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Help with Minus 50 Penalty - December 2009

 7:25 am on Dec 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

i've just been given the goole minus 50 penalty on December 15th EST.

It definitely is minus penalty - all terms for every keyword are beyond page 5 (even site name)

I've never brought a link or sold anything.

I did a press release last month and got another link from yahoo directory and business directory. Also an SEO company made a mistake and wrote 15 unique aritcles and posted them to 12 sites each. Each article used the same keyword - but i was already top for that keyword. (they've been removed now).

will i recover from this? how long does it take? is is just a google mistake that will rectify?



 10:11 pm on Dec 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

Not to hijack stevy777's thread, but these spammy links were from 30-50 different domains

Since we are debating reasons for -50 penalty I think we are still on topic. And, yes, 30-50 different domains can mean anything from 300-500 to 3M-5M (no upper limit, really) so I can see how this could be a problem.


If you are seeing something happening in July-August, I think you should really look for what you've done (or what was done to you) in April-May if not earlier. Most of junky sites are of little value to Google and I would presume it would take them a very long time to collect all the new links let alone process them. If all those links were from PR6+ sites constantly pounded by GoogleBot, then, first of all, hats off to your ability to fund your marketing efforts, and second - you may be seeing results a little earlier but still not immediate. And third, too: I don't think those links would qualify for "bad links" even if themes are not directly related.

Regarding the time delay: that's been my experience, anyways. Sometimes you really wish there would be a more direct action/feedback relationship with Google because by the time one issue creeps up you might have done a few more changes and so never know what actually tipped the balance off.


 2:19 pm on Jan 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

my site under the minus 50 penalty now moved back to a PR 5 - is this good. Google also have indexed more pages.

Every keyword for my site puts me five pages down the search engines but i still getting 100 uniques a day from google.

What does all this mean?


 3:10 pm on Jan 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

my site under the minus 50 penalty now moved back to a PR 5 - is this good. Google also have indexed more pages.

Every keyword for my site puts me five pages down the search engines but i still getting 100 uniques a day from google.

What does all this mean?

Means that you are penalized, probably manually.


 4:28 pm on Jan 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

Every keyword for my site puts me five pages down the search engines but i still getting 100 uniques a day from google.

This bit of info by itself does not really mean much. Were you receiving much more than that? Sounds like you should have received 100 times as much before the penalty. Also, the traffic that you DO receive - what pages that traffic comes from? You can look that up in the referrer field, the "start" parameter. For example &start=10 stands for a referral from the second page, &start=20 - third and so on.
So, if Google referrals that you do get still come from first of second page, then I would be inclined to think it's not the hand-applied penalty. If those referrals are coming from pages 5-6 and never higher than that, well, I hope you can wait a couple of years until the penalty is lifted.


 5:28 pm on Jan 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

I wouldn't wait for the penalty to expire. The -50 penalty, from my experience, can last up to a year. It really all depends on severity.

I would be filing a reinclusion request right away, after first ensuring that there are not issues with links on the website itself.

Take a long period of time to assess the website objectively, even ask for a second opinion from others.

There are instances where a -50 is applied accidentally to websites. In your case, this sounds as though it is a possibility, so once you are absolutely sure everything on the website is great, then contact Google with a very specific request.


 7:10 pm on Jan 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

Hey I also got a -50 penalty on exactly the same date 12/19/09. Oh also we have 4 non-related sites...and all 4 of them got the same penalty. My main site is over 10 years old and the rest are 6,6,6, and 5 years old.

Possible reasons:
1) Duplicate content (we've recently converted from a full retail site to an affiliate shopping mall type of site).
2) a large amount of mysterious incoming links from Arabic sites.
3) 2 footer links on all pages of all 5 sites pointing to my main site home page (again in place for over 4 years)

Other than that I believe we're 100% legit. No paid links. No hidden text. No bad neighborhoods that I know of at least.

I'm at a loss on what to do. We are currently 80% down in traffic due to this. I can maybe hold out 3 or 4 months like this.

My question is this: Was there any body else that got hit on 12/19/09? Was there an update then? Suggestions?


 1:21 am on Jan 15, 2010 (gmt 0)


Are you still under -50, or have things resolved?


 5:07 pm on Jan 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

This is probably it Bill. Do you add any value to the content (compare from diff stores, ratings, mash) or just feeds?
1) Duplicate content (we've recently converted from a full retail site to an affiliate shopping mall type of site).


 6:12 pm on Jan 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

hi crobb,

still under the penalty - two days ago google gave me an automatic email saying they've reviewed my site for the reconsideration request - but still no change


 6:35 pm on Jan 15, 2010 (gmt 0)


I got a -50 within the past week, and also recently got a second Yahoo Directory listing (to one of my inner pages, about 2 weeks ago). I have seen others get multiple directory listings with no negative impacts, but I saw this as a direct similarity with your situation in your original post.


