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Google.com SERP Changes - May 2009
Pass the Dutchie

 8:05 am on Apr 30, 2009 (gmt 0)

< Continued from [webmasterworld.com...] >

Something is up. We monitor google.de very closely and the SERP's have remained very static for a couple of weeks now. No jumping around of sites as we have seen over the past months with the exception of a few sites that should not be ranked as highly as they are. Last time I saw this there was a big shake up. Lets hope for the best results ; )

[edited by: tedster at 5:39 am (utc) on May 1, 2009]



 4:09 pm on May 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

This minus 50 thing is for real. Last night a competitor in one our niches thatís been rock solid top three for years, often at # 1, dropped 50 places. Most internal pages still have some PR, along with a few grey bars.

No clue what causes this but these guys have always used a very aggressive linking strategy. One that should pass any algorithmic checking, but a visual inspection could be another story.

I am a believer that Google doesnít much care for manual labor as policy, but could these be hand checks?


 4:40 pm on May 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

I am a believer that Google doesnít much care for manual labor as policy, but could these be hand checks?

Much more likely its a new 'footprint' garnered from 'seeder' case-studies, suddenly let loose in the wild.

Normal MO is that some 'false positives' will get their own exclusion footprint, and return to former positions. Either that, or G records the results for analysis, rolls back, modifies the footprint and re-releases for good.

Either way, scatty modifications to sites are likely to be harmful. Wait for SERPs to settle and see where you are then.


 7:33 pm on May 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

I can't see google penalizing for link buying, link selling yes, but not link buying!

This would penalize sites that buy links from very targeted sites for traffic purposes, not google ranking.

Maybe google is only penalizing if you do link buying for "run of the site", or from unrelated sites outside your industry.


 8:14 pm on May 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

It's not link buying (ad buying) itself that is being penalized - just links that do not use the rel="nofollow" attribute. Google's guidelines prohibit paid links that pass PageRank.


 9:50 pm on May 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

Note - there is another thread running about the current batch of -50 penalties: [webmasterworld.com...]

Both that thread and this thread are home page features, so we won't be locking either one.


 9:58 pm on May 19, 2009 (gmt 0)


I hope you are wrong because we have put in years of work on this site. There has to be a way to overcome the -50, I have mixed feeling because some here say they got out and some like you say it is hopeless? IS IT HOPELESS?



 7:41 am on May 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

Well Guys, here's a little story I suggest you read and let me know your input.

I own 10 sites and have read this entire thread tonight as I am seeing a different sort of trend.

Let's start with my main site - PR6 - just received the 6 last month. It was built in 2005. It has about 30 solid custom links and many paid directories and other natural links. I do pay for the custom links but these are ones I cultivated myself. I made some changes to the site about 3 weeks ago, added 6 new pages all optimized, changed the homepage title, added 3 super high quality custom links over a 2 week period and sat back to watch what I thought would be rankings increase.

So here's what happened. I saw exactly one week ago last Tuesday, my long tail keyword rankings tank from top page to page 2-3 and in some cases gone. I saw highly competitive ones move only down from #2 to #8-10 fluctuating - I also have 2 main keyword rankings for highly competitive terms where Google gave my site the 4 little links to top interior pages - these rankings stayed. So my traffic is down but it is mixed - there is still a lot of shuffling going on but many of my interior optimized pages rank above my homepage. I also see cheesy little sites with only free directories and a little age outranking my site in some cases.

Additionally, I've been carefully watching a competitor who ONLY gets links from comments sites that are followed - terrible quality links for the most part but he must have 500-700 of these things and he has only gone up! I monitor Google data centers and he is killing my PR6 high quality authoritative site everywhere! My site in the allinanchor results appears to be moving back upward for most rankings but still not where it was. Could it be from the 3 new custom links? Could it be they have devalued existing custom links? All the link partners sites do not sell links except for 1 or 2 and ALL have their page rank. Could it be from the homepage title change? Could it be just a natural drop in rankings and then pop back after Google grades the new site links? It doesn't seem to quite fit these other guys situations as most main terms are stable but long tail terms are destroyed!

