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I emailed Google and they say I do not have a penalty.
It is very clear and obvious that many of the sites listed are nowhere near as relevant to the search. PR0 and no backlinks etc.
I am relatively new and the sites are largely non commercial by the way.
Do I sit tight or should I try and do something?
For example, many innocent sites were badly hit in November, but with no change to the sites, they've now gradually come back to more or less where they were before. Had the site owners changed them, e.g. "deoptimisation", then they might not now be ranking well again. How did we know not to make major changes? Well, when you're one of hundreds complaining then it's probably a bug in the algo. When you're complaining and everyone else is happy then it's probably a bug in your SEO.
This is harder to do now due to Googles behavior recently. The entire site has been crawled several times in the past month, but some pages are from last month, some from last week and others show a date of March 14. Two pages have completely dropped out of the index.
Like Fasteddie, traffic and conversions are way down this week. The pages that produce my sales are now mostly in positions #1 to #3, so I wonder if serious searchers are going elsewhere.
It may be time to concentrate your efforts on other search engines and just be happy with whatever traffic you get from Google.
Googleguy, are you listening? I know losing Yahoo is a factor, but making one of the first 3 spots on G used to mean consistantly increasing traffic and sales. At least in my sector, that's not the case. Maybe the searchers, like many webmasters are getting tired of the dance.
Sorry I strayed from the subject, but it helps to vent you frustrations. I would experiment with changes to a few pages and hope that Google stabalizes soon.
In most cases our sites are the only logical search result and yet google is finding pages with bits and pieces of the terms and putting them on the top even though they have nothing to do with the subject.
It's a real mess!
My site was no.1 for atround 2 years then on Monday plummeted to position 81.
I'm sure this was because it was over optimized.
I've resisted changing my site since I occupy the top positions on all other search engines for the keywords relevent to my business so I don;t want to affect these rankings.
Instead what i've done is i've created some sample pages taking into account the new criteria required post Brandy.
From reading these pages i've tried to make my sites appear less commercialised, increased the outbound links so it resembles more of a directory, added more content and optimized it less for my keyword phrases.
Googlebot has picked up the new pages however i'm not sure when they'll appear in the index.
I emailed Google and they say I do not have a penalty.
In this case, that may be true, but I've never read a single post here on WW that said "Google replied and told me I was penalized for ....". Yet many are believed to be penalized.
We know that Google prefer to penalize sites (or pages maybe) according to algos rather than by human intervention. If their algos are faulty, then innocent sites are undoubtedly penalized. Also, if their algos are faulty, penalties may not even be recorded identically in the database used by the engineers as the database used by the main index.
Of course, only a single database of penalties should exist, but I doubt that is the case. In other words, the engineers may be lying unwittingly.
PS Experiment with changes to pages for the missing keywords. At the very least, the pages will look newer and Google likes new stuff.
That would save many webmasters countless hours of research, analyzing, agonizing and changing code. We could have more time to devote as Googleguy suggests to just writing good web page copy for searchers.
I quess I'm dreaming.
As an example, I designed a web site for a local church. Nice and simple with nice outgoing links to good authority sites. There are approx 3 links to the site of good pagerank. Then the Dmoz link was added when Google refreshed a few weeks ago. But for the past 4 days the whole listing has gone from Google.
Why? It's just the new way Google works perhaps. Maybe it will take another 6 months before the Googlebot realises it's not spam.
I say sit tight, build new sites and hope Google irons out these horrible bugs as it moves towards daily new indexes.
Re the Google reply for no penalty;
I am not an expert but the evidence for some sort of penalty/filter or whatever is compelling.
I have a site dedicated to a single author, it was on the first page of results searching under the authors name.
It does not appear at all now under the same search.
There are 1000's of results that are so obviously useless yet there.
The preseumption has to be that a search under the authors name results in Google filtering the site out or whatever.
My three sites have all gone the same way
It seems like huge amounts of work have been in vain unless anything changes.
Also, check the page's PR using the Google toolbar. A white or gray bar might be informative.
Also check that
1: your host hasn't blocked googlebot.
2: site:www.yourdomain.com search works ok.
3: your robots.txt file (if any) is ok.
4: your html code validates ok.
In about 4 long paragraphs they said, that's the way the ball bounces and oh by the way you don't have a penalty. The no penalty part was also in the first letter from them.
I would say that is an amazing response considering the fact that anyone with even one eye open could see there is a problem...
Wait, you got 2 email replies from Google? In 3 years I've never gotten one.
Google always seems to be content with their roller coaster yo-yo ride with the algo every other month.
However, I think it makes a lot of webmasters NAUSEOUS.
I for one am not changing anything. I will sit this one out and wait until the roller coaster goes back up to the peak and hope the free submit at Yahoo really works. I get tired of worrying about what the kids in the GooglePlex are up to every time this happens.
fasteddie said: Since 12th of this month, everything has gone pear shaped.
I noticed this for one of my websites. It's no longer ranking anywhere where it was and should, instead being pushed almost to the bottom of the pile for every search term, ever since about the 12th. Pagerank is still good, all pages are in the index, and like fasteddie I've witnessed a drop of visitors to about 20% of what it was. No dodgy tactics, this is just a clean, straight forward informational site.
I believe at PubCon it was mentioned that Google would be playing around with several different algo variations a month.
GG subsequently posted that we should see daily updates (changes) for the rest of the year. Put those two together and it means dont overreact to what is probably a temporary situation. You start playing around and Google decides to test a different version and what have you gained?
No, that's not the case. You need to go back to mid November to really begin to make plans for this latest twist.
When the Florida results hit, it was such a dramatic move away from the normal results, the best advice was to sit and wait and watch. We had a bit of a rollback just before Pubcon, however since then, it is pretty clear to me that Google is intent on keeping the Florida flavor of results at its core.
My advice? The time for waiting and watching is over. This is the new reality as far as Google is concerned so start optimizing for it.
All of the changes I've made have resulted in those individual pages moving up, but at any given time searches may show three versions of pages all crawled at the same time. I have 40 category pages that were all crawled at the same time on 3 occasions. These pages are basically the same except each is concerning a different manufacturer with unique models.
Most are doing well, but on any given search you might see a version 3 weeks old, 2 weeks old or from yesterday. It's tough to keep track of which version is working the best.
Traffic and conversions are off by 50% this week, so I wonder what searchers in other parts of the country or world are seeing with these same keyword searches. I've looked at results from most datacenters and there doesn't appear to be enough variation to account for the drop. These pages produced 6 figures in sales last year, so page design and usability is not the problem.
After 4 months of this, I'm ready for a little stablity. Don't think we're going to get it. I can live with some Algo changes as Googleguy suggested would happen, but Google needs to update it's database with freshly crawled pages on some kind of schedule. This isn't happening.
pmac: No, that's not the case. You need to go back to mid November to really begin to make plans for this latest twist.
Sorry, but something distinct happened on 12th March, whatever went before. As far as I'm concerned there's a strange glitch at Google which has affected some sites' SERPS in an unaccountable manner from that day.
thanks for that, all the above OK. The site does show up under certain search terms but not under the authors name alone, although it used to.
I am not expecting #1 spot but it should be there.
I see the site that shows author gravestones listed!
100's of sites that do not refer to the author at all but just contain the initial and surname somewhere on the page.
The site has PR4 and a few backlinks.
I can only conclude that for some reason it is being 'removed' from that particular search.