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I've gone through the webmaster guidelines time and again, as well as read all webmasterworld posts I can find on penalties, but can't see any violations of the guidelines on the site.
Homepage is PR3 and client is a heavy Adwords user.
I haven't been able to find a way to contact google directly regarding this matter. Is there any way to find out if there is a penalty involved and if so, what I can do to correct it?
You might also set up a site map account on Google and send in a reinclusion request (you don't need to have the site map set up to do this) explaining how you built the site and as far as you know there is nothing wrong with the site, and ask for reinclusion (even though it may be fully indexed). Also having a site map set up will let you know if there is a problem with indexing the site.
You mention a pr3 but is this competitive with other sites in your niche?
does a site:example search return problems?
You need to look at the competitiveness of the search term and see what you need to do link wise to compete with the 349 sites above you.
I would say a PR3 for a competetive term is pretty poor. That means you need to work on getting people in related areas of interest to link to you. Build your link pop a bit more and see where you stand in a few months.
I would say a PR3 for a competetive term is pretty poor.I definitely agree. My problem is that this client sees other PR3 sites on the first 3 pages of the SERPs with no backlinks showing and wants to be like those guys. About a year and a half ago I put some time into the site, and after Google updated we bounced around on the first three pages for a few weeks. Then in a day, right back down to high 300s and have been there ever since. That's the only thing that really made me question if there was a penalty involved. If not, that's great - I have more ammo for doing it the right way rather than looking for the easy way.
[edited by: simplesimon at 4:39 pm (utc) on Aug. 22, 2006]
You need to put yourself above these PR3 sites by either adding loads of new content or inbound links.
You need to go a step further. Google can only show 1 site in the number 1 spot. Even if there are 500 sites all the same vying for the same spot.
You need to step up your game to get ahead of the pack. If I had a few PR3 sites to beat on a competetive term, I would be a happy man :)