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Google can be VERY unfair
MrHealthy




msg:4286170
 9:11 am on Mar 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

I am upset with Google. AS we've all seen, a certain person at Google makes these little SEO advice videos and tells people to 'write compelling content'.

Well folks, I've done exactly that, and I ended up with a hard penalty.

So here's the situation: I have a web site in which I write interesting health articles. A certain person at Google has always said that if you write compelling content, that people will naturally link to you and boost your rankings.

Well, I've written some pretty good content, good enough that people have linked to me and actually praised my site as being one of their favorite health blogs.

When I first started, I traded about 10 reciprocal links over the course of a year, with some QUALITY, RELEVANT link partners. These are webmasters of fitness blogs that I actually read, so I could vouch for them. They were not spam sites.

I had some forums, but I recently removed them since they got attacked by spammers and it was unmanageable.

Anyway, on November 19th 2010, Google decides to penalize my site with this ridiculous "minus 50 penalty". The -50 penalty is basically a filter so that nobody could find your site within the first few pages of Google. In a nutshell, it kills your traffic.

Now, if you look at my site, you'll see that I'm NOT a spammer. In fact, the real spam sites are now ranking for my trademark name! Meanwhile, I'm stuck on page 6 of Google for my own web site name. So Google would rather put spam sites in front of my site? How could this make any sense?

I look at these Google Webmaster advice videos about how to make a good site and realize that it's all failed me. I'm now very discouraged to say the least.

Can anyone tell me what is going on here? My site is fixed, I've removed the reciprocal links to my fellow fitness sites. They weren't excessive in the first place. I've made a great site, cleaned up the few reciprocal links that I had, and now am I gonna be stuck here forever?

Why is this happening? And why aren't my reconsideration requests working? It's been over 4 months now and I am very upset. I have taken a couple years of my spare time to create a high quality web site, busting my butt to write all these good articles, only to have Google come and unfairly throw my site into the gutter without any rhyme or reason.

I feel like I just got the death penalty without even having a trial. Google being considered a monopoly is one thing, but having them unfairly penalize you is another.

My web site is very friendly and is fully compliant with Google Guidelines! Why, oh why, am I penalized?

-Frustrated Webmaster

[edited by: tedster at 9:29 am (utc) on Mar 23, 2011]
[edit reason] member requested [/edit]

 

Robert Charlton




msg:4286176
 9:53 am on Mar 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

MrHealthy - Welcome to WebmasterWorld. Sorry to hear of your problems. It sounds like you do care about your site.

When you say you're swapping links in the same subject matter area, I'm wondering how much content you may be swapping or inadvertently getting copied as well.

Since the MayDay algo, dupe content has been such a significant part of site problems I'm seeing that it's the first thing I generally ask about... and page 6 is often the region I see sites with a lot of dupes ending up.

Try searching for quoted sentences (or sections of sentences) in random spots throughout your content and see how much of it is used elsewhere. Try Copyscape as well. I find it helpful to use both Copyscape and Google in looking for dupes, as they turn up different patterns of copying.

[edited by: tedster at 6:29 am (utc) on Mar 26, 2011]
[edit reason] fixing a technical error [/edit]

almighty monkey




msg:4286204
 11:47 am on Mar 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

My web site is very friendly and is fully compliant with Google Guidelines! Why, oh why, am I penalized?


The Google Guidelines are a guide to what Google want to be, not what Google is. What Google is is a constantly fluctuating algorithm. How closly you stick to the guidelines is up to you.

If I may chime in with a bit of advice? Unfortunatly, if they penalised you following a spam attack on your forum, it may be some time for the 'trust' to be restored. Google, being an algorithm, has no means to distinguish a spam attack from a link farm. Reconsideration requests go to the engineers, who in turn use that dataset to revise the algorithm. They rarely get picked up and actioned individually, and when they do this typically takes often years.

I had a client who managed to upload a virus to their website. They never came back in the next 9 months, even after Google verified the malware was gone. Then they stopped paying me, and I stopped tracking them.

The only solution I've heard (Never done it, so I can't verify its effectiveness personally)is to 'sell' your domain (to someone you trust, naturally!) and then to buy it back. Goog then views you as having a new site and all previous considerations (Good and bad) are removed. It might be worth getting your hosting on a new IP during the changeover as well. You'd be back to square one, which although not great is still ahead of square -50.