 6:52 pm on Jan 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

Mine is now a -40. And I'm pretty sure it's due to the fact google thinks my site is an affiliate only site. Which sucks because only about 20% of our products are affiliate links.

But they have "considered reinclusion" already and then lowered it from a -50 penalty to a -40 penalty. yeay :¦


 9:19 pm on Jan 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

that's interesting ....did you remove your second directory listing ?

what other things have you been doing to reconsider.

i'm hoping it's automatic. Right now i'll be happy if after a year i loose the penalty but i just wonder if it will be forever


 9:35 pm on Jan 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

I am not making any changes to that directory listing right now. I see other sites with multiple directory listings, and a listing to an internal page in a different category seems perfectly reasonable. Another change I had made to my site over the holidays was to add some "Share" links on a few inner pages using a sharing/bookmarking service. This is the first time I have ever used such links, so I am not sure if that would trigger anything suspicious. I am just so uncertain right now that I hate to make any sudden moves.


 9:36 pm on Jan 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

btw stevy777, where does your site rank if you search for its name (without the .com or other extension)?


 5:31 pm on Jan 16, 2010 (gmt 0)

Crobb, regarding the sharing and bookmarking service, we did the same thing 4 weeks ago with one of the more famous services and have found that it actually seems to help our rankings a little.
We've had our site probed more carefully and often than usual by the googlebot with js on, and a couple of manual inspections (we've been under observation for the last year since a -950) but I don't think it will be a source of any problems.


 3:11 am on Jan 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

hi Crobb,

when searching for my site name i'm on page 5 or 6


 5:47 am on Jan 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

I just discovered something very interesting, it appears someone has somehow hijacked my website with their PR5 domain (I don't know much about hijacking). But their PR5 domain contains my content. The content from my site is being served in real time to THEIR domain. Searching Google for THEIR domain, shows MINE listed #1.


 6:01 am on Jan 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

Find the IP address that make requests (try a non-exiting page from their domain and check your error log); serve a custom robots.txt that disallows the whole site for that IP, and send a removal request through WMT...


 6:05 am on Jan 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

do you think something like this could cause -50? The fact that they used a domain with such high PR is what alarms me, in addition to the fact that MY domain is the one showing #1 when searching G for theirs. I already tried getting their IP from whois, but obviously they set it to private. I will attempt to get the IP from my raw logs.



 6:51 am on Jan 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

Sorry, I am editing to remove my comment due to corrected info from my webhost. At first, they thought they had mistakenly placed a domain on my dedicated IP, but they verified what I suspected, that their domain has simply been set up to point to my IP. We are setting up htaccess rules as we speak, and I guess I will send a reinclusion request to Google. I can't think of any other source of this penalty.


 4:06 am on Jan 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

I am curious about a couple of points pertaining to this -50.

1) I have read recently that Google is spidering javascript and reading the links. I have always had javascript tracking code that has a line containing var = "page url". I know for a fact that Google is reading these as links and attempting to spider them, because I see it in GWT. The problem is, they may be counted as "hidden links" since they are not visible to the visitor, and I have read hidden links MAY contribute to this penalty. Obviously, this was unintended, and I have changed my tracking code to auto detect the page url, so that the page url isn't embedded in the js. Not sure if this will help but worth a try.

2) I have noticed an upswing in the number of good sites, valid resources, linking to my site using nofollow in references (unsolicited). They reference my site as resourceful, and it doesn't seem fair to tell the search engines to "nofollow". I wonder if Google interprets a large number of nofollow (especially an increasing number) as an attempt at link buying? Wasn't the purpose of nofollow to help Google determine paid or useless links? Maybe I misunderstand it's purpose, but I think it defeats the original idea of using links as a "vote" for a site, when resources are hoarding their PageRank with nofollow.

Just some thoughts. These are two factors that have jumped out at me today. I am tired, so I hope this all makes sense. :)



 4:25 am on Jan 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

1) Google uses that kind of JavaScript for URL discovery, but mere discovery is not the same as counting it as a link. Many years ago they started finding potentially undiscovered URLs in JavaScript and test spidering them. It was only over the last year that they also began finding JavaScript that also changed the page being displayed. Only that behavior is what counts that as a link - JavaScript that does not change the page being displayed is not a link.

2) Even a large number of rel=nofollow attributes has no effect on your ranking. The original intent of this attribute (or so it was said at the time) was to protect a site owner from dubious links in user generated content. The paid link thing was a later addition to the Google campaign. However paid links are far from the only reason that sites use the attribute. And as long as it is in place, there is no shadow cast on your site. At most it means advertising links that line up with Google's guidelines.