So that is my main site. Now, my main site does feed a few links to some of my secondary sites, one of which is penalized on Google but I've decided to leave the link up. These other sites that my main site links to have all ranked good but a couple of them have slipped while one has increased rankings. It's a very complicated situation to gauage as you can see. The sites that have slipped all have their own custom link portfolio but seem to be sharing a similair situation like my main site but maybe not as extreme.

I HAVEN'T seen any other sites in my sector get nailed like my sites! All have their own IP's but they do share a similair product and keyword focus.

I will say that I saw something like this happen probably 3 months ago with one of the secondary sites that is not doing good again. It lasted I believe one week then bounced back with better rankings. I will also say that my main site has only really ranked well for long tail keyword phrases for about 8 months. Before that it ranked only well for general highly competitive terms which I focused on with carefully-crafted anchor text in the custom links.

Some of my newer sites that are 2-5 months old - all were ranking good and then dissapeared and now are ranking on avaerage 1-2 pages back from where they used to rank. All have keyword matching domains and their own link strategy.

My tendancy is to believe that these sites will go back to at least where they were originally Im hoping. I was expecting to see this happed today as google usually updates Sunday night and shows results on Tuesday. I haven't seen anything.

Your thoughts/advice/Ideas are MUCH Appreciated!

[edited by: tedster at 5:16 pm (utc) on May 20, 2009]


 8:20 am on May 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

It's not link buying (ad buying) itself that is being penalized - just links that do not use the rel="nofollow" attribute. Google's guidelines prohibit paid links that pass PageRank.

Grrr. If you're going to make this type of statement (double posted no less) re: the current SERPs then you're going to have give more concrete information than just -

"link buying...seems to be the issue with the examples I've seen"

What are the common footprints?
How familiar are you with the sites?
What LEADS you to believing this?

What is it you always say?...
Something about "causality and synchronicity not being the same"

Where's your causality proof?

Or are you refusing to tell details ala..err..umm.. whitenight logic?!


 8:48 am on May 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

I see also strange things on two of my sites that started on May11 .
One 8 years old website goes down for almost all top 10 terms.
Depend on terms some goes -10, other -50, -150, -200 etc...

Today i have seen that two keywords came back to old positions (one jump +186 position and another one +97.)

I must also say that every year same website is hit at least once of twice for a period about 30 days (all terms gonna). And then everything come back as before.

So i'm curious what will happen here. Of course i expect to be back as every year to old positions.


 10:49 am on May 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

One of my sites has also suffered this... For all main keywords I am now at pages 5, 6, 7 or 8.

When I search domain-name.com I am #1

When I search domain-name (without com) I am at 3rd page with inner link results (?!?!?!).

I haven't done anything wrong basically... except that before this happened I posted new page with 2 in-content links to my new site in same niche.... I removed those links afterwards.

About reconsideration request: is that just for those sites that are completely out of index or I can submit reconsideration request for my site that suffered this -50 penalty and is in index?

Should we just wait to see what happens or what? This sucks, I have never bought or sold a link with this website, don't know what I did wrong...


 11:08 am on May 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

Should we just wait to see what happens or what? This sucks, I have never bought or sold a link with this website, don't know what I did wrong...

Contrary to popular misconception and FUD, you'd be best to wait around and see.

I'll do my best to monitor the current SERPs situation and come up with some explanations.

You'd be wise to go back and read the October SERPs Rollout (and preceding linked threads) [webmasterworld.com] to notice similarities or differences.

Praveen Kumar

 12:23 pm on May 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

One of my site is dropped in google uk for four major keywords (remaning keywords are slipped 4 to 5 positions) in April 17.

it is observed that same keywords are ranking well in Google.com and other search engines, if we assume that google has introduced the new filters in their SERPs then Google.com rankings should be dropped or slightly slip pages but rankings are stable.

