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The "Minus Thirty" Penalty - part 4

#1 yesterday and #31 today



11:56 pm on Nov 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

<continued from: [webmasterworld.com...] >
< part one: [webmasterworld.com...] >

Well, fellows, what can I say.

As you remember, my site (www.mysite.com) was in -30 penalty,
and also there was my competitor's site (www.my-site.com) which also were hit by the same penalty. 2 weeks ago BOTH of our sites, in the same day returned to #1 pos for domain name search and restored high positions for other serch terms as they were before -30.

But few days ago (perhaps after recent data refresh), again, BOTH of our sites have lost high positions in SERPs and now they both in -30 penalty again.

What can I say. During period of my -30 depression, I checked and rechecked all my outbound links for its relevance and availability, I have counted all links on the pages and was made "no more then 100 links per page", I removed those few duplicated links to the same URLs but with different anchor text, all other work was done long time ago, (removing duplicate content, cleaning HTML, removing text with font size smaller than "2" and so on).
But when my site lost it rank again, I didn't do anything, my site's cache on Google now is the same as it was before penalty, and I think, -30 has much more off-site reasons than on-site.

Someone here, after analysing sites affected by -30 penalty told, that there was 2 different sites with the same names in meta description. I think it's interesting, because my site and my competitors site has URLs www.mysite.com & www.my-site.com BUT in meta names both sites has first word - "Mysite" and it looks like - "Mysite - bla-bla-bla-bla...description"
Perhaps, both our sites are the reasons for each other's penalty. I'm not sure, but who knows.

[edited by: tedster at 3:49 pm (utc) on April 5, 2007]


12:37 pm on Dec 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Here is another update,

I checked my site this morning for mydomain.com and it's still #1. I then checked for one keyword that is very competitve and relevant. I went from #55 yesterday to #12 this morning.

This particular site went through a realm of changes about 1 month ago (See part 1 of the thread for actual changes) and about 2 weeks ago I sent in a reinclusion request.

However if you have been following my posts you'll see that I also made these changes to another site and made a request 2 days ago. Within a day of that request, the site and the one described above returned to #1 for a search on their respective domain names. (Possibly the "doghouse" for websites is on autopilot with a que to set multiple sites free at once)

Other than that, I'm not sure what to conclude yet. Both of these sites had Alexa rankings in the 100k - 200k range (March 06) and are now 1.3- 1.5 million. This has been a rather painful year for these sites. They are incredibly useful and I get thank you emails and unsolicited links on the content frequently.

I'll keep everybody informed and my fingers crossed...


1:36 pm on Dec 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

I had a 5 in the Toolbar and 15 minutes later back to 6.. it was 6 for years then it was 5 for a year. Google is getting more and more unstable, called probably "dynamic" in marketing speech. These constant wild fluctuations don't show much confidence in what they are doing. Surely after months into their Big Daddy they should reasonable start to know what they want.


1:42 pm on Dec 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

AustrianOak, well in my particular case I would say it would have been a combination of causes that caused our site to start getting filtered out and pushed back under most of the keywords that we optimized each page for.

If you were to go back in this thread I feel a few people really did hit the nail on the head when it comes to 'thin' affiliate based type sites.

In my case we have a small local directory that lists businesses for free of charge via a dedicated business profile listing. Everything is custom written and done from ground up in regards to how we list them. Of course by offering free listings we needed some sort of kick-back for driving leads to these businesses, so we deployed Adsense on all pages so the model would actually drive us some sort of revenue.

With the way we set direct links to point to each site that lists with us.. and of course how we would write a brief company profile description on there dedicated page, that over-time... now this is only a theory.. that as we have potentially passed on some sort of power to the web sites that we list, Google has went "now why should we rank this particular business listing page as the authority when they link out to the authority themselves.

This would probably lead them to believe that there would be no reason to have 2 potential very similar copies of the same company ranking; thus devaluing one. Of course there's probably no logic in this theory so, I'm all ears.

Also I had 2 site-wide links incoming to this site and they were negotiated and in place on long term agreements of 12+ months, but when I did remove these.. 2 days later the site came back. As walkman said earlier in regards to this, he felt it would have been too soon for Google to determine the deletion of those site-wides and how they would then relate it to my site.. so, it does look like a bit of a possible co-incidence to me.

And.. I am also inclined to believe that possible internal linking structures could have played a roll in this hopefully short lived penalty. All I will say is.. probably too much linking from the front page, make of it what you will.

