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This 193 message thread spans 7 pages: < < 193 ( 1 2 3 [4] 5 6 7 > >     
Is Google Using a Position #6 "Penalty"? - part 2

 10:57 am on Jan 3, 2008 (gmt 0)

< continued from: [webmasterworld.com...] >

Hello guys,

One of my sites got hit.

Background information

1. One year old website
2. Niche terms with low competition and been number #1 for 2 terms for more than 6 months

In mid december my #1 got to around #6 position but fluctuating sometimes back and sometimes around #6 and now got stuck on #6


* I have keyword in the domain - e.g. www.keyword.net and that term got hit (+ some deep pages optimized for terms)
* The site is misspelling site - the site is ranking on mispellings of very competitive words. On these misspellings there is very low competiton and mostly forums/old sites which are not optimized for the misspelling at all.
* The site was entirely ranked on SEO. No PPC budget and no brand recognition
* Site was still getting some back links but the quality could be questionable - paid links but relevant
* All 3 terms that I was ranking for had lots of links with the same anchor texts and only small variations were present
* All the traffic went down, not only these 3 terms. Also my brand name - which is generic name ranks on #6
* I am using Google Analytics and other google products heavily. The site was interlinked with other of my sites but these have not been penalized.
* The homepage was changing constantly in last months and there have been relevant outgoing links to my other sites, which have not been hit.
* One of the deep pages that got hit, have been redesigned about 2-3 weeks before it got hit, with new content and template

[edited by: tedster at 6:05 pm (utc) on Jan. 5, 2008]



 6:54 pm on Jan 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

You missed the most important part. ie Public relations

Do you realize how big of a difference this is in Search engine development?!

Google is a Fortune 500 company that has alot of people to think about outside of engineers "pet projects".

If they were implementing it -- In any shape or form live -- their marketing department would have "prepped" Wall street for any positive rush or negative press they would receive.

Not a year ago, Eric was bemoaning the lack of storage space Goog had and explaining the need for more storage space (aka gross expenses) to investors.

Yes, this is what Goog is working towards 3-5 years from now.
I repeat, in NO way, have they shown they are even near implementing this NOW.

Now back to the discussion.

Just because this issue is frustrating and doesn't show "classic" symptoms doesn't mean everyone gets to say the
"boogie man"
"aliens from space"
or "Google has jumped 3 years ahead in analytics"
"and therefore it's beyond my control and I can't do anything to fix it"...

Feel free to claim the above, but until someone shows me even a smidgen of real proof Google has or can implement this,
then we would all be wise to conclude it falls under the normal way Google has been operating for the past 4 years. Links, spam, links, or something to do with.....(wait for it).....links.


 7:45 pm on Jan 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

What about other sites in the SERP for the same keyphrase, did they also see a (+ive or -ive) change?

As far as the rest of the SERPs there has been no real change. A few in the #3-#7 spot juggle depending on day/time/datacenter but for the most part consistent.

One odd result that has come about from this was one site that seemingly came from nowhere and was listed #2 for a few days. Now they seem to be at #5 for now. The only thing I can tell from them is they are getting a steady few paid blog posts on a semi-daily basis, strictly targeting the main keyword phrase. They rank for none of the other keywords for our business.

Just as I was writing this the SERPs showed, for the first time I've ever seen, a universal search result of a news story at the #4 spot.

This is not really a "news-worthy" product so it's odd to see the integration of the universal search.


 8:00 pm on Jan 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

Absolutely still a possibility that this is an issue with data. I see correlation between any of the posts or websites here. If someone else see a correlation, by all means, spell it out.


 8:03 pm on Jan 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

I agree with whitenight - my experience with my main site doesn't fit user driven theories. Unaffected phrases clearly quite definitively have some quality links with that phrase in the inbound anchor and others have said the same.

To my mind there has been a big shake-up in the link popularity and reputation evaluation and the following are less valuable than before.

1) DMOZ in-links particularly for category name and anchor text included on the dmoz site. Alexa rank for dmoz.org has declined drastically recently. There have been allegations of corrupt editing and overall the influence is nothing like it was two years ago.

