahoo, and I don't want to mess with it, but my traffic from Google for that keyword was important.

Allintext, allintitle, allinanchor all have me at #4 for that keyword for that page.

I've never had a demotion for anything ever before and all the other sections of the site (not subdomains, just folders) are set up in the same way as the section that got tanked for that keyword, but the other sections are showing up normally for their keywords.

I'm not seeing the logic behind why this section / page for this keyword but not for others.

Are any of you with the specific vs. keyword penalty seeing an answer?
I'd love to hear more about what was done by you to reverse whatever it is that just happened.


 8:38 am on Jan 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

Right now it is even weirder than usual. A LOT of pages are penalized for specific keywords, but rank fine for others. It doesn't seem to reflect anything I can make sense for -- like penalized for "word1 word2", ranking in top five for "word2 word1", when previously top five for both.


 8:44 am on Jan 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

>>>•Server; The sites are on the same server, that only has our sites and its managed hosting. We have other sites that are on the same server that did not get affected.<<<
How many sites are on the same server?


 2:44 pm on Jan 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

We experience this last April, May and June.

Site age: 1997
Site size: 1200 pages
Ecommerce site primarily dependant on search engine traffic
Spider activity: normal throughout the entire time.
SERP drop: site wide ranged from 200-bottom of list
No major changes in prior 6 months.
Adding half dozen reciprocal links per month.
No supplemental problems (except those that should be).
Site:domain showed wrong pages high on list.
Site:domain showed thousands more pages than on site.
Most important page in sitemaps wrong.

Suspected problems:
Overly optimized (many pages with same keywords in title and h1)
302 hijack problems
Validation problems (sitemap showed 1 page it couldn't follow).
www vs non-www problems.

During the first six weeks most of the 302 hijack problems resolved, most pages validated, removed some suspicious reciprocals and fixed the www vs non-www problems. Site came back for 24 hours and died again.

During the next six weeks title over optimization was fixed, validated all pages and heavy internal cross linking changed to hierarchal.

At the end of the second 6 weeks, site came back with all of the sitemap and site:domain issues correct. PR went from PR5 to PR6.

Now we are reworking the entire site using css, updating the title, h1, h2, h3 and content for specific keywords (much less duplication), adding js menu while keeping the hierarchal text links, and fixing supplementals with better content, 301's etc. These changes in the sections that have been completed are resulted in old keyword phrases ranking better plus many new keyword phrases ranking in top 30.

We are also looking at ways to improve "natural" inbound links without "buying" them. We are still struggling with this aspect.

Sally Stitts

 5:27 pm on Jan 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

I would like to add the -350 penalty. One page was number 5 in SERPs for over 2 years, now #355.

Many search phrases not affected - still in top 10 results.
Many search phrases ARE affected - gone from the top 10 to somewhere past 100.

This is very puzzling - very few changes to the 9 year old site. But the SERPs have been hit with the "mixmaster". I can't find any common thread. At first, I thought it was a penalty. But now I am leaning toward "another algo improvement" with unanticipated poor results. Throwing out the baby with the bathwater, or something of the sort. Hopefully, more testing will give us some hints.


 7:51 pm on Jan 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

Ive not seen any of these yet, could it be Google cutting down on Over Optimisation?

Look in the Title, Body & the actual content and see if you can spot anything?


 10:09 pm on Jan 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

I believe I am suffering from this penalty. Here is everything I have done so far to get out of it. Please provide suggestions on what else can be done?

