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Sorry I asked

Think twice about contacting Google

     
5:49 am on Mar 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I believe Iíve been penalised by Google because I asked a question.

My site, based around one of the most competitive topics on the web, used to get hundreds of Google visitors each day several years ago when it was an amateur and not very informative site. I put AdSense on the site and joined Adwords, soon dropping the latter because it's not cost-effective for me. My Google visitors plunged to about half a dozen per week, which has been the case for more than three years, during which time Iíve constantly added content so that my site now has around 250,000 words on about 170 pages with original photography.

When the Big Brother changes were made a month or so ago, my Google visitor count leapt to about six per day, most seeking relevant search terms. For a couple of weeks there was a sign that my site might be getting relevant Google search rankings after more than three years. Six visitors a day might sound like a joke to most on this forum, but I was dreaming the figure may even double or triple! Three years is a long time.

But then I made a big mistake. About two weeks ago I checked my Google sitemap stats and found the most common words being seen by the Googlebot on my site included ďpokerĒ, ďcasinoĒ ďrouletteĒ and ďblackjackĒ - none of which has ever appeared even once over five years on any of my site pages. In fact, hardly any of the most common words listed via Googlebot have anything to do with my site, although the common words listed in external links to my site are all 100% accurate.

I wrote to Google Help pointing this out, asking if it was causing a penalty and/or if there was anything that could be done about it. A few days later I received a form response with standard answers saying I wasnít penalised because my pages are visible through a site: search, and it made no reference to the incorrect common words.

I was receiving about six Google visitors per day but since the hour I received that Google email, I have received zero Google visitors... none at all, and itís been 10 days. After about four days I reply emailed to Google Help again asking about the incorrect common words and also asking if the total absence of Google visitors meant Iíve been (further) penalised because of my query. I received another form letter with no reference to either question.

My site is white hat but has very few inbound links. I have built and maintain eight other sites, all of which rank either well or acceptably on Google, so I think thereís sufficient evidence I know how to build and write sites conforming to Googleís criteria - i.e. totally clean code and packed with information for visitors. As mentioned, the site topic is perhaps the most competitive on the net and itís virtually impossible to get a competitor to put a link to my site - particularly since it has a low PageRank due to the lack of inbound links. Who in their right mind will link customers to a competing site that has no PageRank to make a reciprocal link worthwhile? When youíre in Google purgatory, nobody wants to know you. The companies that rank in the top 10 of my main keyphrase targets have mostly been known around the world for decades and enjoy a resultant high number of inbound links with correspondingly high index listings - where they belong and good on them. In the top 100, itís a hotch-potch of search results, about half the indexed sites just sell tickets with little information (= editorial) on their pages.

Iíve been trying to make money for Google through AdSense for almost four years (they make more than me per click) but since joining I have ďnotĒ been penalised to the point of obscurity in their search results and itís seemingly impossible to contact a human who will respond to legitimate questions. Iíve taken all recommended Google steps for webmasters, even when those steps damaged my rankings on other engines, and Iíve concentrated on more and more up-to-date, informative editorial content - supposedly a key to Google approval. Each step Iíve taken to conform with the guidelines has seen my Google rankings fall further.

My sitemap data still shows the most common words on my site are gambling-related and/or non-existent, and there seems to be nowhere I can turn to make sense of this. Now that Iíve ďnotĒ been banished entirely from the Google index for asking why the Googlebot is finding non-existent gambling words on my site, I recommend that other (un)penalised site owners think twice before posting any questions to the company. Iím sorry I asked.

3:32 pm on Mar 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

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A client of mine had exactly the same problem with his website about a year ago. He had started his website work on a 'Free' server and it had eventually fired off quite well. He was getting about 100 visitors per day from Google and was very satisfied with everything. Then he checked his counter stats one day and was horrified to see some porn phrases in there. He couldn't understand it as his site was just an honest company site, with no tricks etc. It wasn't long before he wrote to google pointing out that he was being listed in an innapropriate manner. A week later he got banned :-(

When I looked it was obvious what had happened. His 'Free' server host had added some server side code which added links to their own porn industry pages, giving them a boost from this PR5 site. You could see nothing through a browser, but once you viewed the source code you could see obvious links added to the base of the page.

The moral of the story is if it's free, it has no value.

All the Best with your recovery

Col :-)

3:48 pm on Mar 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Are any gambling ads turning up on the site?
4:09 pm on Mar 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I spoke to a friend at the weekend who has a small site, not really any attempt at seo and he added adsense recently and has seen a huge jump in SERPs for his site.

Did you see this as well?

4:27 pm on Mar 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

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>When I looked it was obvious what had happened...

Wow, scary. It's a snakepit out there sometimes, isn't it?

4:38 pm on Mar 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

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he added adsense recently and has seen a huge jump in SERPs for his site.