 3:28 pm on Jan 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

I've seen a number of sites with the same penalty, most recover but it could be days, months, or years. I agree with Tedster. The threshold, IMO, is based on your risk profile which is calculated by looking at all of your links as a whole. Spammy neighborhoods, blatantly paid links, % of keyword anchor text and so on. We had over 1M links so determining the cause was especially difficult. That said, I would submit a reconsideration request providing more detail than you think you should - then grovel, apologize, and swear on your mothers grave that you will be a good boy.


 7:26 pm on Jan 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

talismon, I will probably do a reinclusion request, but I have personally seen these come and go quickly. So, I am making my changes and getting my ducks lined up before I submit that request. I want to do it right, like you said.

My page hasn't been cached since Jan 13, so none of my changes are reflected in G yet. Things just seem to be stale unless you have a blog that gets indexed hourly.

What do you guys think about the LOSS of trusted/established links is a possible trigger? I know we can go on and on and on about possible causes, but this is another factor in my case. I wonder if asking for those to added back would help or dig a deeper hole.


 10:10 pm on Jan 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

I think the extra Yahoo listing would only help. Losing those trusted/established links could have threw your link profile out of sync and tripped a filter but I seriously doubt it. It could very well be that hi-jacking issue you spoke of.

I'll also say this, I don't believe linking back to index with the same anchor text across your site would trigger this penalty. We do this extensively and never thought twice about removing it when we were hit. I've read a lot about this theory on penalty posts and would love to hear from someone who thinks this was the main factor in their penalty.


 10:36 pm on Jan 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

I don't think that Google evaluates websites on such black and white criteria, and punishes affiliate websites. If they did, then tons of affiliate sites that are in the top 10 results of most beauty and health SERPs would be trashed.

I think that there is a common misconception about affiliate websites. Google is fine with affiliate websites, so long as the website provides value first, and then directs the user to a helpful product or service. Nothing wrong with that, since a) you provided a great website first.

I think where affiliates get into issues is thin affiliates - very little unique content, very little creativity.

The affiliate game is changing fast across all fronts with the ongoing Adwords affiliate assessment, so for the sake of your users, your consumers, and your competition, it only makes perfect sense to expand your website and cater to your community first.

You can have your cake and eat it, too.


 5:47 pm on Jan 24, 2010 (gmt 0)


Sorry to read about your site penalty but imo its all part of the learning curve.

Some here may disagree, but imo its very easy to trip a filter these days and its more likely that your -50 is automated. A re-inclusion request wont help imo, your site is in the index, it is included, it just doesnt rank in high positions. A re-include wont change that.

More likely you tripped a filter, as a result of your link profile, a sudden rush of links on low value sites and blogs could have caused it coupled with a low link profile to start with.

What you need to do is look closely at your site, clean up any duplicate content issues (just in case its not link related), look at your internal link structure and tidy that up (remove overuse of keywords in internal links) secure links from QUALITY sites to up your authority level in your space.

A number of good quality links will help improve your trust level and will counter a number of junk links that deliver negative effect.

If you think about it, even the best sites on the net will have junk links from scrapers and blogs pointing to them. No site can avoid it but what the best sites have is a number of great links to them from authority sites that endorse their trust status.

As a guess i would say that with a bit of work, in possibly two page rank and link revaluation updates you could be back up and ranking well(Inside of six months) could be sooner with luck on your side.

Good luck to you



 8:41 pm on Jan 24, 2010 (gmt 0)

A re-inclusion request wont help imo, your site is in the index...

The request is now called a "Site Reconsideration" request. The change in name means you don't need to be gone from the index to submit one. The submission form is in Webmaster Tools, and here's Google's description from the WMT page:

If your site isn't appearing in Google search results, or it's performing more poorly than it once did (and you believe that it does not violate our webmaster guidelines), you can ask Google to reconsider your site.

Yes, it can often take months, but I have also seen sites clean up their problems, submit a request, and have their rankings pop back within days. Google suggest watching this video about making a Reconsideration Request [youtube.com].


 9:36 pm on Jan 24, 2010 (gmt 0)

If the -50 has been invoked on a site for it's link profile , the chances are that it could be due to a high amount of that activity. Cleaning this up may not therfore be possible due to the size of the exercise and inability to have other sites adjust their links.

What then ? Wait or forget it ?


 4:49 am on Jan 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

My guess is that when this happens, Google manually checks it and they probably determined (right or wrong) that you got those links there.
does that mean competitors can submit a re-inclusion request to have Google search your website manually and determine if there should be a -X penalty?

 5:12 am on Jan 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

Reconsideration requests are submitted from within a verified Webmaster Tools account. Your competitors would not have that access, so no - at the most your competitors can only use a spam report or a "dissatisfied with results" input.

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