1. Adding the rel='nofollow' attribute to untrusted OBL's and keep the PR distribution internal.
2. Disabled our CMS and removed all dynamic content and reverted back to a completely static HTML website. Used our Robots.txt file to list all pages from our CMS system as to prevent continuing indexing. Then reverted to only a handful of directories as per the robots standard.
3. 301 redirected via .htaccess all deprecated pages where content moved and for all development and staging versions of our site - they 301 redirect to our live/production server.
4. Ensure the 404 document is served up for pages no longer in existence and removed any files on the server no longer used as to ensure a 200 status was not showing for pages that shouldn't exist.
5. Removed all paging functions on category pages, and maintaining only a single page for each category. Each category has a unique title, meta description, and with variable content unique to each page.
6. Ensured our sitemap was clean, and not obnoxious.
7. Ensured our business directly only contained OBLs to relevant, on topic sites (Every site has been hand picked - no auto tools to source links. OBL building has been slow and steady for 3 years and always relevant.
8. Completely revamped our site architecture to ensure that every page is no more than 2 links away from the home page - Our information architect worked to ensure a cutting edge, SEO-friendly -text link heavy TOP and BOTTOM global NAV and through the site ensure consistent internal linking with [widgets.com...] instead of [widgets.com...] as well as the use of absolute URLS for every link.
9. Removed any lengthly boiler plate text to minize templating and moved this stuff on to a single page.
10. Performed tests on keyword density and distribution to ensure we were dealing with a reasonable percentage.
11. Ensure our site focused on a particular sector and was not too broad or distracting from our key ranking strategy.
12. Ensure our site contained an equal balance of commerce and content, by ensuring clean visibility to our unique, rich content articles (no syndication, no evidence of stealing from copyscape, no hijacking, etc... all original and all rich in content value to our industry.
13. Hired 3 independent and qualified auditors to validate our internal processes and the very structure of our site in order to see if we are in compliance after these changes were put into effect.
14. Ensure we were not over-optimizing but had a clean and natural site - something that would make sense to users.
15. Continue to scratch my head to see if we are still in violation

Anything else? I am concerned. thanks


 10:24 pm on Jan 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

like penalized for "word1 word2", ranking in top five for "word2 word1", when previously top five for both.

Same thing here. Still top ten for popular hosting related keyword. Add one word phrase to that, and the ranking where we used to be second we are not gone to about position 800+


 1:52 am on Jan 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

"Same thing here."

This aspect seems totally new, although in the last few minutes I have not been able to replicate it... penalized pages always penalized now.


 3:15 am on Jan 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

Same story here. Gone across most datacenters for search term 1 and search term 2 that I had top positions on for years, but actually gained for search term 3.

(Funny, the site that replaced us for search term 1 is a links page with our site and our description as their top link.)

For the pages that are *penalized*, was anyone using redirects? I ask because I was 301 redirecting traffic to our index page from old links pointing to several now defunct webpages. I've removed the redirects (and am dealing with the 404s) in hopes of improving the situation.


 6:49 am on Jan 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

I've experienced the same with one of my website
1) It has 410 Pages indexed in google but half of them are landing pages with same duplicated content site wide.
2) I've bought some sitewide links from Popular news website ( which seems to be penalized)
3) The site is live since 2002 and was banned by google before 1 year but now its unbanned.
4) The problem is if i do very minor change on home page i loose all my internal pages ranking as well.
5) Right now the ranking of that site is #33 on all keywords
6) I've removed all hidden links and content.
7) It has 1600+ Backlinks in Google and about 100000+ Backlinks in Yahoo and MSN.
We've done some good amount of article submission as well.

I am looking for some solution to get out of this penality.
Thanking YOu


 7:44 am on Jan 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

Right now the ranking of that site is #33 on all keywords

That sounds like a different thing -- the long-discussed Minus Thirty penalty [webmasterworld.com].

The "950" penalty only affects some keyword, not all of them. We wouldn't want to get our penalties confused.


 4:00 pm on Jan 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

Well guys, I just got nailed with it. It happened yesterday.

The two most popular pages of my very small site got nailed. The other pages that are not as popular are still ranking where they were.

All of the pages ranking have had affiliate links from the beginning and still do. The codes are redirected internally.

The site went truly live just about over a year ago. It was static for most of that. Then this past November it was hot again. Throughout December and through yesterday, it was ranked number 1 for target term. Now it rests in the 960s.

I have done absolutely nothing with linking since inception.


 5:23 pm on Jan 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

Now it rests in the 960s.

The "950 Penalty" really does describe this thing; couple of our sites that got hit with this initially were sitting in the 600's, but over the past two days slid into the 900's.

One day first page, next thing you know you’re at # 950. All we can guess at this time is a rather dramatic penalty. Always felt we were within the guidelines; so either we are not within them, or we are suffering the effects of a change and reside within a sector best described as collateral damage.