2) Rapidly attained link popularity. Link building chronology continues to get increasing importance. The sites up there in top five are older, bigger, more established than those penalised. Amazon, overstock etc. seem to be recovering prominence. The unaffected sites have long histories of organic link acquisition.

3) Small quantities of high quality links increasingly are outhitting large numbers of low quality links (subjectivity regarding "quality" acknowledged).

4) Saturation, internal link popularity and site size have all been jacked up in importance through December.

These changes may have had profound impact on some well established (small!) niche businessess and the position six is either a trap stopping sites falling too far in the shake up or a ceiling for sites meeting certain criteria, e.g. lots of link popularity from a large number of low quality pages, weak link building chronology, heavy reliance on DMOZ, low saturation. Or a combination of a soup of factors rolled into a single score.

The position six is 100% definitely human chosen. So there must by definition be some other upward or downward move being constrained. That does fit your user-driven ideas but I still don't buy that for the reasons that I have observed definite effects which are congruent with link popularity and most critically link reputation (anchor text) issues.


 8:21 pm on Jan 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

The position six is 100% definitely human chosen

Don't see any definitive proof to support this theory?


 9:12 pm on Jan 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

I've been assuming that the choice of position (#6) certainly was a human decision, but which search terms and urls are affected is algorithmic.


 11:36 am on Jan 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

I am still stuck at position six and now see other website moving up and down past me in the SERPs while I stay fixed at position six. This is definitely a stationary position.


 11:57 am on Jan 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

Even I see that some of the other sites are moving up and down but we still at #6 :).


 12:56 pm on Jan 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

More about me as I am new here - I have been involved in the development from start-up and the first sale of one of the twenty fastest growing Internet retailers on the web. We have a large number of sites and we have quickly attained number one positions on Google for dozens of highly competitive terms.

<quote>I've been assuming that the choice of position (#6) certainly was a human decision, but which search terms and urls are affected is algorithmic.</quote>


As stated in my earlier post I see strong correlation between affected terms and link popularity / reputation. I have two unaffected terms which remain at #1 both with what I regard as good link reputation, i.e. inbound anchor text on links at quality locations.

For me this correlation and the PR considerations outlined in the thread, which are on the money, rule out any kind of manipulation based on stickiness, bounce rates, user activity data etc.

I believe however for my principal terms however that much of my link popularity is being dis-regarded. I have too many low-quality links that do not show up in backlink queries. These affected serps pre december and still have me in the top slots on yahoo and msn but Google is reducing what it "sees". This may also make for faster processing for them during the updates, a "de-cluttering" operation. These & the importance of the dmoz link have been scrubbed by Google in my opinion. My strongest hunch regarding the algorithm remains that sites are being kept artificially high to dampen the effect of this latest radical change to link evaluation. This creates a window of opportunity in which web masters can review inbound links and attempt to get on a better footing where such links can be available to them. I postulate that this is a penalty with a "grace period". The PR considerations outlined earlier in the thread *ARE* very important factors to consider when evaluating what Google is doing and why. Google sees the protection of the SME community as necessary and therefore this artificial maintenance of sites in the top ten is a PR fudge for them.

The relegation of so many terms to exactly six or below is too exact to be anything other than a specific ceiling or relegation.

As I see it there is a strong "johnny come lately" element to the affected web sites, they have recent aggressive link acquisition and have link profiles which are strongly based on the backlinks of others in their niches.


 1:58 pm on Jan 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

“and have link profiles which are strongly based on the backlinks of others in their niches.”

Is this what this is about do you think? Many of my links are from my niche too.

But wouldn’t links naturally come from your own niche?


 2:34 pm on Jan 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

I have been following this thread, we had some #6 pages and we got out of it pretty easy. They were product pages on an ecommerce site. What we did is add some more detailed an useful information via a .pdf with unique content put a link on the #6 page, put a link back to the product page on the .pdf and a week later it jumped back to number #1. We also added a few more images of the product in action.