That is, of course, assuming the forum spam attack is the issue. I'd look into things like Roberts suggestion first! :)

[edited by: tedster at 6:30 am (utc) on Mar 26, 2011]
[edit reason] fixing technical problems [/edit]

GlobalMax




msg:4286222
 12:26 pm on Mar 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

What Google is is a constantly fluctuating algorithm.

At first I read that as saying that Google is a constantly flatulating algorithm.

TheMadScientist




msg:4286228
 12:57 pm on Mar 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Hi MrHealthy,

Welcome to WebmasterWorld and sorry to hear about your issue too ... I do want to try and give you a bit of an answer and some perspective on this question:

So Google would rather put spam sites in front of my site?

No, not at all ... They don't want to rank spam above legitimate content ... But, when you're dealing with something in the neighborhood of a trillion pages to choose from and a billion queries a day, sometimes it happens, so we as site owners have to find a way to 'help' Google rank our sites and more specifically pages where they should ... It would be really cool if that wasn't the case, but with spammers, copiers, and others trying to manipulate the algo so their sites rank their job is very difficult and for a 'money niche' like health and fitness, you've probably got your work cut out for you.

I would start on site and make sure everything is 'squeeky clean' and there are no issues, then do as Robert is suggesting (or even Roberts suggestion first, but I prefer to 'start at home' personally). I guess I'm saying, 'Look at home as hard as you look off site.', because if it is a penalty, there is a cause, and the most likely place for that is on your site, somewhere.

And why aren't my reconsideration requests working?

1.) Because you're included in the index.
2.) Because if you're really penalized algorithmically those are rarely lifted manually.

netmeg




msg:4286282
 2:26 pm on Mar 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

That's a *very* crowded niche, and one that would probably require a high amount of trust from Google. Plus it's spammed and scraped and MFA'd to death (so to speak) There's no question of "fair" here - Google doesn't promise to be fair; they don't consider it their job to be "fair" to webmasters. They consider their job to deliver the best results they can to users. Obviously they don't always get it right, but that's what they're going for - the users.

It's hard not to be emotional about our sites, particularly after we've spent a lot of time on them; they're like children. But if you want to recover, you are going to need to vent that out and then put it aside, because there's work to do.

You need to look at your site *objectively* to figure out what signals you are giving off that might make Google think you deserve to be where you are.

And you need to look *objectively* at the sites that are ranking where you would like to rank, to see what signals they are giving off that makes Google think they deserve to be where they are.

It also never hurts to get extra pairs of eyeballs to help out on assessing our sites - they don't have the attachment, and sometimes they see things we can't.

SEOsoon




msg:4286331
 4:04 pm on Mar 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Im sorry for your problems with Google, but the point is, as it has been posted before:

if you're penalized by Google algorithm there is no chance to be lifted again manually. Just read this a few days ago in one of the videos of the "certain person" you mentioned.

If You told us about 10 reciprocal links a year, how much reciprocal links did you had before you got penalized?

tedster




msg:4286341
 4:30 pm on Mar 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Reciprocal links are not some kind of black hat spam that brings a penalty. They have a very limited value and above a certain level seem not to have any further effect - but that's not a penalty.

However, if one of your reciprocal links involves you linking out to a "bad neighborhood", THAT can cause you a penalty.

MrHealthy




msg:4286409
 5:52 pm on Mar 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the advice, guys. I actually used those fitness blogs that I linked to, so I know they weren't spam. I had about 6 links on the home page, and a few more more links in my "link directory", which had three subcategory pages for the few partners I even had.

Having those recip links on my home page probably looked as if I was selling links, but I never sold anything. How could a search engine assume that you're buying or selling links? It simply said "favorite sites", in the margin, and I put a link to those sites there. I didn't use the nofollow tag, but aren't you not supposed to use it if you actually vouch for the sites? They were great fitness blog sites.

My site is simply a bunch of very well written health articles, neatly organized by topic. I've seen a little bit of my content stolen, but I can't imagine this is why Google would suppress me so harshly on page 6, for just about every query term possible!

To answers your question, my site is now squeaky clean, there's not one link going to anybody now. Forums are gone, and the tiny directory of link partners has been long gone. I made these changes 4 months ago when this all went down.

If this is an algorithmic penalty, does anyone know if the algorithm itself can apply a time-out? Or are time-outs only used in a manual penalty?

Planet13




msg:4286411
 5:54 pm on Mar 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Have you looked in google webmaster tools for errors? Is there anything in the diagnostics section?

Possibly excessive duplicate titles or meta tags? that would mean you would have canonical errors.