We have not done any major changes / updates to our website and it is associated UK in WMT.

already it happed in last month and we waited nearly one month still nothing improved, traffic has decreased nearly 20 t0 30%.

Ranking Drops in Google Uk like this..

First keyword present we are in 3rd page previously it is 5th position.

Second keyword present we are in 7th page previously we are in 6th position

third keyword present we are in 8th position now we are 100+

fourth keyword present we are in 10 to 12 position, now we are in 100+ some time and 200+ some time.

if it is -50 penalty all our four keyword should be 5th to 7th page.

it is observed that most of the competitors are stable not much changed, only our website has dropped the rankings

if we compare with competitors we are in quite good positions in terms of optimization and back links.

any one can give suggestion regarding on this..


 1:37 pm on May 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

Should we just wait to see what happens or what? This sucks, I have never bought or sold a link with this website, don't know what I did wrong

Lets look at the alternative.

You accept you don't know whats wrong. You have done lots of things to your site, and believe them to be sensible, rank-improving actions.

Are you seriously suggesting that randomly changing various well-crafted features will release the penalty? Of course not. All that will happen is the good bits get watered down.

Further, given that Google likes to delay your release from penalty, you actually cannot know what part worked- and thus you will not know which parts you can put right afterwards.

So, given that non-guilty sites ofter get caught in new penalties, and given that SERPs usually return to somewhat similar positions when they settle down, the only sensible thing to do is watch and learn.

Only act when you know it is necessary, and you have an idea what you are doing. Or you are so desperate that the risk of burning your domain no longer worries you.

Hi whitenight. While its always good to see you, I worry when you post in the monthlies- you seem to be a harbinger of SERPs related doom!

[edited by: Shaddows at 1:43 pm (utc) on May 20, 2009]


 1:49 pm on May 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

Hi whitenight. While its always good to see you, I worry when you post in the monthlies- you seem to be a harbinger of SERPs related doom!

I actually try to keep the fear-mongering and doomsday cliff-jumping to a minimum.
Or at least based on some semblance of SERP reality.

While noticing a competitor unexpectedly jumping around the DCs all crazy-like, decided to stop by and see what their commotion might be caused from.


 3:27 pm on May 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

I wasn't insinuating you caused the hype, just that your posts in the Monthly thread are mostly confined to the major events.

Jumping around by DC (multiple data sets), or are some DCs stable and others in flux?


 3:34 pm on May 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

The kind of problems people are describing in the last few posts has happened to me about many many times. It started when I originally did something stupid and got a (deserved) penalty. Since then, around twice a year, Google will put me back into penalty (all top keywords disappear from top 10,000, or the minus 50 thing for some other keywords). The penalty seems to last for a few days, and then it's back to normal for a few days, and then back in again. Doing nothing for a few weeks and the cycle ends and all the keywords are back to normal and stay that way (until the next time).

This time feels a bit different because I can't actually see signs of a penalty (top keywords still the same, or actually higher, but traffic is down). What others said about long-tails, and inner pages (and reduced site: links) is probably what's causing it, as well as multi-DC differences that are hard to track.

The best thing to do is to sit back and wait. Monitor the keywords daily to see if it comes back (possibly only temporarily). Only start to get really worried if it's the middle of June, and things are still the same. I will say that this "update" seems to start later than the one last year for my sites. Late March/early April versus early March last year.


 4:43 pm on May 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

I reckon Google rolled back the SERPS a few months to remove the spam sites and are still in the progress of re-indexing. It would be the quickest way to remove those spam sites.

[edited by: tedster at 5:26 pm (utc) on May 20, 2009]


 5:02 pm on May 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

Talk about sledgehammer and nuts. There's no way the SERPs would be rolled back that long. Google doesn't want to do something quickly, they want to do it properly.

Usually there is collateral damage, but G doesn't really mind as long as the quality of the remaining SERPs will satisfy thier target audience- end users.