Unrelated.

5:07 pm on Mar 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I believe Iíve been penalised by Google because I asked a question.

The type of problem mentioned by Colin_h seems more likely. And even if your question did prompt a manual review, the real cause of the penalty wasn't the question, but whatever turned up in the manual review. IMHO, that's the problem you've got to identify and solve.

5:50 pm on Mar 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Just a follow up on the free server spam issue. If your free server won't allow you to view source code live online ... they're hiding something.

All the Best
Col :-)

[edited by: tedster at 7:38 pm (utc) on Mar. 20, 2006]

6:08 pm on Mar 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Very interesting, as I also have erroneous words coming up for one of my sitemaps (though in my case, it actually helps!).

This site is basically an affiliate sales site, and my links are cloaked to hide the actual affiliate links. (i.e. www.mysitename.com/cgi-bin/click?id=5).

These erroneous words are obviously coming from one of the affiliate sites, but I'm getting the credit due to these links appearing to still be on my site. Could this be what's going on with you?

7:37 pm on Mar 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Hi flobaby,

You have to watch that you don't get blacklisted. A number of my clients' link partners complained that they lost rankings and got penalties from out of the blue. I suspect Google gave my client a big penalty for having network porn links and then also questioned the integrity of all the sites further down the link-line.

All the Best

Col :-)

7:50 pm on Mar 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Thanks Colin,
Fortunately, none of these words are porn or gambling related, just healthy normal words.
7:51 am on Mar 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Thanks to all for contributing your feedback.

I donít use a free server - itís a stock standard shared server that costs me a few hundred dollars per year. Several of my clientsí sites are hosted on the same server and they all rank fairly well with Google, so itís unlikely that my own site is being poisoned, so to speak, by gambling, porn or other sites on the server. I trust the owner of the server, who assures me thereís nothing spammy on it, and since I know of various sites on the server that rank well on Google, including other sites Iíve built and maintain, I have no reason to suspect the server is penalised.

glengara... no gambling AdSense ads ever appear on my pages because the AdSense bot has no problem working out the different themes for each page on my site - unlike Googlebot, which seems to think Iím a casino. The ads that appear on each page are almost all accurate and specific to the country each page deals with. I have another site hosted on the same server and also tracked via sitemaps, and its common words detected by Googlebot are exactly right. Both sites are built using the same elementary html techniques and similar densities/placement of key words and phrases. AdSense sees no gambling connection to my own site, there is no server cause of the problem, yet the Googlebot seems to believe Iím Las Vegas incarnate.

Jamie.uk... no, I saw no change in serps when I joined AdSense almost four years ago. However, I did see a change in serps when I tried AdWords - from hundreds of visitors per day to one or two per day. arran is right in saying that AdSense and serps should be unrelated, but my experience obviously leaves me suspicious about the AdWords account.

flobaby... I also have one cloaked affiliate link on one of my pages. I cloaked it because I feared I might be penalised by Google for linking to an affiliate ticket sales company. Besides, the affiliate company has nothing to do with gambling and I doubt the words ďpokerĒ, ďblackjackĒ, etc, even appear on their site. Thatís not my immediate or long-term Google problem as the serps (non)penalty started a couple of years before I put in the redirect java to cover the actual url (which appears only once on 165 pages).

europeforvisitors... Iíve been in contact with Google three or four times in the past few years to try to work out whatís wrong, and all of their form responses say Iím not penalised. If Iím not penalised, I assume (actually, I know) Iím doing nothing wrong from a structural point of view. If Google did a manual review of my site and uncovered a problem, by implication thereís a human being involved who knows what the problem is. The form responses indicate Iím not allowed to talk to him/her and he/she isnít allowed to tell me anyway. And if there was a manual review that uncovered a problem with my site, why do the form responses tell me Iím not penalised? If there is a problem, I assume they do something about it (as long as its not called a penalty).

The broader problem is most likely my lack of inbound links and I have to live with being invisible via Google to any other site owners, who probably donít want to link with invisible sites anyway, and that circle will continue. The short-term problem is that googlebot apparently associates my site with nothing but gambling terms, and Iíve had zero Google visitors in the 11 days since I received their lack of response to my query.

8:21 am on Mar 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

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My site, based around one of the most competitive topics on the web...My site... has very few inbound links.

Competitive topics and few inbound links is generally a recipe for bad ranking. There doesn't seem to be a mystery here as to why your Google traffic is drying up.

If after three years few people are linking to you, then perhaps you need to be proactive (like it says in the Google Webmaster Pages) and tell more webmasters you're there.

It's possible to get one way links from academic websites that will appreciate useful content that's relevant to students, faculty or for supplemental reading.

9:03 am on Mar 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

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The gambling thing needs sorting, if the domain has no previous history, could it be down to someone using a 301/302 on a gambling site?
 

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