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Google -50 Penalty Research
chrislloyd515




msg:4366133
 3:21 am on Sep 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

I have mentioned previously about our -50 penalty but I'm gathering some fascinating information, It's a long story though!

We are experiencing the same -50 penalty across a significant number of domains, it manifests as a wall we cannot pass for any keyword around page 4-5 depending on the keyword, in our case it was triggered after an accidental follow link back to our corporate domain was added to a number of subpages on different domains.

So far we are 100+ days plus into this penalty, the offending link was removed as soon as it was noticed, it is affecting both domains with 0 backlinks and domains with natural aged backlink profiles of hundreds of links (both which previously ranked) so in our case it isn't a suspicious external backlink profile, and it definitely isn't an over optimization penalty as all keywords are affected. These are the two reasons I generally hear for -50 penalties

We've done a lot more digging into it. Fixing the initial follow link problem that caused the penalty didn't help us at all, even after waiting 90 days, so something else is wrong or else the original crosslink offense is deemed so terrible that it's worse than the 90 day blackhat penalty attributed to JC Penney....... We have had no notifications of the penalties from Google via Webmaster tools or any other notification method, although in a particularly ironic turn we do appear to be getting rather more Adwords invitations than we've ever had before!

One of the most interesting parts of this relates to Google Analytics. We use Google Analytics on our sites, and every site of this style in our Google Analytics account is affected, without fail (NO EXCEPTION). We have a number of sites not in Google Analytics these were left out accidentally, they are the only domains of this style that rank normally, no penalty has been applied to them at all. They have even gained a few positions! (There is no difference to these sites except lack of GA code).

Also interesting is the way these penalties were applied, domain starting with the letters a-m were penalized first, then exactly three weeks later (Sunday Night) the domains starting n-z were penalized, again without exception. these domains aren't found anywhere on listed with a a-m n-z split.

These two factors make us think that we have been manually reviewed both in the time taken to look through all domains and the face that someone has noticed we use the same Google Analytics ID and used that to grab a list. As mentioned earlier we have no notifications of any kind in Webmaster Tools as to the reasons for the penalty - sites that were formerly superb search results (and held no1 position for up to 3 years prior and with better metrics than any of the competition in terms of bounce and pages viewed).

So, my current working theory is that the initial detection of the crosslink caused us to be put into manual review, someone from google has then looked at one or a few of our sites and taken a dislike to them, applying a penalty. They most likely determined that these sites are a thin affiliate, or "cookie-cutter" then then used the Google affiliate ID to identify the other sites and slapped a -50 penalty on them all. This is also corroborated by the fact that other sites that we run with alot more content on them (and arguably a "brand"), but utilize the same affiliate model survived without penalty despite being in the penalized Google Analytics account.

So as a approximate sum up of the Timeline:

Day 1 - Add Follow Link to corporate site from subpages

Day 5 - Notice -50 penalty across all domain a-m

Day 6 - Identified and removed Follow Link to corporate site from subpages

Day 26 - Notice -50 penalty across n-z

Day 110 - Still no recovery

Other interesting tests we have done:

Adding Google Analytics code to site that survived due to it initially being missed off. The sites "jumps" around up and down a few positions for a few days after the analytics code is added, but still remain unpenalized 80 days later (This indicates to me that the penalization was a one off event)

Completely changing site, moving server, CMS, but keeping the same domain: The site remain penalized even with complete recode from ground up and no affiliate link anywhere on site, even 100+ days later.

Redirecting penalized domain to new domain: New site unpenalized, and ranks as well as previous site did for it's keywords (so implies to me that penalty isn't passed, but link power is!)

Moving site from www.domain.com to a subdomain (penalty remains)

So would be great to discuss this, I have plenty of data so feel free to ask questions. The normal solution to this type of problem is to file a reconsideration request, but that's not practical as I have a lot of sites with the same issue.

 

martinacastro




msg:4366145
 4:14 am on Sep 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Hi chrislloyd515, interesting history.

Can you detail a bit more your error. You added a link from inner pages of other domains to a main corporate domain, and then all websites were penalized? You made like a circular linking?

about
so in our case it isn't a suspicious external backlink profile, and it definitely isn't an over optimization penalty as all keywords are affected. These are the two reasons I generally hear for -50 penalties


As you, one of my site has a -50 penalty but reading (this forum and google forums) and speaking wiht other webmaster, seems that google applies -50 penalty for more things, like for dup content, aff sites with thin content and not only for backlink profiles or over optimization

Why you dont send a request for consideration to google?

You delete the affiliate links, but you add new content? Are you sure that you dont have duplicate content or thin?