 5:05 pm on May 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

But it's really not fair to have some "mediocre" thin affiliate sites appearing in top 10-20 for competetive kws, and my site, that I have been working hard, writing editorial independent reviews and recommendations on it... for like 1.5 years so far... got this -50 penalty. I even got 1 edu link for inner page that some students gave me when they made a site on their edu. I mean I didn't ask for the link.

I hope this is temporary thing.


 5:53 pm on May 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

"link buying...seems to be the issue with the examples I've seen"

What are the common footprints?

Here's one footprint: backlinks from prominent sites that have sold do-followed links in the past and been penalized for it. These backlinks are formatted in the typical style of a "sponsored links" column on the side margins, but without the actual "sponsored links" caption.

There are penalties to sites who really did buy such links, too - and I am assuming those are the target. But there seem to be a lot of false positives as well. If my analysis is correct, it's the suspected buyer getting the penalty, not the seller.


 6:22 pm on May 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

it's the suspected buyer getting the penalty, not the seller.

Oh what joy the ability to do that would bring to those Googlers that lie awake at night cursing artificial linking. Up till now, they have really only been able to flog half of these webmasters they believe to be evil doers; the sellers.

If they are algorithmically implementing this that's quite a change I would say. How do you control for this, if say you don't want one of these cursed links pointing at you?

The few sites I have noticed being hit with this penalty are link buyers, but I have no evidence this is related at all.


 6:35 pm on May 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

Right now the evidence I'm turning up is highly suggestive, but certainly not conclusive. One obvious challenge with handing out heavy penalties for link buying is that it opens a door for competitive disruption - buying spammy links for a competitor just to get them penalized. Is that risky? Well, yes - you might well just help them rank better! But actions such as google-bowling have been around for a while, and any new algo would need to be quite sophisticated to avoid such problems.

The current moment is seeing a select slice of penalties - some were handed out to big budget sites, definitely, but it's not a major flood by any means. Overall, the SERPs are still remarkable free of churn.


 7:38 pm on May 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

One of my sites was affected by this and have been doing SEO work for 6 years! We went from thousands of unique hits per day to 2 digit hits! Never encountered this issue but have seen similar trends.

There is obviously a trend, I have talked to several webmasters through PM and many experienced the same exact issue on the same exact date, every kind of site from high ranking "competitive keyword" pr6 sites to smaller PR3's.

What does this tell me?
We have all come to the conclusion that it is a penalty! The questions is can we get out without asking for re-inclusion (which in my experience has made things worse)? Or should we file for re-inclusion and trust google to take a look at our sites and help us get out, you decide? I am hopeful that this is a timed penalty, could be a 1 month gig or a 6 months (hope not) but I am optimistic it will bounce back without needing to ask for re-inclusion.

The main reasons I can think of why this has happened?

a) Link buying (if you bought links from a site that says "sponsored links" next to yours then shame on you, if you bought links that are not obvious then I would be less worried)

b) Fast link building (If you are building links through forums, blogs, directories way to fast, this could be a reason)

c) Stevie might have a point when he said "Google rolled back the SERPS a few months to remove the spam sites" could also be a reason.

d) To many 301 redirects

e) Link injections. Download Xenu and check all your sites links, I had a friend who ran through his site a few weeks back and found thousands of "display:none" div tag links injected into hundreds of articles in his site. I even found 2 (only 2) myself pointing to weight loss sites and removed then immediately. One was prior to the -50 penalty

f) Google bowling - check to see if your competition bought some bad neighborhood links for you!

g) .........? please add to the list if you can

What to do?
Keep adding unique content to your site, slow down on link building and proceed as normal for a few more weeks, if nothing happens (like someone above mentioned) by middle of June, we need to re-evaluate.

My conclusion:
Wait it out before you do anything drastic! Now if someone gets out of the penalty please post and notify the others so we can check our stuff! If we remain in -50 please let us know what YOU did prior to being released! Working together we will achieve more.

Watch our closely for Thursdays, for me it has happened twice on this date and I have confirmed it with other webmasters as well.



