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The "Minus Thirty" Penalty?

#1 yesterday and #31 today

     
2:36 am on Oct 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Hello everyone,

I just got my site rank #31 on its own domain name and bunch of keywords/phrases I usually watch were bumped from #1 to precisely #31. Those #2 through #10 are sort of all over the map but generally within the first 60 results.

Does anyone have some experience with this? What would the respectful audience here think a most likely reason for such penalty is? What do you suggest as the best strategy to fix this?

There has not been any major redesign recently, just routine adding pages here and there. Some unique, some syndicated industry-related content.

Thanks for any idea or comment!

D~

6:03 pm on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

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"redeeming factors" aka big pocketbooks
8:42 pm on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I have told this before but because this 4 page penalty comes up quite frequently I'll tell you again: I have this penalty on 2 sites and on both cases the site was hand checked by someone at Google and the next day it was dropped ~30 spots on all keywords. First site was 100% white hat, second site had too many affiliate links.

This doesn't mean all 4 page penalties are manual but in my case it was very obvious. I even emailed Google about it and I guess they were a little surprised about it and only sent me a cut+paste answer.

1. You build a good website
2. You optimize it well and according to Google guidelines
3. A zit faced student working for Google checks your site and doesn't like it
4. You loose 95% of traffic from Google the following day

Good luck trying to get a comment from Google about this.

8:53 pm on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

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If you call this the -30 penalty, then you'd have to call the duplicate content penalty, the -100 penalty. Seriously. About a year ago when we had problems on one domain with the www/non-www canonical issue and a lot of pages started showing up twice, our top pages all dropped to exactly their former positions -100. Once it was fixed they returned to the +100 state. I also am convinced there is perhaps a -10 penalty that I've observed which seems to have something to do with too high keyword density.
9:20 pm on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

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>> I have this penalty on 2 sites and on both cases the site was hand checked by someone at Google and the next day it was dropped ~30 spots on all keywords

This is interesting. Has anyone else seen this? Can you give us the url that google came from? Eval.google...?

I have seen this happen with links, too many too fast, and it always happened on updates /data refreshes.

9:21 pm on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I don't think they take the time, the "zit faced subbys",
to minus 30 each page, but do it as a sitewide effect.

As far as a Google response to this, won't happen...

9:57 pm on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

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There's no way some entry level domain evaluator gets to be the sole judge and jury who directly affects Google search results. Whatever really IS happening must go through some more steps before any final effect comes through in the SERPs.
10:02 pm on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

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But you don't know that for sure Ted, do you?

Why hire indivuals by the thousands to do "evaluations"
if you are not going to trust their judgement. I'm sure
they aren't going to minus 30 a well known site, a major dotcom, but some unknown one...

I'll bet you that there is a lot more Disorganization around Google than one is let on to believe. This company grew so large, over such a short period of time.

10:14 pm on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

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>> There's no way some entry level domain evaluator gets to be the sole judge and jury who directly affects Google search results.

IF it is done via ratings, a negative rating would be independently reviewed by another judge and if they disagree by yet another one.

10:30 pm on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

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But you don't know that for sure Ted, do you?

I know it for as close to sure as anything else in life, twebdonny. When all the brouhaha bout eval.google.com broke, GoogleGuy posted in the thread [webmasterworld.com] several times. He made it very clear:

Again, this was not a console in which people could directly fine-tune, tweak, filter, or otherwise modify our search results. eval.google.com was for "eval," i.e. passive evaluation.

There's too much money involved in having good search results. Even the paid advertising model depends very much on good having organic search traffic to bring in the eyballs for the ads. It would be an INSANE business move to let one newbie on staff dole out -30 penalties on a whim.

11:26 pm on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

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In my experince a drop like that usually means some kind of a spam penalty, which is usually pretty easy to fix.
1:23 am on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Jane, I wish it was that easy.
1:29 am on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Does this mean I can "link bomb" competitors out of the serps with one way inbound links? and identical link anchor text?

What a great "filter" - #*$! is wrong with Google?

1:46 am on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Anyways, If you want to learn more about this manual page evaluation, just search for Google's Secret Labs and or Google Search Evaluators... the movie is very interesting...

Once u receive a manually imposed 30 below freezing penalty...on a domain....forget any such recovery...

Easily Fixed? I think not.

2:10 am on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I think it might be easy in some cases -- IF the site owner can remember what they did in the past that might be considered spammy by today's Google. The longer they've been "optimizing", the harder this recall might be.

Or it might be easy IF the owner can back off to an objective distance and see why Google might not want to see their website on the first page of results -- even though the basic algorithm calculates that it "should be" there. For instance, no one wants to think that their long-standing and profitable web presence might now be considered a "thin affiliate" with little redeeming value. But it might, especially if human evaluation is now at least part of the picture.

