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Shaking off a long-standing Google penalty
altyfc




msg:3982004
 2:38 pm on Sep 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

Hi everyone

I haven't posted here for over 4 years, so please forgive the long absence!

I am having trouble with a long-standing Google penalty and, although we feel sure that the site (actually, sites... there's more than one) is/are squeaky clean and comply with Google's webmaster guidelines, all reconsideration requests (approximately 3 or 4 over the course of 12 months with the main domain [ [<snip> ] in question) have been in vain.

I've posted on numerous fora previously to get help, including the relevant Google Webmaster Help Group which, anyone who's tried getting help on there before, might know can be very hostile and rather intimidating.

Recently, I spoke to someone (thank you, Phil Bradley) who I thought might be able to advise and he suggested I post here, as well as at SE Round Table, and that I perhaps try to contact Matt Cutts (a long shot, perhaps, but he does try to reply to a lot of his messages, I understand). Getting a response from Matt or one of his colleagues does strike me as the ideal solution as at least then I'll get a definitive answer as to what the outstanding problem(s) is/are. Without this we are just second guessing as to what might be the trigger, and we have been doing that for a long time now, without success.

Can anyone advise on what we need to do? Is there a best way to contact MC?

Thanks for any pointers.

[edited by: Receptional_Andy at 3:44 pm (utc) on Sep. 1, 2009]
[edit reason] No specific URLs please, see charter [/edit]

 

Receptional Andy




msg:3982054
 3:55 pm on Sep 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

For obvious reasons, Google engineers are very unlikely to be specific about problems that can result in dampened rankings or penalties, although it's possible they might point you in a general area. Your very unlikely to get specific steps you can take that will rectify your problem, other than cleaning up and filing for reinclusion.

If you want to understand what's happened - and obviously be closer to fixing it - then the first step is to identify the symptoms of the problem.

What's the impact on results? Does your site show for a site: search, or is it completely removed from results?

In most cases I see where sites appear but don't rank, there's no real evidence of penalty at all - rather there is a lack of positive ranking signals (not an abundance of negative ones!). In some cases, for instance, a site may have sufficient external links numbers-wise, but they are types of links that are routinely discounted, and hence probably aren't sufficient at all.

To trigger algorithmic penalties, I would try to look at anything that might be perceived as unnatural by a computer system. That may be unnatural text, or unnatural patterns of linking. But the first step is to get a better idea of what effect it is that makes you believe there is a penalty in place.

Asia_Expat




msg:3982084
 4:51 pm on Sep 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

I've been trying to get my site removed from safesearch for two or three years. 'Medium' fiulters all images from my site. 'Strict' filters my site completely. It's a totally work safe, family friendly site. There are no rogue files or rogue images anywhere on the server. I spent stupid amounts of time checking, and there is absolutely nothing that would warrant safe search filtration...

All attempts to fix the problem, contact Google, or request consideration, have failed. I also asked them if the could at least PLEASE point me in the general area, assuming there is a problem. Alas, nothing at all from Google. They just continue to let my site languish in the filters... So, I gave up... screw 'em.

altyfc




msg:3982306
 10:13 pm on Sep 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

For obvious reasons, Google engineers are very unlikely to be specific about problems that can result in dampened rankings or penalties, although it's possible they might point you in a general area. Your very unlikely to get specific steps you can take that will rectify your problem, other than cleaning up and filing for reinclusion.

Yes, I appreciate the reasons why they might not be forthcoming with regards to reasons. However, I have in one case seen Matt Cutts helping an individual online (via a comment on a blog post [not his own blog]) by pointing out specific pages (and the associated reason) that were causing a problem.

If you want to understand what's happened - and obviously be closer to fixing it - then the first step is to identify the symptoms of the problem.

...which is what we've been trying to do. We've identified things which we thought might account for the penalty, addressed them and requested reconsideration. When that failed, we've scratched our heads again, found other things that might possibly be the reason, and addressed them. And so on to a point where now we are really clutching at straws and can't really think of anything that's wrong.

What's the impact on results?

We went position #1, #2 or #3 (usually #1) on a vast number of long tail search terms to about 50th or worse. For our main search term, we were #1 for a number of years and it went to obscurity, and now sits at around 70th.

Does your site show for a site: search, or is it completely removed from results?

Yes, a search for "site:www.ourdomain.com" brings up over 50,000 results (some of which are pages we have asked Google to stop indexing/spidering but it seems to continue to do so). Strangely, Googlebot seems to like our site a lot and visits frequently, but the same can't be said for Google SERPs.

In most cases I see where sites appear but don't rank, there's no real evidence of penalty at all - rather there is a lack of positive ranking signals (not an abundance of negative ones!). In some cases, for instance, a site may have sufficient external links numbers-wise, but they are types of links that are routinely discounted, and hence probably aren't sufficient at all.

