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I investigated the Guestbook theory and site after site with guestbook links has been either completely banned or PR 0.
I really don't know why Google would ban sites for issues beyond their control.
Cause and effect can be hard to establish; I'd say that most of the problems I've identified with sites were not the same problem that the owner thought they had.
And, if Google were to penalize for this, any competitor or someone who just doesn't like you could just hire a bored teenager to add your URL to a hundred guestbooks in a day to get a site tossed out of Google. Heck, if this were the case someone out there is going to start advertising they'll sign hundreds of guestbooks with URLs of competitors you want to hose for a fee. ;) In the cut throat world of e-commerce, this surely would happen. And, no doubt the sort of people who e-mail bomb folks they don't like would also for the same reasons of spite, malice and revenge sign guestbooks to ruin even non-commercial sites.
If Google doesn't like guestbook links, in cases where they are found they shouldn't penalize the site, but just exclude them from the count. Better yet, algorithmically determine what pages are guestbooks, and ignore them. Also, with guestbooks almost always having a huge number of entries, combined with typically low PR, if anyone thinks the way to get on the top of Google is to sign a lot of guestbooks, they probably are fools. Better to work on getting sites with decent PR to link to you, rather than waste time with guestbooks.
They did that early last year. Guestbooks kept PR and could rank well, but didn't pass it on. After looking at quite a lot of guestbooks I looked into the guestbook category on DMoz.org; it exhibited the same features and made me and some others pretty sure about what was happening.
I didn't notice any huge improvement in Google's search quality at the time; I guess they didn't either because after an update or two, guestbooks started handing out PR again.
Most guestbooks have a lot of links, and not much PageRank. There are a few people out there who have worked guestbooks well, but in the big picture of things it's not much of an issue IMO.
I'd like to see the example of some site that got to something like a PR7 just on the basis of guestbook links? With the typical low PR, and huge number of links, this isn't the way to get very far with Google. Maybe, just maybe, there is some guestbook out there with a PR8 and just 3 links on it today, and if someone can find it they'll hit the jackpot. However, in the big picture this sort of thing doesn't exist enough for it to be a big issue.
There is the other, less quantifiable, aspect though. Having a few high PR links gives plenty of PageRank, but not necessarily good rankings. Finding a lot of low-ish PageRank guestbooks that allow you to pick your link text can have more benefit than the PR would suggest.
Personally, I think it's easier and safer to come up with good content that people want to link to. In the long run, the old fashioned approaches can work best.
it appears it can. Competition has entered my site into over 100 guestbooks- even with anchor text and I have been banned from PR 8 to grey bar at beginning of update.
I would have to agree with ciml on this one. It is most likely something else that caused the problem. PR8 is mighty high, it is likely to draw some attention to your site, and how it got such a high PR.
People that will do *anything* to get a high PR will often resort to other tactics to place well also.
I would also doubt that something as simple as guestbook signatures would be enough to get a page with PR8 (in other words, incredibly important) banned. PR8 is where companies such as Ford and Chevrolet sit. They will not be removed by something so trivial as 100 guestbook entries.
What those 100 entries might cause is a trigger to look more closely at your site. Is your site squeakier than squeaky clean? Do you really deserve a PR8? Or did you get their by trading links with everyone in the world that is willing to trade links, even though few of them have anything to do with your site?
I'm not accusing you of anything here. But at the level of PR8 and above, two opposing things happen, you get a bulletproof vest, and they slap a target on your back. Lots of people are going to try and knock you down, but if you really deserve to be up there, you will get to stay, even if you do something stupid. If you really don't deserve that PR8, then you are asking for trouble getting up that high.
but I am 90% they are penalizing because of the Guestbooks
After all you've read above, really?
It sounds absurd
Sure does ;)
Have you checked your server logs for the date of the last crawl? - This is usually the first reason for a grey bar on an established site. And white bar is the dreaded PR0, not grey bar.
I think you're mistaken, best to start digging in other areas, your guestbook theory is almost certainly not the reason and unless you have some information you've not mentioned it is just a theory right?