SINS AGAINST THE ALGORITHM
My best guess for the moment is that +30 is not generated by any one specific condition. From a couple different examples I've seen, it looks like this could be a kind of "junk drawer" to collect various and sundry sins against the algorithm. It looks to me like this +30 is added on top of the basic ranking calculations, and I do lean more to believing it's a manually applied condition rather than purely algorithmic.

Also I wonder, is there a "minus 3" or "minus 5" version of this penalty, or some other numbers that are not quite so easy to detect?

We've got to get into Google's point of view and see just what they are aiming to do. It's not some kind of game, with rules to be followed (or evaded) and then proper rewards doled out as our just rewards on the SERPs. It's easy to get into that kind of SEO "head" but it may not survive a reality check.

Google is most basically out to serve relevant results that keep the public coming back, over and over for years and years. That's what makes their business model work. That's why ads get placed and sometimes clicked on -- because Google can deliver the eyeballs. So they're going to take any steps they feel they must to make search results as good as they can. Of course they miss sometimes. And obviously, they also get it right a good bit of the time, too.

Let me finish these ramblings with a question. Does anyone with a +30 penalty have a Webmaster Tools account? If so, any clues showing up in there?

[edited by: tedster at 2:13 am (utc) on Oct. 15, 2006]

2:12 am on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

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There's too much money involved in having good search results. Even the paid advertising model depends very much on good having organic search traffic to bring in the eyballs for the ads. It would be an INSANE business move to let one newbie on staff dole out -30 penalties on a whim.

Plus, it just wouldn't be scalable. (Think of the huge personnel resources that would be required.) And what would be the benefit to Google?

2:34 am on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I just looked at a site that someone on another forum posted the url for, which was hit by the minus thirty penalty. Turns out, that site would be what I would classify as a "thin affiliate". Does that ring any bells with any of your sites?
2:46 am on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Yeah for sure - we run affiliate links also - what a sin! so I guess we should dump the affiliate links and adjust our revenue model - now let me see..........

Adsense?

2:56 am on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Nah, don't dump them -- just fatten them up so they're not thin anymore.
2:58 am on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

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@ tedster :


Let me finish these ramblings with a question. Does anyone with a +30 penalty have a Webmaster Tools account? If so, any clues showing up in there?

Yes, of course I do have a Webmaster Tools /Sitemap/ account and this was the very first place I went to after I discovered that my site ranks #31 for its own domain name. I did it because some time ago Vanessa posted on their blog that they were going to use it to communicate to webmasters if they've been penalized. Yeah, right!
Anyways, on the day it happened I did not have anything different in my account. Everything looked OK and the stats were shown with all the great SERPs I had before the #31 disaster. This is explainable because the stats looks like they are processed overnight or maybe even less often.

However:

I went back there today and all of the sudden this site now has "verification pending" next to it. It may be because the server went offline at some point though because other sites hosted at the same server have "pending" status as well. Because of that "verification pending" I cannot really see any data about the site anyome but I hope it will clear tomorrow morning and I'll post here if there is anything if interest there.

Cheers.

D~

3:01 am on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Donna,
the "rabbit" one seemed as a dupe /scrapped content so I am not surprised, but the print one seemed OK as far of content. But he had many domains pointing at and a https problem; each page is seen there too. Also, I am not sure in how many sites the description for the cartridges is posted.

I vote for a penalty that eventually can be lifted automatically. Once, it lasted over 8 months. Jumped to #1 on everything till I got hit again after a few great months.

[edited by: walkman at 3:14 am (utc) on Oct. 15, 2006]

3:06 am on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

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@ kidder:

Yeah for sure - we run affiliate links also - what a sin! so I guess we should dump the affiliate links and adjust our revenue model - now let me see..........

Adsense?


Ha-ha! That's funny. My site with +30 penalty does not have a single affiliate link on it but it's literally covered all over with AdSense to the max number of blocks allowed by them per page. That did not stop them from dropping the penalty on me and maybe even triggered that because on some pages the area used by content is smaller that that of covered with AdSense. We have a helpdesk on our site and some questions and answers are literally two sentences long with the rest of the page taken by what's on the template - and AdSense is a large area of the template.
3:33 am on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

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@ tedster (regarding the Sitemap account data)

Apparently, the pending verification was just a fluke and I can now see all the usual data about the site (that does not have a sitemap submitted, by the way)

There is really nothing that would hint at the reason for the penalty or even existence thereof: All the average positions on the "Query stats page, both search and clicks are close to the pre-penalty positions with keyword shown as first page positions with just a handful from page #2 and obviously none #31 and beyond. This is simply because noone clicks there, I guess. The actual location of the pages is #31 or more, of course (otherwise this thread would not have been started ;-) )
I think the old positions have to do with averaging them across a large time interval: one of the pages I track has been #1 for several years now and now it's shown as #2. I think the longer I wait the closer the position shown in Webmaster Tools will get to #31, which is where the page is actually at right now.

