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1) I added a few hundred pages of content to try to monetize my site. Each page included an affiliate link with a rel='nofollow' tag. Perhaps google recognized the affiliate links and took away my trust rank? Perhaps I added too many pages? My site went from ~300 pages to ~900 pages.
2) All new pages were added in a sub-folder. Perhaps google thought the theme of my site had changed and penalized me? (although my index page stayed relatively the same)
3) Moved site to a dedicated server about 2 months previous.
Again, give it time and good external links to your new pages and I think you should be back on track. Also, make sure you have a good internal link structure.
So the site has gone from 900 pages to about 300.
The site has taken a small hit in rankings - but nothing too drastic.
I expect things to improve over the coming months.
I'm keeping all PR5 and below sites small (-300 pages) from this day forth!
P.S. Can you sticky me your URL as I'd like to have a look at the structure of your site. A PR8 site should be able to cope with 900 pages no problem.
my trust rank was completely taken away
Just to clarify and not get confused, none of the explanations the OP proposed has anything to do with TrustRank. From uspto.gov [appft1.uspto.gov]
TrustRank is a link analysis technique related to PageRank. TrustRank is a method for separating reputable, good pages on the Web from web spam. TrustRank is based on the presumption that good documents on the Web seldom link to spam. TrustRank involves two steps, one of seed selection and another of score propagation. The TrustRank of a document is a measure of the likelihood that the document is a reputable (i.e., a nonspam) document.
As glengars said, the tripling in the number of pages might be an explanation. There have been a few recent reports that adding many pages at one time has had a not very good effect on sites. Matt Cutts has stated that the number of added pages has to be a truly significant increase in order to trip whatever it is that's tripped. What that percentage is can be anyone's guess. For what it's worth, most of the reports on WebmasterWorld stated that the problems were mostly with pages in newly added directories.
I basically screwed up bigtime. Maybe had I added pages a few at a time, I wouldn't be in this mess. Do you think it would help if I got rid of all those pages? The pages are still getting traffic from MSN, but it's really not worth it. Has anyone ever had this happen? Is there a chance the site will come back?
The site is basically worthless now. Before I was getting lots of traffic from software/technical search terms. All that has been taken away too. I've lost all my google traffic.
"is your new server set up correctly, was the old server setup correctly?"
Yes, the servers were set up correctly. Google was crawling and indexing the pages with no problems.
"Did you really add 600 pages, and over what time period, what is your previous change rate?"
I added 600 pages in less than 1 month. Previous to that, I had added 300 pages in a period of 3 years.
At this point, I think the only thing I can do is remove those 600 pages.
I'm not too optimistic though. I've seen this happen before with free hosting and free forum type sites. At one time, any pages created on these free hosting sites would rank high. But then Google put some kind of filter/penalty against these sites. After that, those sites only ranked for their site name. Even though the sites retained it's high pagerank (greenbar still looked good), the pages didn't rank for anything.
My site is over 3 years old. Yes, what I did is exactly what a spammer would have done. I added a bunch of unrelated pages to try to monetize the site. And google punished me for it. I didn't think I could trigger a sandbox filter on a 3+ year old domain with a PR 8 with quality backlinks. But, Google is much smarter than than I thought.
Has anyone been sandboxed for adding a non-adSense script to their site?
I added 300 pages on one day. 2 weeks later, I added another 300 pages. I thought that since my site had a high page rank, it could handle 300 pages at a time. I thought wrong!
Have you checked whether you have fallen victim the supplemental/ dupe content problems?
When I do a site: search for my site, the pages do not show up as supplemental. The content on the pages are unique with unique meta tags.
Does anyone know how to 'un-trip' a filter? Will it help to remove the pages?
As you don't as yet really know what caused the problem taking any action is actually just a shot in the dark. Yeah, it might be that you tripped some sort of "spammy looking increase in pages" filter, or it might be normal--or abnormal--fluctuations caused by the last data push.
Can't give any really good advice, don't know what I would do given that situation. I might ride it out while adding a few pages each day and hope for the best on the next update.
You are aware that Google can see any links that script of yours sets up aren't you?.
Is it possible that each page now has a lot more effective outbound links than it did before and you actually changed your sites PR distribution(along with other items like link text) drastically.
Just guessing on my part I haven't got a clue as to how your site changed.
The content was unique. Each page had a small paragraph about the target keywords. For example, I had a page about 'netflix movie rentals' which included a short paragraph about netflix movie rentals and ended with an affiliate link to netflix. This page was top five on google for anything related to netflix movie rentals. I added about 600 pages similar to this, ranging from just about anything that was offered by Commission Junction. shoes, clothes, electronics, laptops, bikes, sports equipment, flowers, books, etc. Most of the pages got lots of hits and most converted to sales.
there you have it. Not enough content and most likely repeated in 100's of other pages, even if not word for word.
I thought that since my site had a high page rank, it could handle 300 pages at a time. I thought wrong!
Instead of number of pages - think % of new pages.
Adding 300 new pages might be no problem - if the site already has 1000's.
I added about 600 pages similar to this, ranging from just about anything that was offered by Commission Junction.
GoogleBot probably had gorged itself by the time it consumed a 300% increase in new pages with interesting kw's.
Perhaps nofollow, noindex would have been advisable - then the new pages could be gradually indexed over 12 - 18 month.