Sounds like it may have been pandalized to me. Welcome to the club
So far at least, there's no reason to think that Panda was run again or changed on February 18.
The discussion in our February Updates thread [webmasterworld.com] has several people spotting a significant ranking shift on February 18 - so that could point to some kind of algo update that also affected you.
However, seeing ALL your main keywords drop to Page 2 sounds a lot more like a manual penalty than an algo change.
Just wanted to chime in.
I Also experienced a bottom of page 1 results for main keywords and overall lowering of rankings for 8 year old site (Feb 18). It maintained top positions for 3+ years. Only minor changes to keep content up to date have been done to website.
The only sites that seem to climb rankings for me these days are sites I NEVER touch. Any minor or major tinkering for the better results in worse rankings. Crappy feeling when you want to improve your sites...
Dont jump into the penalty conclusion yet. Google definitely had a major Algo update over the weekend or so, if your keywords have dropped in rankings it could be because your competitions have been working hard lately or it can be the cause of reindexing and backlink recount which has affected your rankings (your backlinks may have had less value now than before).
Keep an eye of your rankings in a regular basis too, it may just be a ranking fluctuation which happens a lot during Google algo update.
Also for those who suffered this main keyword dropped to bottom of page 1 or somewhere on page 2, do you notice what types of websites have climbed up on top of Page 1? Are they the strong brands on your niche? Are they aged sites on your niche? Can see any patterns?
Hi Loui, thanks for the reply. I haven't seen any sites out of the norm pop up on the first page. Minor reshuffling on page one of sites that were already there but nothing major.
One or two spammy sites are showing in for competitive terms but imagine they will get bumped out.
To me it appears low content, nice 'looking' sites are ranking over high content, lower affiliate-count links but uglier designs.
Basically if it were manually reviewed the rankings would be flip flopped in terms of informative sites.
Many thanks for your replies - my feelings are that it's some sort of manual penalty, because ALL of my major keywords have been pushed to page two or below. These are keywords that have been held for years on an 8 year old domain.
The site in question is in the office consumables e-commerce niche and I would have expected it to have been affected by panda, to some degree by now.
All the main competitor sites have pretty much stuck to their old positions. The nature of the business means that none of the competitors sites or mine have brilliant or Shakespearean content.
The only thing I can think that could have caused the review was a sitewide (200,000+ pages) partner/sponsored/ paid link. I have removed this and put in a reinclusion request. But, what worries me is that there are competitors holding top5 positions with paid links coming from this same site.
Also, just noticed - I have our physical address & tel number in the footer of every page - searching for any of these does not bring any page 1 results for my site, but searching for the site/brand name does show us up at position 1.
If it's a manual penalty does anyone know how long would it normally last or how quickly do they get to act on a reinclusion request?
wokka - It would be very unlikely that you got penalized for 1 sold link.
Needless to say, at site re-consideration request takes less than a week in my experience.
Thanks for this Timetraveler - so I should get to know if it's a penalty or algo/panda update soon.
Do they normally give you any constructive feedback from a re-consideration request, or just leave you high and dry?
Wokka, just to chime in here with some similar experiences. I experienced a similar and thus far explained drop for my main keywords on 08/12/2011. I still haven't seen any recovery nor have I received any indication from Google about what could be the cause (and if a manual penalty was indeed applied) after 3 reconsideration requests.
I have thought of many things that could have contributed to this and most are being cleaned up. Just little things like 'replytocom' and 'comment-page-1' pages and posts being indexed when they shouldn't be. The material is identical to the original post/page and will count as duplicate content - in my experience with these, parameters in Webmaster Central Tools and any canonical tags don't seem to fix the problems. So I have had to robots.txt these and am deleting any replytocoms or comment-page-1s that crop up in the index.
I don't even know if this will bare any fruit and I may be embarking up the wrong tree. I have also recently removed a number of older or 'thinner' posts on my website with blatent "you come here, you go to this site through this affiliate link" type promotions. These were a very small proportion of the overall site content but it seems that something tipped the balance back in December and I'm not quite sure what.
Regarding reconsideration requests, I received a reply within 2 weeks in both cases. I gave a third reconsideration request at the end of January (31st) and haven't received a reply yet. I don't like to have to send so many reconsideration requests in a relatively short period of time but it's partly Google's fault because the replies I have received so far are completely ambiguous:
"We received a request from a site owner to reconsider how we index the following site:
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."