So, no, I don't think any useful info related to the problem at hand can be had from the Webmaster Tools account.

3:54 am on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

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@ ken_b


Maybe I just don't get it, is the whole deal +30 spots from where you start? If you wre #4 and you get nailed with this, do you end up at #34?

No, unfortunately it does not work that way. It seems to be a logarithmic scale or something more complex than that. I your site was #4 you will have hard time finding it at all. It's #1 that you can certainly find at #31 and I have been finding #2 at the likes of #55 but anything beyond that is simply impossible to find manually and I don't really know the tools that can help finding it automatically. Besides, it does not matter if you find the actual position of every keyword - just do the search for your own domain name and, if it shows up at #31, you know that you've been hit by it.
3:55 am on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I'll try again.... my earlier questions...

Maybe I just don't get it, is the whole deal +30 spots from where you start? If you wre #4 and you get nailed with this, do you end up at #34?

Anyone ever hear of a serp where two sites got nailed with this type of "penalty"?

Do they end up at #31 and #32?

4:08 am on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

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More data about the subject matter:

Subdomains of a domain hit by +30 penalty

I only have one subdomain off of this domain so there isn't too much data available. Those of you guys witjh more subs please chime in here with more data. In my case a search for subdomain's name shows it at position #12.

Googlebot Activity

In three words: It went nuts! Looks like they are on a mission to re-evaluate every stinking page of my site within couple days and the server is barely holding it. Are you guys in the "+30 club" seeing something like that?

4:20 am on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

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@ ken_b:

Anyone ever hear of a serp where two sites got nailed with this type of "penalty"?
Do they end up at #31 and #32?

I would guess it rarely, if ever, happens to two separate sites at the same time. Well, unless of course, you were spammin' and jammin' your way to the top two positions and they nailed your entire network. I would not want to be in your shoes then. Loosing one site hurts enough as it is.

On a second thought: there should be categories that they are reviewing more often. In this case, if the "zitted intern" was on a mission to clean search results for an often searched keyword, they could have tagged two adjacent sites one right after another. But how do you know if the #32 was penalized unless you know the pre-penalty SERPs by heart and can see your former rival now racing you to the #31 spot?

5:12 am on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Jane, I wish it was that easy.

With my sites I usually find a kind of pattern between what keywords get hit and which ones do not. To be honest when some of my pages lose a lot of ranking positions in one update it is usually the ones that could use a little more content, less affiliate links or have something else wrong with them. There are more pages added to the web all of the time, so Google can afford to be a bit more picky about what gets in the top 10 positions as time goes by. Pages that had enough content and links to rank a few years ago sometimes just need more signals of quality to hold the same rankings today.

5:33 am on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

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@ Jane_Doe:

You are apparently missing the whole point of this thread. When this penalty is imposed onto your site, all your pages slide 30 positions down, regardless of the keyword. This is not an algorithmic "loosing ground to better pages". They simply pick you and slap your hands for some minor(?) misdoings. If you analyze the sites between #1 and your #31 position in SERPs, you'll see plenty of sites with less incoming links, more affiliate outgoing links, scraped content, less PR than you, you name it! Every reason for your site to be higher that the particular site from #1 to #30 will be there, which is exactly why you ended up in the #1 place in the first place (no pun intended).

Basically, if it was intended to be fair, they would then go and manually check all the other 30 sites and, to be sure, at the very least 25 in my segment would have gotten the same penalty which would have moved me up to #5 spot. But they will never do that ‘cause they’ll never have enough human reviewers for that.

8:53 am on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I've got a site in the +30 club.

Had the following problems.

100,000 pages of accidental duplicate content(CMS@#%$@!)
thin affiliate shopping pages.
big recip linking, all ontopic(baby parenting family)
accidental duplicate anchor to different pages in the site(oops, crappy sitemap application)

Content is great, site should be number one if content was the only marker, but its not, and seems i pushed the envelope a tad far.

75 days and counting since i got the penalty, all issues cleaned up, no affiliates at all anymore, most links gone, dupe content gone.

Yes, I have a google tools account, which shows no issues at all.

Site is No.1 on msn and yahoo, so adsense revenue is still ok.

Have started the site again from scratch in a new domain, if the old one recovers, i will simply 301 to it.

Its a pain, but has taught me to spread my income across many sites, not just one whale.

1:07 pm on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

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walkman, although the rabbit one may indeed be scraped content, i was assuming it was some kind of affiliate program where the company supplies its affiliates with a feed of some sort (giving the guy the benefit of the doubt). either way, the end result would be the same - a thin affiliate with the same content as either one (the company) or many others (the affiliates).

i didn't see any other sites of his, so didn't know about them.

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