I know it's easy for me to say, as I'm not in your position but, hang in there, next update I'll bet my boots you're back in and well ranked ;)
I hadn't noticed he mentioned that his site had been a PR8. PR8 is *huge*. Because of the logarithmic nature of PR, and guestbooks have low PR diluted by lots of outbound links, a PR8 site would get no material benefit by signing 100 guestbooks. I can possibly see someone starting a new site with a PR0 signing 100 guestbooks to at least get themselves marginally on the map. However, I doubt that guestbooks could make a material difference for any site with a decent PR, which I'll define here as PR4 or greater. Unless they can find that one mythical guestbook I mentioned before with a PR8 and only 3 links on it.
It happened to 2 of my sites that do not even link together. In closely related industries. Both have done well in Google for a few months and I was first page for all my terms on this past update om www2 and 3 until yesterday- then grey bar on all pages in both sites.
I checked the links and noticed a zillion guestbook entries. So, I clicked on some of the other URL's in the guesbooks and noticed they had pretty much all been banned or PR 0. I would say 90%. Now, I know some of these sites are major spammers, but itis too much of a coincidence that nearly all these sites have been banned.
It can't be for cloaking, hidden links, etc...as I do none of these things. Also, I only had a few outgoing links and they were to sites like Dmoz and manufacturers (well ranked).
BTW, this is not the only thing people are doing to get their competitors banned. A friend of mine was banned because some rookie copied his site exactly. Sure, he got them to remove the site but it was too late in Google's eyes
This is the one thing that I noticed off the bat. Being penalized by Google usually means the all white bar, not the grey bar. I had my main PR5 website go grey bar for a month a half year back, and my best guess is that it happened because of a transient server glitch that I had the bad luck happen just at the time Googlebot came nosing around. :( My site was back in at PR5 the next month. I find it hard to believe that those guestbook entries made a difference. I'm guessing either this was a problem with your server, or you hit some Google bug, and will be back in next update.
If what you say is true, then my prediction that competitors would indeed hire bored teenagers to sign hundreds of guestbooks to try and get sites banned from Google has indeed happened. :( We can only hope that Google has the common sense to just ignore or filter such things.
Now that makes a lot of sense, but I'll offer some pedantry on the word "banned" if I may. When Google finds two identical URLs, it tries to keep just one. This is the best situation for the user, who doesn't want an 1999 AltaAista style set of results with the same page filling up the top10.
If someone manages to trick Google into listing the 'wrong' URL (as happened significantly in December 2001) then this is very bad for the victim, but that's different from Google choosing to "ban" the victim's URLs.
> hire bored teenagers
Yes, I guess they could write the guestbook filling scripts. ;)
If all your sites are hosted by the same ISP, this is a pretty good bet, particularly in that Googlebot has a tendency to often pass by in the wee hours of the morning, when your provider may not instantly notice a problem. All it might take is a single crashed server, DNS server or router to take all your sites off-line, and if this happens at 3AM, and Googlebot passes by, well...
Probably yes. However, I'd suggest that you reconsider just throwing a PR8 domain in the garbage and starting over just yet on the theory it was guestbook links that did it in. I'm thinking here much more likely that what happened was a server glitch, Internet transit glitch, or a Google bug that killed your site. Just hope it comes back. If it *was* those guestbook entries, then we all need to remember that old line from the film "The Fly": Be afraid. Be VERY afraid. :( :(
If you're a PR8, you're going to see a lot of Freshbot activity. Check your logs around early December to make sure you were actually crawled, and make sure it was by the deep crawler, not the freshbot (check the IP).
The servers were completely unrelated. One in hose and the other across the country.
I am counting on some huge freshbot listings to gain me a little traffic this month.
I still feel that Google hands out penalties a little too loosely as it can destroy the working webmaster. In my years at doing this I never experienced a ban or penalty so I always just assumed it was spammy webmasters complaining. Now you all probably think the same :)
If you have been given the Google Death Penalty, forget it. Throw your domains in the bit bucket, and start from scratch. :( If your site does start showing up again because of freshbot, that would tend to suggest this isn't a penalty.