I am pretty confident we have a penalty. A search for the bit between www. and .com brings up all manner of sites that mention (and link) to us, with us well down in the results. To me, that alone would suggest a penalty, particularly given the rankings that the site used to enjoy.

To trigger algorithmic penalties, I would try to look at anything that might be perceived as unnatural by a computer system. That may be unnatural text, or unnatural patterns of linking. But the first step is to get a better idea of what effect it is that makes you believe there is a penalty in place.

Thanks, Andy. This kind of brings me back to my original point. I'm stuck. We've been trying to decipher this for 12 months. I've sought help on a number of discussion boards. Early observations sounded like a plausible cause for a penalty but have all been addressed a long time ago now. I appreciate now that I can't post the URL on this particular board (sorry about that) but on forums where I have been able to, people don't seem to be able to offer any suggestions as to what is causing the problem to persist.

This is why I've been thinking that I really could do with answers from Google, and whether my energies are better placed trying to get a direct answer from someone there who is in the know. (If anyone could suggest how I might go about that, I'd really appreciate it.)

WarrenBuffett




msg:3982414
 1:57 am on Sep 2, 2009 (gmt 0)

From Tedster's posts on this forum, the penalty you are suffering has highly likely been triggered by a non-natural looking backlink profile. Which can mean your backlink anchor texts are over optimised or you are participating in obvious link buying/selling or even a reciprocal link campaign.

fishfinger




msg:3982603
 12:30 pm on Sep 2, 2009 (gmt 0)

a search for "site:www.ourdomain.com" brings up over 50,000 results (some of which are pages we have asked Google to stop indexing/spidering but it seems to continue to do so)

Have you checked to see if there are spam links pointing at these pages that Google won't drop or at the site?

Is your site user-generated?

Do you do any active link-building?

altyfc




msg:3983276
 9:22 am on Sep 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

Thanks, Warren... we do have a breadcrumb navigation on the site. I'd be surprised if that was the cause, but I guess everything's worth looking at, so we're seeing what we can do to mix things up a little in that regard. We have other sites with nearly exactly the same breadcrumb navigation which are not penalised, but I guess everything's worth a shot.

Have you checked to see if there are spam links pointing at these pages that Google won't drop or at the site?

I haven't found any. Is there an easy way of checking?

Is your site user-generated?

The bulk of the site is generated by freelancers but all their content is moderated by us prior to publication just as a quality control measure.

Do you do any active link-building?

Not so much nowadays, and I think that's something we could perhaps work on. I'm at a bit of a loss where to start, though... so many sites offer only nofollow links these days, directories don't carry so much weight and/or are nofollow, reciprocal linking seems to be a no-no, we do forum posts and blog comments but not sure those links count for much, and of course we can't buy links and people are reluctant to link to a site with a penalty. So any advice in that regard would be helpful as it doesn't seem quite so straightforward to get links anymore!

Thanks.

fishfinger




msg:3983351
 1:08 pm on Sep 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

I haven't found any. Is there an easy way of checking?

You could go through Google's Webmaster Tools first and see if you have any dodgy links pointing at your site (including to 404 pages). If you think this is an issue then you can use Yahoo SiteExplorer to try to track more down.

I was asking about your link-building to see if you could have done anything to give yourself a bad link profile. The advice above is to help you discover if a competitor has given you a bad link profile.

I assume you've read up on over-optimisation penalties thoroughly (plenty of threads here on that).

Do your logfiles show any change in Googlebot behaviour around the time you first lost your rankings?

randle




msg:3983461
 5:09 pm on Sep 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

If you’re going to spend your valuable time trying to understand why the site may be penalized, spend the bulk of your efforts on issues related to links. Google built their ranking process primarily on links, which fueled our collective infatuation with linking and all the associated vagaries such as anchor text, page placement, source, bad neighborhoods, trust, page rank ect, ect. Now their trying to get the Jeanie back in the bottle by having an algorithmic infatuation with penalties. (The Google webmaster behavioral modification program) They have spent more time in the last 18 months thinking about the ramifications of links they deem unworthy of ranking considerations by their algorithm than anything else, so you should to.

We went position #1, #2 or #3 (usually #1) on a vast number of long tail search terms to about 50th or worse. For our main search term, we were #1 for a number of years and it went to obscurity, and now sits at around 70th.

This isn't all that uncommon, although you seem to have been stung by it earlier on.

we feel sure that the site (actually, sites... there's more than one)

Are you doing any cross linking? Many of the sites I saw get KO’ed by the latest Google upper cut, aka “the minus 50 penalty” had some cross linking going on between their own sites, despite having the sites on unique servers and applying the old “domain by proxy” label.

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