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Page-Level Penalty Incurred - from Forum Post Signatures?

 8:14 pm on Jan 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

I have a website that has 2 specific pages of it that appear to have been penalized by Google (all of its other pages are fine). They are both listed in the Google index (hence, not a ban), but when I attempt to Google search specific text on these pages within double quotation marks, these pages do NOT return in the SERPs. The content for these pages is very unique, so I believe that it's safe to assume that these pages have either manual or automated imposed page-level penalties.

The pages are White-Hat all the way, and they do not point to any "bad neighborhoods" either. They both had been ranked # 1 or # 2 for several keyword phrases, for the last 5-6 years. They have been penalized now for about 4 months.

I have come to the conclusion that several forums that I regularly contribute to, may be the issue. On each of the posts in these forums, I have signature links that link back to the 2 aforementioned pages. I do this on each of 3 forums, and have different link text, for each of the 3 forums, but within a given forum, all posts have the identical link text (as per how the global signature functions on those websites work). These back links make up the majority (probably about 75 %) of the total back links to these 2 pages. These forums are very much related to the content of my website.

I noticed in GWT, that the "total" # of backlinks for each of these 3 forum domains appear in the summary link page. However, if I drill down into each of these 3 forum domains, GWT actually only displays maybe 10 of these links (for some, I have summary link totals of 150-200). For other non-forum domains, with much fewer back-links, GWT manages to list each link, and the individual link total equates to the summary total # for that domain.

A couple of questions come to mind here:

1) Is GWT always accurate with listing the detail links, or for domains in which there are many links, will it typically only list a few (NOTE: for the ones that are listed, some of them are back from 2009, and some are very recent).

2) Will Google look at these types of links negatively on my site/pages, especially since it's external to my site ? How would they know that it wasn't a competitor trying to sink my site ?

3) Will removal of the signature links from these forum posts, followed by a Google Reinclusion request, be a good remedy for this, in your estimation ?

Thanks in advance, to anyone who can provide insight here.



 9:16 pm on Jan 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

I think you should challenge your conclusion - as you say, a competitor could easily hurt your pages if Google penalized for link signatures. So questions #2 and #3 are not part of the mix. I'm pretty sure there is something else affecting the ability of these pages to rank.

For question #1, although the links listed in Webmaster Tools are usually accurate and the total list is much more complete than it used to be, there are definitely both errors and omissions.


 9:52 pm on Jan 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

i'm gonna ask a silly question. have you checked to make sure those pages are being regularly crawled and indexed by google?

also have you checked to make sure no one stole your content and your pages are not simply being filtered out of the serps as duplicate content?


 11:18 pm on Jan 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

@Tedster, thanks for your input.

@goodroi, thanks for your thoughts, and no questions are silly. To answer your questions, yes, these 2 pages get crawled regularly by Google, and both are indexed (hence, not an outright ban). Additionally, I have checked a multitude of doubly-quoted text string that appear on these pages, and there is no content out there that is remotely close to mine (hence, it appears that there is no duplicate content filter going on here).


 12:32 am on Jan 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

Isn't an over-optimiztion penalty usually page specific? Is that a possible explanation for this problem?


 12:47 am on Jan 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

@aristotle, thanks for bringing this up. That's why I love these forums; sometimes obvious things are missed by me, after staring at the problem for months.

In regard to over-optimization, these 2 effected pages have the same Title Tag, the same <H1>, and parts of the same in the Description meta tag. It has been like this forever, but perhaps the algos have changed, and a new filter was tripped. This is an excellent suggestion for explaining the problem, and something I can now tinker with. Thanks for taking the time to bring it up. I'll let you know what I find.


 12:53 am on Jan 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

@aristotle (or anyone else), one more thing......have you seen cases where OOP's would result in double-quoted text string searches from text of the effected page, to not return the page in the SERPs ? That is what is happening to me, I'm getting "text not found" when searching, yet the pages are still indexed in Google.

Thanks in advance.


 1:57 am on Jan 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

Actually I 've never had to deal with an OOP, and don't know much about the causes and symptoms. From what I've read, most likely it's partly caused by the same title and h1 text, as you mentioned, as well as a large number of backlinks with identical anchor text. I don't think it usually causes a complete disappearance from the SERPs, but can't be sure that couldn't happen. Also, in your case, if exact text quotes from the pages don't give any results, doesn't that indicate that they aren't indexed?


 2:31 am on Jan 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

@aristotle, I found a few references about OOP in my research, and it includes all of the above items that you mention. I am going to make some slow, gradual, well-audited changes, and see what happens. I will certainly let you know.

BTW, I am exhibiting the problem of not showing up at all in the SERPs for any string (quoted or non-quoted), but these 2 pages ARE indexed. They show up in the "site:" command and show up in the SERPs when I type their exact URL in the search command box. Kind of bizarre, but it is what it is.