Also, there is good forum software that does a PRETTY GOOD job of blocking spam. You can also have it moderate posts by new posters. So if someone who has never posted before makes a post, then there post won't show up until you decide to allow it. Many web masters will set a limit of two or three posts that must be moderated by the web master first before they will allow real time posts.

Oh, and also they would have to provide an email and click on the account registration link in the email before they would have any posting privileges.

So if your site does attract the type of person who is interested in posting to a forum, I think I would look into having better forum software.

Just my two cents...

TheMadScientist




msg:4286412
 5:56 pm on Mar 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Are any of the sites you mention linking to you using nofollow links by chance?

IOW Is it possible it's not a penalty, but rather a 'lack of link weight' due to either a change in the scoring of links by Google, a change in the rel attribute of the links from 'follow' to 'nofollow' or even just an overall lack of link weight?

It's not cool, but nofollow seems to be more commonplace than ever these days, so if a high-power link or two was nofollowed back when you say the site dropped and they were passing most of the inbound weight, it might not be a penalty at all. It could even be on a site(s) linking to you there's an appearance of 'paid linking' and the links out to all sites were devalued, which could easily cause your site to drop if those were 'heavy weight' links and were holding the site up where it was.

As said previously, the niche you're in is going to be some work to compete for rankings in and you're going to have to have significant link popularity to even get in the top 20, imo. Really, there are some big names who have deep pockets in the health and fitness industry and they're probably actively working on their rankings for the terms you'd like to rank for daily.

MrHealthy




msg:4286415
 6:07 pm on Mar 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the advice on the forums, I'll put them back some day if the site ever returns.

I want to make one thing clear. A lot of people often look at penalized sites and say "Oh, maybe your site just isn't ranking well". This is absolutely not true.

When I do a search for my own domain name, all of the pages show up between page 5 and 7. This is the dreaded minus 50 penalty. Even if I type a complete sentence from my web site, it will automatically appear on page 5. No matter what I type into Google Search.

This all went down on one day: Nov. 19th 2010

The sites linking to me are not using the nofollow, because they know I'm legit and every bit of content on my entire site is written by one person: ME.

A couple of the fitness blog webmasters put my link site-wide, and I wonder if that's what tripped the filter - maybe it looks like too many links coming in...

StoutFiles




msg:4286437
 7:34 pm on Mar 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

These posts are all the same. Whine and whine, and when you start to feel bad for the poster, they always come clean. Some popular ones:

#1: I didn't know
#2: It was only a little bit
#3: Someone else did it, it's their fault

Look, Google looks down upon reciprocal links. Follow the rules to a T and you won't get penalized, it's pretty simple. Am I saying the sites now ranked above you are legit sites? Of course not, most probably are spam/scrapers.

It's crazy how much spam gets ranked well but that's another topic; a popular one discussed to death. But don't blame Google for YOUR penalty, they have rules and you broke them.

Planet13




msg:4286453
 8:09 pm on Mar 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Look, Google looks down upon reciprocal links. Follow the rules to a T and you won't get penalized, it's pretty simple.


I would kindly suggest that your opinion is in the minority on this, from what I have seen.

Having said that, if the original poster believes that is the case, then they should just get rid of the reciprocating links and file a reconsideration request.

If you haven't been to the google webmaster forums, then maybe you should post a link to your URL asking why you have been penalized, and see what everyone says. If it is a wrongful penalty, then hopefully a google employee will take a look at it and maybe it will lead to some action.

Hope this helps.

MrHealthy




msg:4286476
 8:48 pm on Mar 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

This isn't a situation of a webmaster doing wrong things and whining about it.

The head of Google's Web Spam team has said himself that a little bit of RELEVANT reciprocal linking is not bad, as long as it's not excessive. Of course they don't define what's excessive, but I can assure you that my linking was not excessive.

Most of my incoming links are not reciprocal anyway, I've written pretty good content and I have a lot of people that link to me naturally for my ARTICLES. So something is definitely wrong with this picture and it's not my site.

And you know what? If nobody complained about these things, then this company could get away with ALL KINDS of unfair practices. These things need to be brought into the light so it will send a message and they can improve their system.

It's funny how their Adsense department wants web sites to sell themselves out blatantly, while the Google Quality team doesn't like that. These two departments are out of sync and send mixed messages. My site has only one adsense block anyway, and it's way on the far right, out of anyone's way (so that's not the issue why I'm penalized).

Either way, I removed ALL LINKS from my web site, and the forums too. What the hell else could they want from me?

Planet13




msg:4286488
 9:23 pm on Mar 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

If nobody complained about these things, then this company could get away with ALL KINDS of unfair practices.


