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This 164 message thread spans 6 pages: < < 164 ( 1 2 [3] 4 5 6 > >     
Is Google Using a Position #6 "Penalty"?
tedster




msg:3535276
 10:35 pm on Dec 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

Something is happening that was mentioned in our December 2007 SERP Changes [webmasterworld.com] thread and deserves a dedicated thread.

What some site owners are reporting is that search rankings that have held for a long time, often at #1, were knocked down begun to #6. These reports happen often enough that it looks like there might be something specific going on. However, there are always ranking shifts, so zeroing in on exactly this one thing can be difficult.

-- Here are the main signs --

1. Well established site with a long history.
2. Long time good rankings for a big search term - usually #1
3. Other searches that returned the same url at #1 may also be sent to #6, but not all of them
4. Some reports of a #2 result going to #6.

-- What we can identify so far --

A. It's search term specific (usually the biggest and best converting phrase)
B. Therefore, not a url or domain-wide penalty on all terms
C. A little testing on one site seems to show it's not an on-page problem
D. That leaves off-page but on-site, or off-site, or posibly backlink issues

-- Some loose guesswork and brainstorming --

i. Backlink profiles are not diverse enough - is this a new algo tweak on that factor?
ii. Backlinks are aging or stagnating, with no new ones being added?
iii. I thought about the possibility of paid link devaluation (even going back two or three steps from the site) but that would not consistently place a url at #6, so I've ruled that out.

Is anyone else seeing this Position #6 problem? Something like this could be hard to separate out from all the other movement that the SERPs show.

However, I've now seen it happen to key terms on three different sites operated by the same person (different WhoIs, no incestuous linking) and two corporate sites. Plus there are several other reports in the Decemeber SERP Changes thread. Every one of these cases seems to be hitting the domain root, and not internal url.

I'm not happy with the current level of analysis, however, and definitely looking for more ideas.

[edited by: tedster at 6:28 pm (utc) on Dec. 29, 2007]

 

ChiefBottleWasher




msg:3536028
 10:04 pm on Dec 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

Rlilly my post 9:46 pm on Dec 27, 2007 deals with that.

My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard,
And their like
It's better than yours,
Damn right it's better than yours,
I can teach you,
But I have to charge

lorien1973




msg:3536043
 10:23 pm on Dec 27, 2007 (gmt 0)


Comments please!

That'd imply that Google wants those top 5 sites to continue ranking highly. If a lot of the top 5 sites backlinks were deprecated because they were "low quality" why would Google want them to remain? I'd rather think they were the target of whatever action was taken.

I still see recurrences of these in my WMT tools:

http://www.example.com/japanese.php?u=arabic.php%3Fu%3Dhttp://www.example.com/coming-soon.html

Each time they've shown up; their date stamp is one day after my drop. It has the 19th on it right now. I dropped on the 18th. While the thing is properly 404'd on my site; that it has now happened twice is more than a coincidence.

It could be that lots of "low quality" links (such as these) damage a site temporarily, inducing a "6th position penalty" - which one of my sites has been affected as well - inner page. Home page moved from 4 to 11. The one that dropped to 6th was at #2. So its not a -5 drop. The effect is varied. This particular site has never dropped in Google rankings for years and years.

CainIV




msg:3536044
 10:25 pm on Dec 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

Therefore as part of their algorithm they included a "safety net" which actually catches top five ranking sites at 6.

I should have mentioned that keywords I have that were previously 5th, 6th, 7th or 9th for one website also went to position 6, meaning they were not demoted, but were in fact promoted.

ChiefBottleWasher




msg:3536046
 10:25 pm on Dec 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

You're just describing normal SERPS variations lorien. The safety net is applied on big money terms. Google has in the past shown an ability to treat competitive phrases differently.

JeremyL




msg:3536047
 10:25 pm on Dec 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

Couple of theories.