Additionally, these 2 pages are still regularly spidered by Google, and have been, since the beginning of time (for that website).


 11:08 am on Jan 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

doughayman -
I did some reading about the OOP and was reminded that it is thought to be not only page-specific, but also keyword-specific. In other words, a page is normally only penalized for the specifis search term that it is presumably over-optimized for.

Since your pages appear to be penalized for every search term, they don't appear to fit the OOP in this regard. So unless Google has modified the way it applies this penalty, I may have misled you.


 12:00 pm on Jan 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

@aritstotle, thanks for your research and your reply. I still think this may be an issue, but yes, the total penalty (and not showing up at all in the SERPs for anything) is still somewhat baffling. I will try a few things, and post back, if I come up with anything tangible. Thank you for your help.

Robert Charlton

 3:45 am on Jan 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

...these 2 affected pages have the same Title Tag, the same <H1>, and parts of the same in the Description meta tag. It has been like this forever, but perhaps the algos have changed, and a new filter was tripped.

This feels to me more like the source of the problem. I wouldn't call it over-optimization. It's something I've seen happen when page titles on the same site are duplicated. Possibly, there was once enough difference in inbound links to these pages that they were seen by Google as different in spite of the dupe titles, but that link juice may have disappeared. I'd think of the condition more as a kind of dupe filtering... definitely not an OOP penalty. OOP penalties that I've seen affect the most competitive phrases on a page first, and often the page can perform quite well for less competitive phrases.

...have you seen cases where OOP's would result in double-quoted text string searches from text of the effected page, to not return the page in the SERPs ? That is what is happening to me, I'm getting "text not found" when searching, yet the pages are still indexed in Google.

I've discussed on the forums that, with phrase-based indexing, I've seen sentences not show up in quoted searches for pages that are definitely indexed.

They can sometimes be brought up in the results either by searching unquoted (doesn't always work) or sometimes by searching the text string quoted but adding to the query an extra word that's on the page (and separated on the page from the quoted text string)... so your query would be...

"quoted sentence is here" widgets

...where widgets is a word on the page.

I'd be interested to know if this method of searching does work. Try it before you change the title. I'm also curious whether changing the title to something grammatical (not, eg, a list of keywords) and related to the page content will cause the page to reappear on searches for a quoted sentence.


 11:45 am on Jan 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

@Robert, thanks for your reply. I may not have grammatically explained properly. One each of the 2 effected pages, each page has the same Title Tag and <H1>, but the 2 pages DO NOT share the same Title Tag or <H1>. So what I'm saying is that Page 1 has a Title Tag of "#*$!" and also has an <H1> of "#*$!". Page 2 has a Title Tag of "yyy" and also has an <H1> of "yyy".

In regard to the 2 searches that you mention, neither page comes up in the SERPs with unquoted text searches OR with quoted text searches plus an additional word.

I've already made changes to Title and H1 for effected pages, but have not been spidered yet. I've never given any Title Tag a complete, grammatically-correct sentence before, but it is something that I can try. Do you really think that this would make a difference ?


 2:48 pm on Apr 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'm resurrecting this from a few months ago, but I'm curious if OP has had any luck in changing the situation. I ask because I'm seeing something similar.

For us it's the homepage - a search for the name of the site returns the page at the top of the SERPS (but without a complete title tag!), whereas a quoted string search returns 5 scrapers only.

very strange!


 3:22 pm on Apr 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

Well, not much to reply, but a little, I guess. One of the 2 aforementioned pages has come back in the SERPs, but not in the top 3 pages, unfortunately. The other page still has the same original symptoms. For the first page, I was able to get a one-way legitimate PR 4 linking pointing to it, so that may have been the reason I was resurrected, so to speak. This all may be a function of lack of quality one-way links. Still a work in progress for me.


 3:41 pm on Apr 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

I think i am seeing this more these days.I have a feeling that many links with the same anchor text from the same domain could be one reason for this.Since you have links from many pages of a forum with the same anchor text, it could be the reason for this.

But if google is imposing an OOP, it is dangerous as this could be misused.


 3:46 pm on Apr 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

Work on internal links too. A 4-5 year old forum post is likely buried many layers into a category tree so without incoming links and/or internal link support it will indeed fall off the radar.

Don't overdo it either, the page may have been in decline for some time and stats over time are more important than a sudden spike in links/traffic.


 6:10 pm on Apr 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

I have seen what you mention in your initial post with Yahoo. Yahoo engineers removed all the posts for me and the rankings returned to normal. Shortly after Yahoo converted to Bing. Based upon this I have avoided the practice you mentioned. Even though I don't think it hurts you in either Bing or Google today the little guy is punished way to much and doesn't have the link power of larger sites to offset. I see dozens using the methodology but I don't see many ranked that well.

The problem isn't the practice per sec but that the post is replicated dozens of times dependant on the web site where you are posting. To damage another web site using these methods is much more difficult than it sounds.

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