I would kindly suggest that it would be difficult to determine what is fair and what is unfair.

It is shocking to loose one's rankings. No doubt...

But think about all the sites that were BELOW you when you were at the top. There must be hundreds or thousands of sites with similar content to yours that have well written articles with no blatant spamming and that languish way down in the SERPs. Is that fair for them?

I sympathize with you. I know if my sites were punished, I would be screaming bloody murder as well...

But fair ain't got nothing to do with it.

MrHealthy




msg:4286514
 10:14 pm on Mar 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Planet13,

You are right that losing your rankings is nothing to complain about. I could care less about my natural rankings. If someone else ranks higher for a keyword, then kudos to them.

However, there's a big difference here. I'm penalized. Being penalized and thrown to page 5,6 or 7 for every possible search, as well as for my trademark brand, is very different than simply "not ranking as well".

I'm sure you understand what I mean by the difference between natural ranking vs. penalty.

This entire penalty situation is really out of hand and there needs to be better communication with webmasters about their sites. They don't necessarily have to give away the secret sauce in doing so.

TheMadScientist




msg:4286602
 12:29 am on Mar 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

Where did you rank prior to Nov. 19th?

Planet13




msg:4286619
 1:13 am on Mar 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

This entire penalty situation is really out of hand and there needs to be better communication with webmasters about their sites. They don't necessarily have to give away the secret sauce in doing so.


Yes, I can see your point.

Have you tried posting on the google webmaster forums to see if anyone has a any suggestions? Every once in a while JohnMu or another google employee will take a look at a site and offer something of a suggestion (although it can be vague).

I know another poster here had mentioned that they had a similar penalty and that it turned out to be a technical issue. Yet another poster got nailed with a penalty back in October, and I believe that they were able to get it lifted with help from the members support section of this site.

But I would just kindly suggest that, if you haven't already, you should get another pair of eyes to look at the site and see if there is anything you might have overlooked.

I hope this helps.

BTW: I THINK that google said that in the future they are going to be a little better at communicating "issues" with webmasters through webmaster tools. I hope this is true.

MrHealthy




msg:4286635
 1:33 am on Mar 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

Prior to November 19th I ranked first for my own domain name. That's all I'm asking for, is that they remove this page 6 filter.

I'm not begging for high rankings, I just want the penalty removed. At this point, another site with my same name and ".info" is ranking on the first page, and they're a full blown spam site. This is unbelievable.

I have posted in the webmaster forums and nobody had anything to say about my site except say that it's nicely done and that they think I don't have a penalty.

It's incredible how some of these SEOs can look at my site and say I'm not penalized, when I know I am. Within one day, my Google traffic took a 90% nosedive and every possible search result is on page 5 or higher.

I've seen some pretty bad advice come from those webmaster forums. At least the people in this forum are friendly so far, and I got a couple onpage optimization tips already in my email. Although that's clearly not what penalized me, thank you for the good advice.

zerillos




msg:4286639
 1:45 am on Mar 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

Here's a thought i had. Maybe G is taking extra care in giving 'trust' to websites in certain sensitive fields, like health, medicine and legal advice. I mean, promoting poor stuff in these areas could have very serious consequences...
Maybe there are an extra set of factors taken into account when G ranks smth in these areas. Or maybe plays it safe and promotes only authority, like gouverment websites, health institutes and so on... this could be a reason why so many get outranked by poor 'official' and .gov websites.
This is just speculation...

TheMadScientist




msg:4286645
 1:53 am on Mar 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

I can see a bit of your complaint about that one ... I would probably stop looking at it and really go to work on the site ... Maybe search for your main phrases and have a look at the top 10 sites for each, then try to 'out do' them, not necessarily for size, but for quality of content AND presentation ... Even if it doesn't help your rankings it should help your word-of-mouth traffic.

Also, you might try to get some more links for only your site name too and see if that gets you anywhere.

The .info site is a bit interesting, because Google is disallowed in the robots.txt ... Hmmmm ... Hmmmm ... Hmmmm

walkman




msg:4286663
 2:46 am on Mar 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

MrHealthy, the thing is that Google either has a set penalty (say 6 months) for you due to links or they are reluctant to give you a break. They have been getting involved in 'quality' now and believe that medical advice and content needs to be written by doctors. Otherwise, the thinking goes, it's just a content farm /MFA written just to get some clicks.

I understand your frustration but if I am searching for "melanoma," or "heart attack" would I want to be taken to eHow, a blog written by a non-doctor or to the Mayo Clinic and the likes?

