|New communication in WMT... algorithmic but still a penalty.|
| 12:47 pm on Apr 8, 2011 (gmt 0)|
After submitting rather a lot of requests since January 12th when my site seemingly suffered a huge penalty/filter, I today received a rather different response in my WMT which I'm guessing will be one of the improved communications that Matt Cutts indicated over the last month or two:
|Dear site owner or webmaster of <site>, |
We received a request from a site owner to reconsider <site> for compliance with Google's Webmaster Guidelines.
We reviewed your site and found no manual actions by the webspam team that might affect your site's ranking in Google. There's no need to file a reconsideration request for your site, because any ranking issues you may be experiencing are not related to a manual action taken by the webspam team.
Of course, there may be other issues with your site that affect your site's ranking. Google's computers determine the order of our search results using a series of formulas known as algorithms. We make hundreds of changes to our search algorithms each year, and we employ more than 200 different signals when ranking pages. As our algorithms change and as the web (including your site) changes, some fluctuation in ranking can happen as we make updates to present the best results to our users.
If you've experienced a change in ranking which you suspect may be more than a simple algorithm change, there are other things you may want to investigate as possible causes, such as a major change to your site's content, content management system, or server architecture. For example, a site may not rank well if your server stops serving pages to Googlebot, or if you've changed the URLs for a large portion of your site's pages. This article has a list of other potential reasons your site may not be doing well in search.
If you're still unable to resolve your issue, please see our Webmaster Help Forum for support.
Google Search Quality Team
It's great to finally get an answer that my site's issues are algorithmic and not as a result of some nefarious spam report. So I give a thumbs up to the improved message rather than the innocous "We've processed your request" one.
Doesn't help the fact my site is suffering still, and having looked at my backlink profile I'm convinced spammers have successfully ruined my site's trust (so much bad/illegal sounding/irrelevant anchor text on literally thousands of domains). My lastest reinclusion request detailed the links which I obtained from Majetic SEO and described how I was countering them - complete with supporting documents. They never looked at the documents (checked my logs), so if this is what is killing me, how am I do raise the issue or at least highlight a possible shortfall in the algo to Google?
Either way, kudos to them for giving this little bit more information. I'll just have to plough away as usual to the site which now gets 10% of its previous G traffic.
| 5:48 pm on Apr 8, 2011 (gmt 0)|
Thanks for sharing that. It is definitely a much clearer communication than any previous effort. We have hope!
| 7:44 pm on Apr 8, 2011 (gmt 0)|
Yeah it's good to see them being more communicative.
In fact a different recent thread showed someone received a message about unnatural links being detected. Ironically, Google suggest the webmaster file a reconsideration request once they have cleared up the links... something which I was trying to do - and perhaps the message didn't exist in November when 24,000 links suddenly appeared in my backlink profile.
It was your response to a thread in fact which shifted me from on-page to looking at links - you said you had seen competitors ruining other's rankings before. Have you any experience in helping people overcome this? If you have a service please PM me with details! I'm pretty desperate after a lot of on-page and soul searching (and 6 requests)...!
Thankfully, Bing still ranks me where it has since day one or I'd be looking at more drastic life changes.
| 9:12 pm on Apr 8, 2011 (gmt 0)|
Jeez, just a few days ago I got the:
|We've now reviewed your site. When we review a site, we check to see if it's in violation of our Webmaster Guidelines. If we don't find any problems, we'll reconsider our indexing of your site. If your site still doesn't appear in our search results, check our Help Center for steps you can take. |
for both the requests I put in. It's not even logical, they mix past tense, present tense and future tense in just three sentences.
| 9:32 pm on Apr 8, 2011 (gmt 0)|
|It's not even logical, they mix past tense, present tense and future tense in just three sentences. |
Actually grammatically and logically ( the "tenses" are indeed used correctly ) it makes perfect sense ( unusually IMO for the "plex" )..it just doesn't help you very much if you were hoping for something more specific by way of a response ..
The specific and detailed type of reply patc received would have been more helpful to you , if the circumstances had been applicable to your case, it does sound like they may have actually looked at patc's site whereas you appear to have received a "canned" (albeit grammatically and logically presented and structured ) response.
| 9:46 pm on Apr 8, 2011 (gmt 0)|
It's interesting, because despite several g-cheerleaders suggestions to the opposite, Google must be receiving enough of a negative response to Panda that it felt it needed to break its vow of silence. I can only imagine the firstname.lastname@example.org email address the day after Panda.
| 9:58 pm on Apr 8, 2011 (gmt 0)|
|The specific and detailed type of reply patc received would have been more helpful to you , if the circumstances had been applicable to your case, it does sound like they may have actually looked at patc's site whereas you appear to have received a "canned" (albeit grammatically and logically presented and structured ) response. |
I will add, the previous 5 requests yielded the standard response that Content_ed saw. Maybe I tripped a 'Pester' threshold at > 5 RRs!