First off, lets not call this a penalty yet. It could very well be just testing. Google is very much tracking CTR and way beyond with it's results, so lets see how this plays out over the next month. They may just want to see what happens with user interaction on results #1-5 if a few top sites are downgraded.

Also, we need to start looking beyond onpage and linking factors. It is of my opinion that Google has started to integrate user data into serps. Between the serp interaction, analytics, toolbar, reader, gmail, ect, they have more than enough data to heavily integrate user data into the mix. So if you want to think in terms of penalties, also try to think about how the demoted sites might differ in terms of user interaction compared to the other sites.

ChiefBottleWasher




msg:3536048
 10:26 pm on Dec 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

The "promotion" is probably a combination of on-page effort pushing you higher then page rank evaluations subsequently applied dropping you as if you had the higher rank in the first place.

whitenight




msg:3536050
 10:27 pm on Dec 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

One thing I do notice is when I was no 1, there were only appox out of 40000 pages, now no 6 out of 145 million pages

Actually this is a nice catch.

When I see the results returned to their original #1 rankings, the serps returned are definitely less in every occasion. ie 17.2 million vs. 13.6 million.

Ha. I'm calling it a bug til Jan 2. and then I'll start doing actual testing.
Until then, Happy New Years!

lorien1973




msg:3536052
 10:29 pm on Dec 27, 2007 (gmt 0)


You're just describing normal SERPS variations lorien. The safety net is applied on big money terms. Google has in the past shown an ability to treat competitive phrases differently.

No, I'm not. The drop is across the board. Hundreds of pages dropped between 4 and 7 spots. It's not a normal variation at all, certainly nothing with a past history. It could be that aged links are being discounted - that they now have a lifespan, which would be an interesting concept.

The competing sites that have cropped up to the top are ones I recognize from 3-4 years ago, mainly very thin affiliate sites and thin content sites. The affiliate sites that have cropped up are ones that hide the affiliate code in a form tag, which google does not follow; as far as I know.

ChiefBottleWasher




msg:3536053
 10:30 pm on Dec 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

Google has dampened the penalty as described, to test it yes, but all algo tweaking is testing, which is withdrawn when it's unacceptable. If the SEO community reacts enough they lose credibility. But they're clever these people, they have a good idea for what kind of tests the community will swallow.

In fact most actual business comes from more qualified searches and legitimate site although dented by these changes will be able to swallow them.

My number six has been up there two weeks. That's a long enough test for me to sitting here contemplating repairs.

lorien1973




msg:3536063
 10:32 pm on Dec 27, 2007 (gmt 0)


When I see the results returned to their original #1 rankings, the serps returned are definitely less in every occasion. ie 17.2 million vs. 13.6 million.

I'm seeing the opposite. On a phrase (different site) that went from 1 to 8; the # of pages went from 14 million to 196,000. I'm calling it a bug (or testing something) until the beginning of the year as well.

The date this started is a date when web traffic begins to slide down (~20th) anyways; so it seems like a good time of year to test things out.

ChiefBottleWasher




msg:3536064
 10:32 pm on Dec 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

Lorien I'll bet your site just suffers from thin and dubious link popularity throughout and your terms aren't competitive enough to trigger the number six safety net.

ChiefBottleWasher




msg:3536066
 10:36 pm on Dec 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

I saw these changes on the 16th. Mark my words they'll stick long enough to cause pain and you need to act now to sharpen up your links or lose more ground.

The answer is a more qualitative approach to link building and there are good ways of making that routine just like your old school volume reciprocal linking, I'd rather not put specifics of that out in the public domain just yet ;)

CainIV




msg:3536067
 10:37 pm on Dec 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

The only issue I have with the safety net trigger, is that a VERY competitive keyword I have on one website stayed at number 4, while less competitive keywords all dropped to 6.

CainIV




msg:3536068
 10:40 pm on Dec 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

Mark my words they'll stick long enough to cause pain and you need to act now to sharpen up your links or lose more ground.