MrHealthy




msg:4286665
 2:55 am on Mar 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

Walkman, thanks for the reply. Most of the information on my site is usually backed up by 40 years of Harvard Research (the best source out there).

I give fitness tips and discuss basic things like how unhealthy foods raise blood sugar, the tolls that substances take on the human body, home made recipes, and that sort of thing.

It's interesting that you mention the 6 month penalty. If this penalty is algorithmic, is it possible that the algorithm can actually assign a "time period" penalty?

I have some blogs that link to me - site-wide. I wonder if that could possibly cause the problem, because it might simulate a paid link.

Either way, for them to penalize me because of a link on someone else's site, I think is absurd. I don't even try to dominate any particular search term, I simply write content articles with hopes that people find and enjoy them. And they have. I get natural links and great reviews. That is, until I got hit with this thing. Now people can't find me for pretty much any search phrase unless they go to page 6.

I hope this thing times out! Does anyone know if the algorithm can assign a penalty waiting period, like the manual penalties do?

tedster




msg:4286667
 3:03 am on Mar 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

If this penalty is algorithmic, is it possible that the algorithm can actually assign a "time period" penalty?

Try this video: When Are Penalties Lifted? [youtube.com]

There is a great deal of accumulated knowledge on the forum about how Google works and how it is evolving. We try to archive the best of it in Hot Topics area [webmasterworld.com], which is always pinned to the top of this forum's index page.

tedster




msg:4286672
 3:18 am on Mar 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

The key here would be to understand why the penalty was imposed in the first place. The algo (or human reviewer) found something they felt was unfairly boosting your rankings. If you don't understand what that is, then even after your website is allowed out of the penalty box, you might continue that activity. And repeated penalties can begin to bury your site very deep for a very long time.

This kind of penalty is usually related to something that Google considers manipulative, such as backlink schemes or sneaky redirects. What will NOT give you a penalty like you are describing:

1. A few reciprocal links
2. A few "run of site" links that are done in a standard blog-roll fashion

What helps you the most? Single links in the content area of some other site - and not just to your home page, but to deeper content.

MrHealthy




msg:4286678
 3:47 am on Mar 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

Well said, Ted. I guess I'll have to wait this out and see what happens. I've got another reinclusion filed at the moment.

I may have to contact those blog owners and tell them to remove their sitewide links to me. I do have lots of natural deep links to my articles, one of them got 27 likes on Facebook without me even realizing it.I know that sounds like nothing, but for me that was pretty cool.

I tried clicking on that Google Penalty video, but it was a different video with him talking about something else. I did see the latest video where he describes manual vs. algorithmic...but I still wonder if the algorithm can still place an expiration time-out.

Btw - I really like your forum, I'll donate via Paypal soon.

TheMadScientist




msg:4286681
 3:57 am on Mar 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

I've seen the site (I think) and don't see anything 'penalty worthy' (I didn't dig way into it), but I really don't think it is a penalty ... I think something else changed around that time, and I didn't read the thread enough to know exactly what it was or exactly when, but MrHealthy, you're not the only one to experience a drop around that time: [webmasterworld.com...] Start around page 17 @ 20 Posts Per Page.

Either way, penalty or not, I think you need to focus on the site and let the rankings happen, not the other way around...

Planet13




msg:4286708
 5:08 am on Mar 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

Either way, for them to penalize me because of a link on someone else's site, I think is absurd.


Just throwing this out there, but is it possible that a competitor bought a lot of spammy links to your site to help get you penalized (a.k.a. google bowling)?

Ok, as long as I am throwing out suggestions, do this:

do a site search for the well known men's medicine that start's with a V and ends with an A. Or for poker or for other spammy words. If there are any pages that turn up in the results, look in the cached page in the serps.

I apologize if this is something that you have already done and I sound condescending. That is not my intent. It's just that it sounds like you have been pretty exhaustive in searching out problems, and as you mentioned, no one has been able to help out. A 90% drop in traffic overnight sounds huge. And being on page 6 for your domain name sounds like purgatory.

MrHealthy




msg:4287622
 10:59 pm on Mar 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

My site doesn't rank for any keyword combination unless you look on page 5 or higher. Whether or not I even put my domain name in the search or not. It's a complete suppression.

[edited by: tedster at 6:32 am (utc) on Mar 26, 2011]
[edit reason] fixing technical errors [/edit]

This 36 message thread spans 2 pages: 36 ( [1] 2 > >
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