They may have looked at the site but they clearly didn't look at the content of the actual request.
It's a bit of a problem that whilst I might be completely barking up the wrong tree, there is no real indication of whether there's a different tree I should be moving to, so to speak, and after exhaustive analysis (I didn't just submit requests, far from it!) I am genuinely stumped as to my position. So in essence, I have more info because of this new message, but it also raises me more questions when reading others who've felt the same 'tinfoil hat' paranoia about links outside of my control (which I didn't buy/sell/organise).
Now I am in a position any further RRs would seem somewhat massively pestering because the msg effectively says 'go away'. So I won't submit one, I just wish there was less of a 'guilty before proven innocent' mentality about these filters.
| 1:26 am on Apr 9, 2011 (gmt 0)|
|This article has a list of other potential reasons your site may not be doing well in search. |
what's the list?
|site may not rank well if your server stops serving pages to Googlebot, or if you've changed the URLs for a large portion of your site's pages. |
did you check this? it looks important.
does your server, serve, the right pages for a particular URL?
| 5:42 am on Apr 9, 2011 (gmt 0)|
Sorry - This Article. [google.com]
It's the usual GW guidelines stuff. And yes, my site is delivering the pages with the right status codes and the right content. I moved the site to a new server some time between the 4-5th request also to eliminate any speed issues.
I have all 6 requests saved here, if I pasted them I think you'd be pretty bored with the amount of ground I covered.
Google definitely weren't hinting at anything specific to my site by mentioning those factors - it's just a cookie cutter email of a different kind!
| 5:32 pm on Apr 11, 2011 (gmt 0)|
Well this is really good news, especially if we can assume this is now policy: that all reconsideration requests will get this reply if there is no manual penalty.
Of course, we could now ask - why did it take a whole month to generate this response? Presumably such responses could be autogenerated instantly (and scalably) by checking for a manual-penalty flag in processing incoming reconsideration requests.
Why would google knowingly allow millions or billions in collateral damage to the US economy, in the name of something as subjective as 'search quality'? It seems irresponsible.
Obviously - operating with accountability would cost something, nipping into profits. Google doesn't have to, because of their market dominance. So search-dependent businesses must keep paying the price for maximizing google's profit... and the cycle continues.
I'd like to see lots more of these kinds of notifications,
an open path for recourse, and test-rollouts for alg changes , like they demonstrated with Caffeine rollout.
This is the kind of thing ALL search companies should offer, and if they don't - expect some regulations...
| 5:39 pm on Apr 11, 2011 (gmt 0)|
|For example, a site may not rank well if your server stops serving pages to Googlebot |
Given how many spam bots are hitting our sites on a daily basis, and given that we try to fight that battle via htaccess "deny from" IPs, I would hope that Google would let you/us know in a GWT message if we accidentally blocked them. I don't know one way or the other if they will do that, but it would be certainly be helpful, and would remove the issue from the radar screen.
| 6:13 pm on Apr 11, 2011 (gmt 0)|
|Of course, we could now ask - why did it take a whole month to generate this response? Presumably such responses could be autogenerated instantly (and scalably) by checking for a manual-penalty flag in processing incoming reconsideration requests. |
Let me clarify - I submitted my 6th request before I'd received a reply to my 5th (but after several weeks). However, the reply to the 5th (the standard "We've processed your request") occured the day after I submitted the 6th, so I naturally assumed that was an overlap.
The new reply came 5 days after my 6th submission, so was quicker, but still may have required a human to push a button it seems.
Even with worldwide Panda on the loose, it has made no difference to this site, still in the duldrums. I'd really like to see a way you can request reconsideration in the instance of something you did not do - i.e. in my case spammy links - this new canned response implies there is no point in using reconsideration requests in these instances, but the official Google Webmaster Forum (and a different canned response from them about unnatural links) suggests you do exactly that. So it's a bit unclear to me what I can do now, if anything. And it, as ever, feels very unfair.
| 6:37 pm on Apr 11, 2011 (gmt 0)|
I hear you.. just look at the webmaster forum and count the number of pleas which go unanswered (or with 1 unhelpful reply). Are we really to believe that google could not afford to pay a dozen people more to staff the forum - that they must rely on volunteers?
