|Penalties - forgiven but not forgotten?|
In the bad old days the feeling was a re-included domain never regained its former positions, has anything changed in these more enlightened times?
I'm not sure that's true - one of my clients was completely banned from Google for a spammy link exchange program; we cleaned 'em all up and filed a reinclusion request, and they are currently #1-3 for just about every relevant search phrase you could think of. They're ranking higher now than they ever did before the penalty - but it did take about a year to work their way up to that point.
Could you provide any details on what steps were taken to regain position?
Mainly making sure the site was squeaky clean, and waiting. I think we tweaked some of the titles on the pages (it's database driven, so that was something of a chore) but that's about it. When we showed up in the index again, we were down around #300, and it just took time to slowly work our way back up.
That's what I've seen, too. A long, slow release from "probation" as trust builds.
I do think Google always has a record of the past penalty somewhere, and any future infractions might be dealt with quite harshly. But you definitely can see a site get completely released from the ranking effects of a penalty.
|When we showed up in the index again |
Netmeg - What type of issues were they ? It sounds like this was a filter issue with regards to meta titles, in which case I wouldn't call it a penalty.
Sorry for splitting hairs - it's just i see "remedial" works differently from things like cleaning up non compliant "link building practices" - if you get my drift.
|But you definitely can see a site get completely released from the ranking effects of a penalty |
Tedster - Do you mean consistantly ?
For what it's worth, we have fallen into some difficult periods in the past. I remember we were pursuaded to engage in a " same theme " link swap network and within 2 weeks the experimental sites went quickly south - pretty much out of the index. Fortunately we recognised the error and reversed those links out. Within another 2-4 weeks our sites were back flying again [ but not as high as we were tempted to before ].
For years we grappled with duplicate content - it gave the appearance of a penalty. Eventually we understood how to manage it and the sites responded to top positions with 2-3 weeks.
|making sure the site was squeaky clean, and waiting |
I don't believe in this for the majority of sites. Google's guidelines are so full of interpretation with anomalies in the SERP's , plus a competitive landscape nobody could claim to walk in a straight line of knowledge, let alone implementation.
And last of all , for that reason I have no idea if Google really forgives, particularily if you file the confession in the "reinclusion request".
Who on earth can be fully confident and know for sure what might happen here - even inside the human reviewer's head. Please tell me I'm wrong ... i want to hear it :)
[edited by: Whitey at 5:36 am (utc) on July 22, 2008]
|Netmeg - What type of issues were they ? It sounds like this was a filter issue with regards to meta titles, in which case I wouldn't call it a penalty. |
|I remember we were pursuaded to engage in a " same theme " link swap network and within 2 weeks the experimental sites went quickly south - pretty much out of the index. |
What happened is that we built the back end database engine for a site, but then the owners took it over, built their own front end, and did their own "SEO". That included falling for an offshore company's promises of high rankings - turned out to be a totally non-relevant link farm; my client was automotive related and they had links to beauty shops and carpet cleaners. They had no idea what had been done or what was wrong; all they knew was no traffic from Google for over two years. I noticed, pulled a couple strings to verify they were in fact penalized; we cleaned all the links up, sent in three reinclusion requests, and eventually we were back in (this part took about two months). Then, since we hadn't touched the site in three years, we modified a few page titles, and eventually it rose to the top.
|I don't believe in this for the majority of sites. Google's guidelines are so full of interpretation with anomalies in the SERP's , plus a competitive landscape nobody could claim to walk in a straight line of knowledge, let alone implementation. |
All I have is anecdotal evidence, obviously, but it's anecdotal evidence over around 400 sites. Squeaky clean and waiting ends up working 90% of the time. The problem is, nobody wants to wait. Sometimes we can't wait.
Three years ago a website I own and manage dropped to position 700+ when duplicate content filters were introduced in the Google algo. The website lost 95% of all traffic in Google overnight. It took about 2 years to build trust back up again to the point where the website is now, top 3 for almost all related keywords terms, so it is possible.
I have a domain that I purchased for about 2 thousand dollars.
It was setup with some basic content, and we did some backlinks (via directory submissions, articles, etc).
At one stage we were PR3.
During a 2 week period, the hosting that we were using (a 3rd party) inadvertently left a security hole open on our server which allowed our domain to be hijacked and used as a spamming server.
Our domain was used to send out thousands of emails over a 2 week period - we promptly moved hosts.
A few weeks later, we featured in some blacklists and we disappeared from the Google index... never to reappear.
Over the last one and a half years, we've gone to great lengths to clean up the site, including, but not limited to:
- Google sitemaps
- Google webmaster tools
- Adherence to Google Webmaster Guidelines
- Fresh and unique content
- Fixed all broken links
- Removal of any div layouts and js that could be suspect
- 5 or more reinclusion requests
So far the result has been nothing. We are still not in G, although we pick up a bit of traffic from Y and MSN.
Even leading SE experts are baffled - am I allowed to mention names? - and so far anyone can tell us is that all signs point to a manual removal of the site by Google?
How on earth are you meant to overcome this? Is our site going to be banned FOREVER, or is there a review period? More to the point, should one person have this power? I'd be interested to know how the review process at Google actually works?
I had some old domains fall out of favor for about 3 years, never seeing a googlebot visit. Finally at some point googlebot revisited and sites went back in the index. I didn't do a reinclusion request, so I guess at some point over time the ban was lifted.
we are spidered everyday, but we're still not indexed.
Recently I was hit very hard (can read about this in Google Search News 3692018.htm page of webmasterworld). Following tedster advice, I noticed thousands of broken links. Fixing it, however, DIDN'T HELP :(
The BAD, BAD, BAD BAD thing here is that I can't see anywhere a little help on what's going on... in WMT, on SERPs cache date ...I can't figure out what's going on now...(and before).