For one website I lost positions on in the same fashion, the website receives only one-way natural links from people who like the site, and usually receives lots of them.

The website has well over 10 000 natural links over the last 5 years.

I am not sure yet that this has to do with link age or building links...or that this requires sweeping changes yet.

ChiefBottleWasher




msg:3536069
 10:41 pm on Dec 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

Cain that is because term for term Google looks at the "link reputation" of that term. I have a web site that has some great inbound links with anchor text "blah blah" on them and it remains top for that phrase.

Later down the line some less credible links were added with anchor text "zip blah" so in the shake up "zip blah" slides but "blah blah" doesn't. Get it?

ChiefBottleWasher




msg:3536071
 10:44 pm on Dec 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

The problem is in that 10,000 quantity Cain, natural or not. Actually Googlke regards all links as pretty much equal and that one-way hype was all hot air.

It's your best hundred links or so that matter, so with that many Google is starting to disregard a lot of your link popularity which previously held more sway.

ChiefBottleWasher




msg:3536076
 10:48 pm on Dec 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

I propose that you put some effort into getting relatively small quantities of really valuable high quality links. If that's a sweeping change for you then, yes it what you should do, and I don't think you'll find much dissent there. It was what I was advocating back in June.

CainIV




msg:3536084
 10:52 pm on Dec 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

Nope, it's not washing here with me:)

The website with 10 000 links has hundreds and hundreds of what anyone would call 'high quality' links pointed at it for years. Any sub sample of those links over time would still give me a very high score.

'Term for tern' the top keyword for the website I am talking about has hundreds and hundreds of quality links, over any subset.

So do other websites that fall within this penalty for me.

Marcia




msg:3536092
 10:57 pm on Dec 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

>>that one-way hype was all hot air.

It may not have been 100% hype (maybe 95% hype), but it sure was over-rated and over-blown and caused a lot of damage and unnecessary worries (IMHO).

>>It's your best hundred links or so that matter

And how is that exact number being determined as a sure and definite number? How about sites that are rocking and rolling that have far fewer than 100?

>>with that many Google is starting to disregard a lot of your link popularity which previously held more sway.

That I can agree with, but I don't believe it's numerical, I believe it's other factors that are coming into play far more.

>>Actually Google regards all links as pretty much equal

I can't agree with that at all. They aren't all equal, and if we know it, they sure do, and will adjust scoring accordingly.

ChiefBottleWasher




msg:3536093
 10:57 pm on Dec 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

Well lets agree to differ and watch this space Cain. I hope for my sake you're right but either way getting good quality links over quantity makes sense to me.

ChiefBottleWasher




msg:3536094
 10:58 pm on Dec 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

I meant more specifically that Google regards one way or reciprocal links as equivalent like for like.

ChiefBottleWasher




msg:3536145
 1:03 am on Dec 28, 2007 (gmt 0)

The salient discussion above digresses from what we're trying to agree here. I think that what I suggest makes sense, does anyone else have any on-topic observations. Do you agree with my theory that the six position could be a safety net tedster?

The observations about backlinks made by Katie look pretty definitive to me and inline with my own theories and I certainly would bet on this as a link issue, but wouldn't dismiss the click through idea although it seems a bit draconian.

I wasn't intending to stifle debate and I'm disappointed that this thread has gone quiet.

ChiefBottleWasher




msg:3536146
 1:06 am on Dec 28, 2007 (gmt 0)

In terms of user data we have site stickiness, clickthrough rate and that's about it. Maybe Google can monitor propensity to return to the site using the toolbar.

Do we really think that Google will start to rate user preferences above all the traditional SEO factors?

Marcia




msg:3536165
 2:00 am on Dec 28, 2007 (gmt 0)

>>observations about backlinks made by Katie look pretty definitive to me

What observations? That backlinks from blogs are somehow involved?