The problem really is that we don't have healthy competition in the search ecosystem. If there were say 10 equal sources of search traffic, a business could sustain a large drop from any one of them.
I'm in the same situation: complete google traffic halt, no GWT notification,no crawl errors etc, no help from the forum -no income, and no recourse.
Last time, it turned out to be completely my code bug - but it took me weeks to get help via the forum; those were very costly weeks I spent thinking I was accused (according to google) of some unspeakable spam crime.
>So it's a bit unclear to me what I can do now, if anything.
The only constructive thing I can think of to do is maybe webmasters could start an online petition to send to our reps in congress, asking for regulation of search co biz practices.. the politicos right now seem clueless about how search works; they're talking about regulating the alg itself lol..
| 7:38 pm on Apr 11, 2011 (gmt 0)|
mantucket... LOL indeed.
I had thought of flying over (am in UK) and holding a one man protest with placards like a mad idiot... my partner is almost actively encouraging that after putting up with 3 months of complete stressout on my part.
I hasten to add, I have analysed this to death - yet scared to post on the official forum because of the seeming spam target, worried it would just add fuel to the fire - but I have used dozens of threads and info from elsewhere to get me to the point I am now. I have covered every single potential problem the site can have.
There are two answers to the issues:
1. It's our fault, our sites just aren't ranking as well as they used to. Build great content and the ranks will return
2. Point 1 is a Google Webmaster Forum smokescreen - the ranks vanished, not dissipated over time... this is a filter, I have now fully produced a tin foil hat (according to the 'Senior' people in the forum) and someone has successfully screwed me over.
Coupled with the fact someone registered <mydomain>yo.com and stole my front page in December, then sent 30,000 people to it in a day from a very dodgy neighbourhood (the front page has a <base href="http://mydomain.com"> in it, so all the outgoing links on the stolen page pointed to my site), and the newfound discovery of tens, if not hundreds of thousands of nasty links plastered all over dodgy forums, I'm inclined to believe point 2 after 3 agonising months of solid analysis.
| 8:47 pm on Apr 11, 2011 (gmt 0)|
It's now official btw (minus my rantings since):
| 4:47 am on Apr 12, 2011 (gmt 0)|
There's no "official" announcement from Google in that article that I can see. SE Roundtable is covering this thread here as news, referencing your quoted email. It's a circle ;)
| 4:55 am on Apr 12, 2011 (gmt 0)|
tedster, the circle gets even more loopy: Matt Cutts announced it via tweet [twitter.com...] but used SEroundtable link.
He also replied to me, saying they will consider automating the nonpenal responses [twitter.com...]
| 7:12 am on Apr 12, 2011 (gmt 0)|
In the comments a Google employee says yes we're doing this now and Matt Cutts 'likes' the comment. I was also drawn attention to it by Matt's tweet.
Ok maybe not Official official, but I'd say that's pretty Official short of them making a blog post about it.
| 11:24 am on Apr 12, 2011 (gmt 0)|
Yea, it's official Tedster. :)
Pierre Far from Google confirmed it in the comments and, as stated above, Matt Cutts tweeted a confirmation.
| 12:33 pm on Apr 12, 2011 (gmt 0)|
(I'm the Google Webmaster Trends Analyst who posted the confirmation on Search Engine Roundtable).
Yes this is real. As I said, we want to give more feedback to webmasters, so we are experimenting with additional reconsideration response messages in some cases.
| 1:41 pm on Apr 12, 2011 (gmt 0)|
Thank you, Pierre. Can you say that affected sites that make changes to meet Google's standards for quality will regain their positions, or will they improve their current positions, or will nothing happen?
| 2:19 pm on Apr 12, 2011 (gmt 0)|
pierre - I'll be even less specific than dickbaker and ask how I can address Google now? Or could you tell me I'm barking up the wrong tree? That would do.
| 3:50 pm on Apr 12, 2011 (gmt 0)|
|Thank you, Pierre. Can you say that affected sites that make changes to meet Google's standards for quality will regain their positions, or will they improve their current positions, or will nothing happen? |
you are in the way of big sites making money. Well, you were. At most Google will send you a notice and the traffic to big media so they write something nice about Google...for a change. Not one site has come back as far as I can tell. I find it very unlikely that no one has gotten it right in the six weeks and that no one would speak up about it.