This may be a "stale" content penalty. Unique and useful content is king still.


 3:14 pm on Jan 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

ChiefBottleWasher, good points there. It can be a reason too (and looks like it is the reason).


 4:14 pm on Jan 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

On the theory that the position #6 is actually a "safety net" to keep top sites from falling to far, rather than a ceiling -

Perhaps these are sites that would have been hit with a new wave of -950 penalties, but some at Google thought they could avoid a public relations hit if they stopped #1 sites from falling too far.

Of course it's hard to test things like this, but does anyone know of a
site that has recently been a victim of -950 AND #6 positions?

If that isn't happening, that could be because the #6 sites are protected from dropping to -950 and it is a safety net, rather than a ceiling.


 4:59 pm on Jan 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

Perhaps these are sites that would have been hit with a new wave of -950 penalties, but some at Google thought they could avoid a public relations hit if they stopped #1 sites from falling too far.

It seems to me that, if a site deserved a -950 penalty, Google would enjoy a public-relations gain by demoting the site (as opposed to giving it a tiny tap on the wrist), as it did when it gave BMW a public spanking a while back. SEOs might get mad at Google, but SEOs aren't the target audience and revenue source for Google Search.


 5:07 pm on Jan 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

It seems to me that, if a site deserved a -950 penalty, Google would enjoy a public-relations gain by demoting the site

I agree here but may be these are sites that might come under algorithmically evil-proven but socially helpful sites category.


 6:39 pm on Jan 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

trinorthlighting are you saying that your homepage was uneffected, just product pages went #6? was this for a competitive term?

most everyone here is talking about their home page with competitive terms.

reason I ask is I have "product" pages as well with similar content that may be dragging down the rest of the site if supplemental. they rank just fine if they are indexed though and have very non competitive terms.


 11:05 pm on Jan 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

if a site deserved a -950 penalty, Google would enjoy a public-relations gain

Well, that may be true IF a site deserved a -950 penalty. But you are once again implying that EVERYONE that is hit with -950, or #6 penalty, is a hard core spammer and DESERVES to be spanked.


 11:07 pm on Jan 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

Our home page only ranks for a few keywords and never fell for those. Our home page on this particular site basically just expains who we are, what we do, where we are locacted, etc....

We concentrate on our pages we want the visitor to view for specific keywords instead of driving them to the home page. That way they end user gets relevant information they are searching for. Too many people make the mistake on taking all their keywords and driving people to their home page.


 9:03 am on Jan 12, 2008 (gmt 0)

Here's a bit of data that might help the thinking around this:

For my largest site I track a couple hundred keywords and their rankings using a popular tool. Sorting these by the ranking shows a disproportionate number or rankings at #6. There is also a strong but smaller grouping at #11.

We've been hit by this with a good number of former #1 or #2 rankings falling to #6, but we still maintain a large number of #1 rankings.

Looking at the various keywords ranked #6 I don't see a clear pattern on first glance. There are varying degrees of head/long tail terms and competitiveness.

It would be useful if others that track a good number of keywords undertake a similar exercise. Thanks for all the great analysis on this so far.


 9:26 am on Jan 12, 2008 (gmt 0)

Do you run adsense on the affected sites?

[edited by: AjiNIMC at 9:26 am (utc) on Jan. 12, 2008]


 9:33 am on Jan 12, 2008 (gmt 0)

Also let me know if you run google analytics on the sites that are affected.


 3:56 pm on Jan 12, 2008 (gmt 0)

Yes, I drank the cool aide and google knows all. We run google analytics and are experimenting with adwords a bit on a small subset of pages.


 4:00 pm on Jan 12, 2008 (gmt 0)

It's also worth noting that our overall traffic from Google hasn't changed much in spite of the "position 6 ceiling" on a good number of our terms. We also still rank #1 for our biggest term.

Are there other sites impacted by this but have not seen a drop in traffic from google?


 4:03 pm on Jan 12, 2008 (gmt 0)

I have several clients who also "drank all the cool-aid" - and they are not the clients who are seeing this #6 (or #11) effect. So I doubt there's any connection from running Google Analytics, Adwords, or Adsense.