You are using now redirection with a new site, that you bougth now? How many weeks or days took you to return to previous positions?

chrislloyd515




msg:4366171
 5:28 am on Sep 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Hi martinacastro

The link was from most (not all) pages on all of these domains, back to a single page on our corporate homepage. Nothing circular... just lots to one place. This could've been interpreted as us trying to manipulate google by building lots of sites and linking back, but this wasn't our intention.

Reconsideration Request would be the absolute last resort.

One of the test involved taking an incredibly uncompetitive keyword, moving to a completely new domain and writing lots of relevant and unique content, and removing all affiliate links obviously isn't a permanent solution, just an interesting test.

The redirection test was to a domain bought now and the new domain ranked within 24 hours, for keywords the old domain ranked for. This was with the exact same site... just on a new domain.

I'm not doubting that we could have triggers a thin content penalty, all I'm saying is that it's very interesting how it was applied, and is not being subsequently applied to identical sites.

martinacastro




msg:4366196
 6:48 am on Sep 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

The redirection test was to a domain bought now and the new domain ranked within 24 hours, for keywords the old domain ranked for. This was with the exact same site... just on a new domain.


the new domain replaces your corporate domain?

One of the test involved taking an incredibly uncompetitive keyword, moving to a completely new domain and writing lots of relevant and unique content, and removing all affiliate links obviously isn't a permanent solution, just an interesting test.


you are talking about the same corporate site?

courier




msg:4366208
 7:15 am on Sep 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Redirecting penalized domain to new domain: New site unpenalized, and ranks as well as previous site did for it's keywords

I am running a site with a -50 also, around 10 months into the penality now. Earlier in the penality I decided to try a redirect with another similiar domain. Instantly I moved into the position where I was, but after around a week slipped back to -50. How long are you into your redirection? Did you redirect the whole site or do it in stages?

nadavs




msg:4366217
 7:34 am on Sep 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

I moved my site to a new domain, and three days later I'm only on page 5 and beyond. I made no changes at all, except the site's name on pages.

I think that the redirection caused massive linking from the old domain (over 10K links from the old domain to the new) even though I set up a change of address request and 301 redirects, and then I was reviewd.

My site is an affiliate site, but definitely not a thin one. I enjoyed great traffic before that change.

Do you recommend a reconsideration request or hope that something in Google will realize that it's the same site with a different name?

nadavs

chrislloyd515




msg:4366219
 7:41 am on Sep 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

martinacastro: No corporate domains stayed the same, the redirects were on a few of the penalized domains to new domains.

courier & nadavs: We have had the redirects in place for over a month and they are still ranking perfectly. To me your situation sounds like you haven't solved the initial "trigger" problem, in my case that was the follow links. So each new domain is triggering a review again. In our situation the new domains have never had those strange looking follow links so have never been re-evaluated.

martinacastro




msg:4366405
 5:04 pm on Sep 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thanks @chrislloyd515, so your main domain is still penalized?

smithaa02




msg:4366432
 5:43 pm on Sep 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Curious...it appears then that GA is being used by the webspam team to correlate website ownership/control kind of like what they do with whois, c-classes and dns servers which is kind of alarming...

To be absolutely clear...

You have a number of websites that used to link to this master site that google probably considers spammy? All websites that linked to the master that had GA got punished but the ones that linked but didn't have GA did not? Am I getting that right?

Hoople




msg:4366442
 6:15 pm on Sep 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Send a request for consideration to google. You will generally get one of three answers: 1) A hint at what's wrong. 2) generic 'not guidlines compliant' or 3) they state no penalty is in place.

Some here in WW have mentioned that in the case of #3 that they have seen a number of their backlink's websites were Pandalized.

martinacastro




msg:4366453
 6:42 pm on Sep 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

@Hoople, interesting information, but what the mean with answer 1)?

1) A hint at what's wrong

Hoople




msg:4366465
 7:00 pm on Sep 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

@Hoople, interesting information, but what the mean with answer 1)?

They never tell you exactly what's wrong outright but instead only hint at a particular aspect. An example recent message others have seen was 'unatural link acquisition'.

tedster




msg:4366468
 7:08 pm on Sep 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Martin - some people do get a reply that gives them a "hint" as to the ranking problem, without spelling it out in all its exact details.

Planet13




msg:4366567
 10:01 pm on Sep 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Reconsideration Request would be the absolute last resort.


Why would that be the last resort?

Curious...it appears then that GA is being used by the webspam team to correlate website ownership/control kind of like what they do with whois, c-classes and dns servers which is kind of alarming...

Why is that alarming?