Hit them back, remove all my Google adsense and try Bing. If they are near equal, switch. It's only fair.
| 2:47 am on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)|
As is customary when someone represents a significant business such as Google, I want to confirm that this member account pierrefar, is indeed the "real" Pierre Far from Google.
| 5:12 am on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)|
Thanks for sharing the letter patc. You mentioned:
|In fact a different recent thread showed someone received a message about unnatural links being detected. |
I missed that. Are you saying that a site was penalized for having too many unnatural links from outside the site?
Is that part of the algo? I mentioned this in another thread, and someone said there Google can't judge a site negatively because of too many unnatural links.
| 5:34 am on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)|
|We reviewed your site and found no manual actions by the webspam team that might affect your site's ranking in Google |
The single best sentence to read in that response if you believed you were penalized. Changes the way you approach improving the website, at least in the short term, considerably.
| 6:08 am on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)|
Has anyone posted a flowchart of what you should do to diagnose a google traffic halt? It seems like there are quite a few rules, but with this step towards informing webmasters, combined with a few other things matt cutts has said recently, it is suddenly possible to make progress figuring out what happened, by process of elimination.
For example, if you send a reconsideration request and after 5 days have not got a 'non-manual' response, you can safely assume it's a filter and expect to get some hint about what is tripping the filter.
If you dont get such a response, it's either a manual penalty or error on your site. If it's a manual penalty, then after several weeks you should get a message saying either a) your site still violates our rules (but no hint about why) or b) traffic will be restored.
Similarly you can probably use a few tests to tell if you've been hit by an alg change....
I'm thinking I could take a shot at drawing out the diagnostic flowchart - but does such a diagram already exist?
| 8:50 am on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)|
|I missed that. Are you saying that a site was penalized for having too many unnatural links from outside the site? |
This is what this sounds like to me: [webmasterworld.com ]
I thought for a minute it was on-page linking but it references 'links to the site' and links 'outside your control' where you should submit a reconsideration request. They didn't even read my request with details of all my unnatural links so this is why it contradicts itself. However I never did get that same message - whether it's one of these new ones or not I don't know.
|The single best sentence to read in that response if you believed you were penalized. Changes the way you approach improving the website, at least in the short term, considerably. |
Yes, in a way. If you get it, you're with the millions scratching your head as before. If you get the opposite (i.e. you've been slapped on the wrist) that'd be a lot easier to sort out, presumably because the issues will be more obvious, fixing them and then showing 'good faith' and all the other things they ask for in a reconsideration request.
The overriding feeling of receiving the new message is "stop sending us your annoyingly long requests!" so I have to, because seemingly there is no button they can push to resolve my issue, it's algorithmic. I just hope they do cater for situations with spammy backlink profiles & losing site authority by quickly being placed in 'bad neighbourhoods'. Google say you get caught for buying links - I have to assume therefore that that is a manual penalty and not algorithmic because if that's the same filter in the algo, by sending me that message I now have no recourse to Google to sort it out. (even though, I stress again, I haven't ever bought links).
Again, I'd shut up about this if someone who actually knows for certain (Pierre) could just say 'wrong tree' to me...!
|For example, if you send a reconsideration request and after 5 days have not got a 'non-manual' response, you can safely assume it's a filter and expect to get some hint about what is tripping the filter. |
I don't think you'll get the latter part, mantucket. Once it's algorithmic (edit: an algorithmic filter/penalty I should say), they'd rather you figure it out yourself.
| 2:39 pm on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)|
patc, I'm sure I can fish up the segments from recent matt cutts videos where he says you will get notifications in most cases of what the issue is in automatic penalties. Matt has also described when penalties are lifted or expire... manual penalties are like a 'timeout' that expire after some amount of time, depending on severity, and automated ones lift once the alg reverses its opinion, i.e. you fix your site.
Up to now, I'd agree 'they'd rather you figure it out by yourself', but to me it seems like this is a step towards more ethical biz practices: smaller operations do not have resources to 'figure it out ourselves', which creates a bias towards big $$ operators. The sooner a respectable site can reverse the damage, the less impact these google wreaks on the economy with one of their experiments...
Well, I'd be up for combining all the hints we've heard so far into a straw-horse diagnostic flowchart, that the community can vet, and maybe we could ask google for comment..
| 10:29 pm on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)|
Two things spring to mind with your last response:
1. They can't give too much away or the black hats would have a field day. I've heard Matt talk of improved communications but outside pretty basic on-page guidelines I would doubt they'd go into any details about algo based penalties?
2. For people like us, if they introduce these at a later date and indeed they are as you describe, how do you reckon we'll get the message literally - I can't see them running their new emails retroactively to any site already in our situation?