 8:20 pm on May 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

The -50 is a death penalty, getting back a site is impossible, believe me.


 8:25 pm on May 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

It is not a death penalty; I've seen dozens come back, many without doing a thing other than wait 90 days.


 8:33 pm on May 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

You are the only one I have heard this one from SEOPTI? Most others confirm you can get out in a matter of time? Why wouldn't Google just give you a minus -950 penalty (so you are out of site) if they wanted you our for good instead of having you linger in Page 5 forever? I think this -50 penalty is a type of waiting room similar to the sandbox and very unpredictable.


 8:36 pm on May 20, 2009 (gmt 0)


You even said yourself in this thread:

"I think it's about 6 months for the -50 to get a review. "


 11:49 pm on May 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

This was in January, it's not valid any more, there is no escape from this penalty *if* a reconsideration requests fails. This penalty covers your whole domain, all old URLs and all new URLs, all old links and all new links.

Wait, it's possible to escape if you move your content to a new domain. This is what I did and it was a successful move.

But you can of course wait, I haven't moved content from some domains which sit in this box for 12 months ... and it's just a test.

[edited by: SEOPTI at 11:50 pm (utc) on May 20, 2009]


 12:12 am on May 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

which sit in this box for 12 months ... and it's just a test

Can you clarify this ? You have seen 12 months as the time phase , or you are just testing and speculating ?

If so , what happens to the influence of the initial offending links and the overall condition of the site in the SERP's.

[btw] I have no doubt that various types of "paid " inbound link building will cause the purchasing site to tank . FUD , algo and editor interference are enough to throw up uncertainty for webmasters contemplating it. Not all sites seem to be treated equally though.


 12:56 am on May 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

SEOPTI, I think you are wrong let me explain.

I was made aware late last year that Google was working on a new algo to try to stop link spammers being able to boost sites to the top very fast, and this was as a result of some of the vulnerabilities they felt they had with being able to distinguish sites that had a real "buzz" effect from fast link acquisition and falsified link buzz. This was a real problem for them as they had made quite a lot of mods to the algo based on the effects of social networking and the effects of link building speed that is quite different from a year or so ago.

It appears that has now gone live and it is algorithmic - it was also known there would be collateral damage but there are safeguards built in - hence it seems the minus 50 or so penalty.

It is not an absolute penalty otherwise you would be delisted - it is more a case that you de-rank while the algo looks at link patterns over the next period.

The logic is that spammers don't continue to build links to penalised sites and that natural link building (buzz link building or non-paid links) continue normally because of the quality of the site. What happens then is that the penalty is downgraded over time and the site eventually re-ranks, this can be days rather than months.

The point here is that if you have been affected you may have been getting links aggressively or tripped some other filter that previously was not there. If you then stop getting links when the penalty happens then you end up fitting the spammer profile as that is exactly what they would do.

So, SEOPTI, what I would say is that if you stop developing a site with a "minus" penalty then the site will die - if you keep developing it, then it should come back. In effect they are trying to detect whether it is a real site attracting real unsolicited backlinks - if it doesn't then it goes into the dustbin.

Like I said, this is info that I was given by someone who was involved with this months ago - not anything I thought of myself!

My personal opinion is that it is a poor implementation of a minor problem and seems to over complicate the issue of spam because in essence the spammers will work out a new way to get round this.


 1:17 am on May 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

Hey Swanson,

I posted an explanation of what's going on with my sites, yesterday, you can find a page or two back. Anyway, what about sites that didn't get a -50 but moved let's say from #2 to #12, #6 to #25, and showing interior content pages outranking my homepage more? This doesn't fit the -50 but it's happened to a couple of my sites starting May 11th. ....I am still seeing a lot of fluctuation. I would like to hear your thoughts, let me know if you need more details. Thanks!

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 1:57 am (utc) on May 21, 2009]
[edit reason] removed specifics [/edit]

This 219 message thread spans 8 pages: < < 219 ( 1 2 3 [4] 5 6 7 8 > >
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