JeremyL




msg:3536192
 3:25 am on Dec 28, 2007 (gmt 0)

@chief

Absolutely. A better question would be can we believe google is not trying to move beyond links which have become simple to manipulate. Its not if google is going to start using user data. They already have. I've seen it happen with new sites on a few occasions.

Marcia




msg:3536195
 3:50 am on Dec 28, 2007 (gmt 0)

They can also incorporate additional metrics for evaluating the relative value of links, which aside from whatever else is happening, I believe they're doing.

potentialgeek




msg:3536220
 4:57 am on Dec 28, 2007 (gmt 0)

I think link valuation wrt reciprocal links etc. has been on the front burner at Google since mid- to late October.

This may be just another tweak/revision/test. At least it's "small," i.e., not a -950 (if indeed it is a penalty). Of course I wouldn't call a five-position SERP drop as "small" or insignificant. For me it can mean a traffic/revenue drop of 30-50%.

p/g

tedster




msg:3536221
 4:57 am on Dec 28, 2007 (gmt 0)

Do you agree with my theory that the six position could be a safety net tedster?

It's worth keeping in mind. The idea that clustered results end up a 6+7 is only the natural result of the way clustering works - any two results from the same domain that occur on the same page of results will always cluster. It's a last minute action applied to the rough results.

I keep going back to an older theory I had but could never pin down about Google actions to enforce a specific position - in this case a ceiling rather than a safety net. There has long seemed to be a kind of barrier for going from #11 to #10. It just seems to take something more than any other upward shift of one single position.

I think Google is becoming ever more proactive in crafting the first page of results, and this position #6 sticky spot may be yet another action in that direction. It seems to me that "universal search" may require this, and even more, may be providing the infrastructure needed to play around with "forced positions".

And speaking of universal search, I noticed in December that the number images on the SERP really fell off. YouTube videos still have a "plus box" to click, but not a still image very often.

So, I'm conjecturing here, maybe these new "forced to #6" results are those previous #1 results that haven't been performing as well - on click throughs and click backs - as some expected norm would predict. So no matter what Google's relevance algo says the ranking should be, these urls get time down the ladder to see if there's a better candidate already on the page for making Google's users happier.

Also, some reports came in that the #6 position would appear on google.com but on aol.com, the url would still be #1. However, all those examples went away and aol.com is now in line with google.com, except of course the total number of results is lower, since aol apparently doesn't get the supplemental database.

There are always lots of other ranking shifts at any time - but this one is so specific, going from a #1 to #6, that I'm hoping we can come up with something useful here. Unfortunately, we don't have a way to get Google's click through and click back data, so I can't quite see how to test my latest idea.

Marcia




msg:3536229
 5:06 am on Dec 28, 2007 (gmt 0)

Does anyone recall if there are any papers or patents published that make mention of a devaluing in the SERPs for a very specific reason (backlink related), which could be interpreted as meaning it's for a certain number of spots downward if the metric is met negatively?

I recall such a mention, but don't remember where I read it.

potentialgeek




msg:3536334
 12:06 pm on Dec 28, 2007 (gmt 0)

Long time good rankings for a big search term - usually #1

I've often struggled with the freshness issue after getting top spot in SERPs. I usually lean towards, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," especially when I have no idea whether a small tweak or big addition will collide with the latest knarly Google algo incantation and result in a -950, -30, or now maybe -5 penalty.

At the same time I've known freshness can count toward something, so I know that the blessing of top spot may not last forever.

I don't know how to find balance between the right amount of freshness on the one hand, and the right amount of stability on the other.

Google may be revising its algo to scrutinize sites at the top, "a fault-finding mission."

"Does it really deserve to be there?"

Double-Check for The Top Dog=Google Paranoia at SEO Gurus

p/g

cheesy snacks




msg:3536376
 2:43 pm on Dec 28, 2007 (gmt 0)

just out of interst..my site dropped to #6. ALL the other sites above me now using google analytics.

I haven't started using it yet.

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