I guess in Fairness to Google their only concern is the user; so that begs the question is the user better off with this collection of sites resting in the 900's?


 6:38 pm on Jan 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

Apparently things in Spanish are delayed a bit.
My site is in Spanish, some pages got the minus 30 penalty and most others got the 950 penalty, just yesterday January 12th.
Whats going on?
June 27 got the 1st big hit. Things recovered by the end of September and now this!
Come on guys at Google!
Please make up your minds, am I a black hat or not? (of course not but the guys at googleplex seem not to figure it out for once and for all)

Site age: 2003
Site size: 9800 pages
Business Directory with Financial Information
Spider activity: normal throughout the entire time.
SERP drop: range 30 - 950
Content: No major changes fo a year. Unique content (no copies).
Very few reciprocals (less than 5).
Traffic: 15K uniques per day (before) 2K estimated(now)
Optimized: Meta tags, h1, no artificial keywords but in the right place, good CSS. No black hat stuff.
PR:5 (main) and 5 in some other internal pages.
External links: +1,000

Suspected problems:
No clue


 9:34 pm on Jan 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

I've been facing this problem for six months. I've tried all kinds of page structure changes that have done nothing. I've removed a lot of duplicate content which also did nothing. I've recently removed some extensive link exchanges but I've seen no results from that.

I wonder if it isn't an issue with linking to affiliate programs. That's our primary income source. And no my content isn't just rehashed content either. It's content that's been developed for years.


 10:49 pm on Jan 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

I think the affiliate links have something to do with it for sure.


 10:51 pm on Jan 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

The pages I have with the 950 Penalty are a mix of pages - some have affiliate ads/links on them, others don't. The site in question only has advertising on about 10% of the pages, tops. That includes AdSense, affiliate ads, everything. All other pages are 100% ad free, original content.

I'll look closer at the affiliate thing, but I'm pretty sure some of the pages affected don't have any ads on them at all. Unless it's a site wide penalty. Seems a bit harsh, since it does cost money to keep a site online. And if Google judges quality by whether or not there are ads on the page, well, all of Google's results pages have ads on them...


 10:56 pm on Jan 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

Also, I am using "_blank" for all of my affiliate links as well. Anyone else doing the same?

What about rel="nofollow" on the aff links? I am not using that.


 11:00 pm on Jan 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'm using target="_blank" and rel="nofollow" on all of my affil links.


 11:10 pm on Jan 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

One of the arguments I have against Google and their thought process that orginal content is best is the fact that not every search has the need for original content.

For example, and not related to anything I am doing, a searcher looking for "football scores" wants a page with football scores on it. Not paragraphs of content. And there will be other sites out there that have the same exact thing. The value of the site is in the data, not the endless amount of content.

I am sorry this is a little off topic.

Rx Recruiters

 5:15 am on Jan 14, 2007 (gmt 0)

Same problem, no good answer. We have been ranked in the top 3 for sveveral popular search phrases since 1999. Last year, we fell completely off the charts for several terms and phrases, but were completely unaffected for other very similar ones. But here is the weird thing -

An example:

We were #1, #2 or #3 ranked for "keyword1 keyword2" for almost 6 years. We are the world authority for this 2 word search term, and received thousands of visitors from Google every day for it. Then, all of a sudden, we are no longer listed in the top 900 or so for that one particular search phrase. However, if you search for a 3 word phrase containing those same search terms plus any other word, ("keyword1 keyword2 anyotherword" ), we are still ranked near the top.

Could this be anything else but some sort of very strange penalty? We were first severely affected by the June 27 2006 Google "adjustment", and have never fully recovered - espcially for these 2 word phrases. We have a PR 5 main page, with 20 or 30 internal PR 5 pages, and app. 200 PR 4 internal pages, have been on the web since 1998, and added Adsense in 2005. Our rankings never flucuated until we added Adsense, but I have been in contact with a Adsense rep who told me that Google rankings and Adsense are in no way related (I saved the e-mail in which he told me this).

No SEO, just a simple website done in MS FrontPage with no tricks.

[edited by: Rx_Recruiters at 5:27 am (utc) on Jan. 14, 2007]

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