Wokka - Noob pretty much answered it. They just let you know they've reviewed your site in a week or two, not a yes or no answer. I've been told that all get manually reviewed, but in fact many are algorithmically reviewed prior to being manually reviewed. If you've fixed the problem your site will literally be up back in the index before you read the message. At least that was the case a year or two ago, can't say they are the same now considering google's blitzkrieg of changes lately.
All reinclusion requests are automatically reviewed by the system. If there is no manual penalty then you will get an automated response telling you that there is no manual penalty. If there is a manual penalty then a human will review it and either remove it or leave it there. If they leave it there they will link you to their guidelines and it's good luck from there.
conroy - Thanks for this information, at least I'll know if there's been a manual penalty or not.
Sounds like over optimisation of anchor text in backlinks to me - wokka have you done any "link building" recently?
Yes, been link building for over 9 months now, mainly from article syndication with many different anchor texts.
Maybe using up to 40 different anchors spread amongst the home page and four deeper category pages.
|Yes, been link building for over 9 months now, mainly from article syndication with many different anchor texts. |
Maybe using up to 40 different anchors spread amongst the home page and four deeper category pages.
Deciding wether or not to use this specific type of approach to getting a site to rise in the Google rankings is one of THE fundamental questions you need to ask yourself today.
Quality links still trump any card out there, but the question to decide is what will be your active role in their existence and make up in the overall context of "optimizing" a site.
Whenever I see the phrase "anchor text", I immediately think, "risk - reward".
Randle - Yes, agreed. But what gets me is that there are ten results/companies on page 1 organic for my main keyword phrase.
I can put my hand on my heart and say that 9 of them are actively link building/manipulating the algorithm - the other one is Amazon who don't have to.
Without anchor text links I would be waiting for the next ice age to come before getting any traffic.
|I can put my hand on my heart and say that 9 of them are actively link building/manipulating the algorithm |
And there lies the paradox; the more valuable a site is, the less risk the owners are willing to take relative to link building optimization techniques. The lesser the value of the site, which in reality means the lower the quality, the more aggressive the owners are willing to be. This is why the serps look the way they do; a mix of good and poor sites on the first page.
Generally what we see is a steady rise of lower quality sites due to having a risk reward metric that allows for aggressive optimization. However, those same sites usually meet with significant, and long lasting drops as opposed to the general flux of movement near the top higher quality sites endure over very long periods of time.
The allure of chasing trophy terms can be quite strong.
Hmm... I agree with the paradoxical nature of link building with sneaky anchor texts.
Google loves brands: not all of us owns one, so we use link building/seo to make our small sites, impersonate the real brands link profile or power, in the eyes of google. Maybe one day they will actually become brands and receive the blessing of the google gods.
I would class a lower quality/value site as spam and surely this is very easy for google's algorithm to detect. I can personally spot one as soon as I land on it, which is becoming strangely more common since all of their spam and panda updates.
My site had held a page 1 position for over five years, served tens of thousands of customers, dealt with problems courteously and efficiently.
Seems like their algorithm can't work this out, unless this is some sort of glitch in their calculations.. we'll see.
The other element is that the trophy terms don't have a very good conversion rate and I'm still getting targeted long tail and repeat orders from past customers, so all is not lost, yet.
A drop by about 10 positions (from page 1 to page 2) looks to me like something Google would never waste actual human resources on. I know it's a contentious debate on what constitutes a "penalty" as such. The effect of being pushed off the first page sure does feel like a penalty, but if you are talking about something that's really manual (i.e. the bot triggered a flag, then a human came around to review) I would think that the results of that would be really devastating to your positions if you did not pass.
You are talking complete ban (nothing indexed) or a state of a "google limbo" so to speak - you are in the index but all your results are almost entirely suppressed and appear either one the last page (990+) or on the pre-penalty position on page 1 or 2 but in a very limited amount of queries (I've seen that - can't figure out why they do it though).
For anything less drastic than that a reconsideration request is almost a sure waste of your time - you're probably going to get an automated reply saying that there was no manual penalty anyway.
Looks like a panda -10 filter then... but why apply it a whole year after it was instigated and to an ecommerce site that's obviously going to have duplicated content?
wokka - i've seen this lots of times, I don't think it's Panda - it is a ranking demotion for certain keywords because you tipped the scale in terms of over optimised backlinks.
I'm with you that in some niches you have to buys links and others seem to get away with it.