 4:28 pm on Jan 12, 2008 (gmt 0)

I've evaluated quite a few sites affected and unaffected and on affected sites my experience is similar to that detailed by rekitty. There is no connection from running Google Analytics, Adwords, or Adsense.

trinorthlighting describes a scenario where he has overcome the penalty which has been appplied lightly on the site described using inter alia a re-organisation of internal linking, which I would say was the remedial component rather than content changes. My site home page was penalised immediately following fairly significant changes being cached and I can't see examples to back up this being a stale content penalty now would such a penalty make much sense.

If certain external links are no longer counted or regarded then it becomes more important to review internal link distribution.


 5:51 pm on Jan 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

I am still sitting in position 6 for about 20+ key phrases for my niche.
I think a good way to look at this is the position 6 website have been “temporarily barred from the top 5 results”.
I am hopeful that “temporarily” is correct.

Has anyone made into the top five yet?


 6:18 pm on Jan 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

Still testing things here. I'm trying to see if I can get just one page out by purchasing some good links...one a week for a non-competitive keyword. This may prove that you can get individual pages out but doesn't mean much when you have 10-100's of pages at 6.

I think to get the entire affected #6 positions out of the funk, you have to get the index out of the penalty. Which might be hard to test since most of us target competitive index keywords so getting a few people to get an inner page out of the 6th position will prove it can be done by anchor text variation & more links. For the test I'm doing VERY long tail anchor text and won't be including the keywords in some instances.

[edited by: Timetraveler at 6:19 pm (utc) on Jan. 13, 2008]


 12:31 am on Jan 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

I've also got a bunch of secondary pages sitting on 6/11 and I'm beginning to think they're just too perfect, G is suspicious but can't find a good reason to dump them :-)


 12:57 pm on Jan 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

For the most competitive phrase in our industry, we were ranked No.1 for a number of months before dropping to 6th in December.

Before we were No.1 we had climbed to 3rd and then 2nd, and then fluctuated between the two. Once we reached 1st, we stayed there.

We dropped down to #6, and at first it didn't appear as though it was the same penalty/ceiling/safety-net that everyone's been discussing. Having been at #6 for a few weeks, we were joined (in 7th) by the site that was previously 3rd (when we were 1st). So I guess it is the #6 'penalty' we'd been subjected to. It's only for this search phrase, and the page isn't our homepage but our 'strongest' other page on the site.

This weekend, we have returned to the top spot, and now the four sites in 6-9th spots are the other four that used to make up the top 5 with us.

We haven't made any dramatic changes. We've obtained a few more links, but that's business as usual. Obviously, can't speak for the competitors as to what they've been doing (or not).

So what it's all about remains a complete mystery to us.


 4:06 pm on Jan 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

I would not call this a penalty. All of our pages that went down like that we have added additional content to and they have been pulling out. It's not a human placed penalty but possibly a stale page or a page that slipped due to content. We studied what replaced us initially and realized that our competitors had a little bit more information. Not necessarily on the page that replaced us, but also on the pages that support the page that replaced us. We did a KB count on words and photographs and our competition outdid us in most cases. So we added relevant and unique content, photos and even some flash movies of the product. The pages were crawled again, content was cached and we shot back up.

I would suggest to everyone to add unique and relevant content to the page that went -6 and possibly adding a page to support the -6 page. Just keep in mind to make it useful and unique content.

A link or two might also help, but the Google algorithm caches unique content faster than it does links. Links have to age, content is cached quicker.


 4:14 pm on Jan 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

Ok, tri.

As I know you test (actually test), I'm going to take your results as-is. Thanks for weighing in!

Others - Although it's near impossible to isolate any variable, I'm sure others, like me, have enough pages at #6 to run separate tests ie. trinorth's added content suggestion, different unique anchor text to another page, whatever you think might be the issue, etc.

I've grown bored of this puzzle, let's figure it out and find a new one to play with. ;-)

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