NO FEEDBACK AT ALL.
And after years of hard work this is simply crazy...
So what about "with malice aforethought", might attempts to both game and fool G bring longer periods in Purgatory?
With attempts to perceive "intent" when determining spam, that wouldn't be particularly surprising IMO....
migumbo, have you filed a reinclusion request?
I've had to take "remedial" action on numerous occasions on sites I've bought. Sometimes it was as simple as removing dup content/resolving canonical problems. The work I've had to do has varied from manually removing pages in webmaster tools to deleting thousands of links to shady destinations. Usually the site recovers. However, there are a couple of sites for which nothing, nothing, just nothing has worked. The only reason I keep them is the hope that if they ever do recover I may have discovered some magic potion ;)
i had a site i was working on recently which was an old huge trusted authority domain. a sub domain attached which run a completely different site based around the same industry happen to link to a whole slew of dynamic pages which weren't blocked off from the engines. after these got indexed over a few months time a hard penatly came which isolated the "actual pages" from ranking. everything stayed indexed, but just ceased to rank at all, these were pages based in 2 subdirectories on that particular subdomain.
Cleaned it up, blocked off the bad pages and believe it or not within a week everything reverted back. Definitely not a straight revert to an old index, cause everything was around the same ranking , but some things up or down here and there based upon some kws that were being tracked.
I had never seen a penalty applied in such a way, nor have I seen a site recover so quickly, so maybe it was a bit of an anomaly on both fronts.
If anyone has seen anything similar, please share.
migumbo, have you filed a reinclusion request?
Yes, 3-4 times.
About two years ago, I spotted a network of sites which was ranking high for a variety of terms.
The sites had a few informative pages, which attracted a couple of good links. However, most of the rankings derived (I believe) from: use of doorway pages, agressive interlinking, lots of hidden text (only a link to the homepage was left visible).
I reported the sites to Google, and, as far as I could see, the entire network disappeared from the index.
However, since about two weeks ago, at least some of the sites of the network have been back to the index, and ranking very well.
The site seems to have deleted several doorway pages, but some still remain, and still have hidden text.
have you submitted your site to Yahoo Directory, Business.com, etc? I wonder if Google wants to see some human edited links?
No, because I'm not sure if we can justify the $$$ - is that a strategy you've used that works, or are you hazarding a guess?
I don't know if helps recovering from a penalty but I know that you will get indexed hard after showing up in those places, it has definitely helped with stale sites that need a boost.
I used to think that the cost was a luxury but when I think about all the hours I spend on other things that help less, it seems like a bargain in the long run.
I was listening to Matt Cutt's words about how Google looks at the "reputation" of a site [ and therefore, by default, it's webmasters ] on advances SEO at [mattcutts.com...] in it's quest for improving search result quality.
He appeared to speak in a manner of tolerance, which is interesting because Google issues "guidelines" not rules.
With guidelines, there is nothing to "break" , unlike rules. Guidelines are "inexact" - strong rules have specific boundaries and consequences attached to them.
Matt also reflected the obvious, that he recognised that SEO's will try to push beyond those boundaries with new techniques , and he responded by saying that Google will pursue those that break this "trust". You may get a brief advantage, but Google will work hard to catch those offenders [ in an operational sense ].
If this philososphy is translated and applied into Google's algorithmn and human editorial operations , then i would expect that tolerance could be respected to a point. Beyond this, heavy penalties might be applied from which the "reputation" of a webmaster or website may spend a heavy duty of penalisation.
Google does however, have to struggle with it's occassional error of algorithmic judgement and human discretion [ as with any complex technical process of selection ] in a fast moving and responsive environment.
ie they can't always get it right , even though they pursue it and some folk's sites will get caught in the cross fire and completely forgotten.
When folks file a reinclusion request , somebody at the other end is going to analyse the "reputation" of the site - the capacity to "forgive" will likely be an act of "good faith" based on the editors interpretation of the past behaviour patterns against Google's guidelines.
Indeed the guidelines use these exact words. Which reflect in the words "trust". If you break trust badly, you will have difficulty restoring your reputation.
In a competitive landscape where search volumes, survival , innovation quality, user value and prosperity collide , that's a hard balancing act for all sides to administer, achieve and therefore, work through.
Maybe we should be turning this question around. Can we trust Google to forgive ?
you wouldn't believe it. We are back in Google as of today. Unbelievable.
Had a site totally removed from the index in may 2005. Never filed a reinclusion request, it reappeared November 2007.
> re-included domain never regained its former positions
I still think, the best thing you can do with a penalized domain is 301 it to a new domain and abandon it for about a year. G completely drops the ban and the "dampening" factors after the ban is gone. You finally get to keep the pr via the new domain. If you don't, I have to agree with Glen that the penalty lives forever.
Sorry , I'm not clear :
|G completely drops the ban and the "dampening" factors after the ban is gone |
Do you mean by "ban" like a one year sandbox effect on the new domain ?
Some current discussions on 301's and penalties are over here: 301 redirects - handle with care or be penalised [webmasterworld.com]
Hi Brett, that's not true... and just clarify, I accidentally posted above under a friends name (#:3710013) I was on a different computer. When this thread started, our site had been out in the cold for nearly 2 years. Miraculously, it's suddenly appeared in the index again. We only noticed when we went to post our 5th re-inclusion request. I guess it goes to show that Google can forgive and forget, even if you weren't doing anything wrong in the first place.....
....although we haven't got our PR back...