At the end of the day it comes down to a bit of luck and not going overboard.
I speak from bitter sweet experience on this, is obviously only my opinion, but nobody will convince me it's any different.
As far as manual v's algorithmic goes - i think the algo will detect over optimisation and then flag it for manual review -
I've seen people get out of this - stick mail me if you want more info
Anyone have experience on how long an over optimized penalty lasts once some links are removed ?
I believe I have been stuck in this situation for 18 months. Most of the links are long gone but for some reason they still show in Webmaster tools. So I would presume Google is still counting them even though some have been gone for over a year.
Is it normal for Webmaster tools to be so out of date and any suggestions ?
To chime in he here once again. Don't listen to anybody who tells you reconsideration requests are a waste of time. It is ALWAYS worth your time trying to contact Google. Be open and honest about what you have done (you believed you were doing no wrong creating the links - then tell them that).
All it can do is speed up the process and they may offer you some helpful advice as to what exactly it is they have become disgruntled about. This can at least put you in the right direction.
|All it can do is speed up the process and they may offer you some helpful advice as to what exactly it is they have become disgruntled about. This can at least put you in the right direction. |
Helpful advise? From Google? Are you serious? Best I was ever able to get from them was: "we see improvements but one or more pages of your site still violate ..." I guess you can take it as a good news that they're still talking to you but that' about as helpful as they'll ever get.
Google is not going to help you rank better in Google. If they did, all they'd accomplish would be more workload for them because then another webmaster, the one who's pages you pushed back to Page 2, would submit his/her own recon request. And the cycle would just go on forever.
|I'm with you that in some niches you have to buys links and others seem to get away with it. |
While I understand what you are saying, maybe if we instead focus on buying content instead of buying links, we might get better return on investment?
Really good content tends to get really good links. And it also tends to make visitors happy.
If I go to a site and it has mediocre content, then I am unlikely to buy their products / click the ads / pay for a membership / give them my email.
If I go to a site and it has GREAT content, I am MUCH more likely to buy their products / click the ads / pay for a membership / give them my email.
I'm just saying maybe we are putting the cart before the horse.
By that I mean tell you what is wrong. At least give you an idea - and usually provide you with an example of a link they hate so you know what you're looking for. It is much better to try to persuade them that you are fixing the issue rather than hoping that it just goes away on its own.
One thing I've noticed in webmaster tools is that the site links are no longer displaying.
When I search on the domain name in google the six site links are shown in the results - but where you can demote them within WMT they're not showing up.
Does this mean anything? I am beginning to think, as mentioned above that the algo has detected too many traffic targeted anchor texts and therefore discounted a large number of them. However diversified they have been, the problem may be that none of them have been like 'click here' or 'www.sitename. co.uk' etc. They have all been 'traffic keywords' which would obviously look un-natural.
But, there is no message in wmt about un-natural linking patterns etc and still waiting on a reply from them regarding a reconsideration request.
I know I'm being very optimistic with this, but need to cheer myself up somehow and see the light at the end of the tunnel: Could it just be that my site has got caught up in an algo adjustment that will sort itself out in the next few days?
[Update] Received reply to my reconsideration request, as below!
|We received a request from a site owner to reconsider how we index your site. |
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.
Does this mean that it is in violation of their guidelines or not - should I stop all link building work with keyword targeted anchor text... or leave this site completely alone and start concentrating on trying to get a 'backup' site ranking?
I'm thinking that if I work on another site, by the time my main site hopefully comes back out of the mist, I'll have two sites performing for me.
But, to be honest with their new Venice Update now showing heavily biased local results within the main results, I'm not so sure any optimisation work is worth it. We run a very small niche mail order business, that delivers nationally, the only way for us to get full UK coverage now is to use..... adwords.
Call me cynical, but maybe this is why everything in the google results, with shopping targeted keywords is geared towards the main national brands, amazon and ebay - to push small companies to advertise with them.
The problem is this: What if there isn't enough profit in the product being sold to cover anyway near the costs of a few adword clicks? Where do you go from there and does this mean that the results are more relevant... Hmm
|should I stop all link building work with keyword targeted anchor text |
At a guess, I'd say "yes - stop all that effort to control backlinks directly." It can be different in different market verticals, but as a general rule, Google is devaluing or even penalizing links that are under the webmaster's direct control. Too much matching anchor text is a dea giveaway that the backlinks are not natural - not "freely given, in-content editorial links" from a different site.