I mean, if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to worry about, right?

martinacastro




msg:4366627
 3:32 am on Sep 24, 2011 (gmt 0)



@chrislloyd515

when you say
Completely changing site, moving server, CMS, but keeping the same domain: The site remain penalized even with complete recode from ground up and no affiliate link anywhere on site, even 100+ days later.


did you add new and fresh content to that site?

nadavs




msg:4366645
 6:33 am on Sep 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

@Hoople - reconsideration sent on my site. Hopefully you're right and they'll do something good with it.

nadavs

chrislloyd515




msg:4367184
 12:48 am on Sep 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

Sorry for the slow reply, I'll try to answer all your questions.

martinacastro: There is no "Main Domain" the corporate domain that was linked to hasn't changed position. Yes we added completely new content... actually about 5 times the amount of content that was originally required to rank that domain.

smithaa02: Exactly right, no differences apart from content (but the same amount/quality) between the non-GA and GA domains, all had the new link... only GA domains penalized

smithaa02




msg:4367337
 2:41 pm on Sep 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

chrislloyd515, was there any other similar threads between the punished sites and the non?

Did they share whois records? Name servers?

Common threads with the footers? Addresses, phone numbers, etc...?

Were the page update times very similar between the sites punished?

I've heard there is a strong correlation between -50's and lack of anchor text distribution... Was your anchor text diverse and 'natural' looking?

Are you usually logged into a google and/or gmail account and to you frequently visit these sites?

martinacastro




msg:4370748
 8:46 pm on Oct 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

@nadavs did you recieve a response from your reconsideration request to google?

martinacastro




msg:4370800
 11:10 pm on Oct 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

minus 50 penalization affects the domain and also the subdomains?

nadavs




msg:4370914
 6:16 am on Oct 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

Yes, I received a response. They said some of my pages still violate the guidelines. Which ones? No idea.

nadavs

smithaa02




msg:4372722
 1:31 pm on Oct 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

Chris...you say the sites that got nabbed used google analytics.

What was your data sharing settings?

From the google faq: [google.com...]

------------

What does data sharing mean?

You can decide if you want to share your Google Analytics data with Google, and also have full control over how you share it with us. Visit the Edit Account and Data Sharing Settings page from within your account to opt in to sharing your data "With Google products only" or "Anonymously with Google and others."

------------

Normally 'google products' as opposed to 'anonymously' is enabled by default...wonder if changing this to anonymous is key...

chrislloyd515




msg:4373112
 7:15 am on Oct 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

smithaa02: It could be this, we are set for full sharing. but it's hard to say as we aren't seeing further penalty by adding new domains into our GA account, so I cannot test switching back to anonymous.

I don't really think this would be what caused it though:
1. Google does state that these settings won't affect search rankings
2. The sites in one GA account can be easily determined by searching their index for our GA javascript snippet,

So technically Google can use our publicly accessible javascript snippet to penalize our sites and truthfully say they don't use any google analytics DATA for ranking purposes.

mh_and




msg:4373123
 8:03 am on Oct 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

Basically -50 penalty is not necessarily only 90 days of drop. I had 12 months period for one site. And moreover, a complete restructuring, with new content, without the "follow" links that seemed unnatural and etc, nothing helped. A manual action with a certain time frame.

The reconsideration request told the same damn thing you get so my guess is - we get a punishment and without a chance of parole. Sometimes...

I'm not saying stay hopeless, but this tips of adding fresh content new links new server etc are just useless.. Find the penalty reason, remove and tell that in the reconsideration request.

manan




msg:4373124
 8:04 am on Oct 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

this is little bit scary as well so much harmful..

if home page is effected then why sub domain is been effected because as google consider as a different domain.. i don't understand this maths..

can any describe this...?

Thank You,

affiliation




msg:4373669
 4:05 pm on Oct 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

Would a do follow site-wide twitter profile link be harmful, or could it cause a -50 penality?

vphoner




msg:4373868
 2:08 am on Oct 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

My site was hacked and I received a -50 penalty as a result of this hacking. At least that is what I believe happened. The penalty occurred just 10 hours after the hack was in place. It was a conditional hack that sent the Googlebot somewhere when it reached my pages, while normal viewers saw something else.

Is it likely that Google could act so fast to give a penalty? Or was it just a coincidence that the hack occurred at the same time a penalty was applied?

If it was caused by the hacking. Is reconsideration a good option? Or is everyone doomed when you get a -50 penalty? I went to a new server, went to a fresh backup and its been almost 4 months with no change. Frustrating.

tedster




msg:4373870
 2:11 am on Oct 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

If it was caused by the hacking. Is reconsideration a good option?

Yes, it's a very good option. Be sure to give the details, including 1) exactly what steps you took to clean up the problem and 2) what changes you made to ensure that kind of hack can't be repeated on your site.

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