Or it could be just that my site came back because it was a bit of a money spinner to Google with Adsense, and there really isn't nothing wrong with the site from my aspect. No. No, they wouldn't do that would they? ;)

What suprised me the most is that the site has been online since the hey-day back in 1998 and is PR6 with good natural old links from trusted resources such as .edu's, so I was suprised it even got effected by some algorithmic change like this -- as sites like this can tend to become immune to any antics that Google has up there sleeve.

Sorry for the big post, just wanted to clarify everything. :)


3:05 pm on Dec 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

James45, seems that your comeback will stick! Since you sent in a re-inclusion aprox. 2 weeks ago then I will stay positive. My site can relate to the pain yours have suffered - you hit the nail on the head with the the Alexa statement I have too fallen to the 1 million + from about 250,000. I too get daily emails and my bookmark rate is over 35%.. but hey.. I guess that's not high enough for google.

nuthin, your detailed post is much appreciated.

Both of you guys.. please do stay in touch with updates.


6:52 pm on Dec 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

For new readers in this thread, I want to clarify what this Minus Thirty penalty looks like:

1. your domain used to rank well for a number of searches
2. now every one of those searchs show you at position #31, top of page 4.

The very best test to discover if you are infected is this: do a search on your domain name itself, where most sites will naturally rank #1. Type your domain name, "example.com" into the Google search box. If you have this particular penalty against you, then even that search will show you at position #31, or at least it did up until recent days. Now there seems to be some changes for some people.

No other types of suspected penalties are relevant to this thread. If you never showed at #31 for a search on your domain name, then this discussion does not apply to your site. If only some search terms are at #31, but there are also some that are still on page #1 (even long tail searches) then this particular penalty also does not apply. This penalty hits you on every search term, not just a few.


8:50 pm on Dec 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Now to really scare you all, we have had this "minus thirty penalty" for over a year with no sign of recovery at any time.

It came around "Jagger time" although it is definately without a shadow of doubt a GHJ "Google Hand Job!" Note to mods, maybe we should rename this penalty to GHJ, it does seem more apt.

This probably explains why there is not a squeak from Google on this, "HJ's" in their index suggests fallibility in their algo and thus intellectual property which the NASDAQ might not like.

A machine may process it but somewhere, sometime, someone has come along and put URL www.etc.com into a box and hit submit to throttle back 30 or 40 or 50 depending upon when.

The only change over this 14 month period has been that sometimes it has been a "minus forty" or "minus fifty".

We noticed this back in October 31 2005 when one of our sites dropped from Adsense 750 per day to 150 per day overnight.

Fortunately the site has a large footprint and is quality so we have rebuilt this initial drop in revenue and traffic via other means which we would probably never have looked at.

We are still here and surviving without Google's help and still making money via Adsense even if it's now just a small component of revenue.

We'd love to sever ties from Google just for spite and switch to YPN but we are outside of the US and the last I heard this was only available via a 3rd party.

We know the issue, "text links", but cannot remove them as they are still a large revenue generator. We have NOT had this confirmation from Google even though we have asked them more advice on numerous occassions and channels.

URL of when we first noticed the drop and posted a Q


9:30 pm on Dec 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

indigojo, welcome to the discussion. 14 months? Well you are perhaps the worst hit as far as we know. Once again, I'd like to bring up the comments by a Google rep. that penalties always are short and will never last for a year. Cough Cough.


10:24 pm on Dec 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

>worse hit

May 2005 here.

When you work on something for 7 years of your life, every day, building adding and improving only for some anonymous person to take a decision that you have no input into, it kinda hurts.

There is no level playing field, it seems to be algo + random human intervention, that's the tough part. You can try and 'reason' with the algo, as in adjust tags, get good links, write good content, use the tools that god gave you to compete with all those others doing the self same thing, yet when someone comes along and snatches it alway and you don't understand who or why, then...yeah, not nice. How can one reason with that which cannot be reasoned with?

Can they tell us? Perhaps not, too big a can of worms maybe. Maybe someone somewhere with a good legal mind has counselled them against it.

[edited by: TravelMan at 10:25 pm (utc) on Dec. 2, 2006]


11:51 pm on Dec 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

TravelMan, I feel your pain.

My site is aprox. 5 years old, however in those 5 years there hasn't been many days that I've not put work into it. None of my site is generated, all is hand written, designed, 2500+ pages. Since April, my penalty, there is not one day that has gone by that I haven't added new unique content, there isn't a day where visitors do not bookmark my site, there isn't a day where I try to rip the site apart to find what google doesn't like.. the 3-4 pages of sites ahead of me that consist of duplicate content info splattered with google ads, sites that rip my titles and content snipplets yet rank above me..

Try to make sense of this? Ofcourse.. everyday. Give up? No..

I as well believe google should justify it's methods.. if there are penalties resulting in untold guidelines. Do they need to? Ofcourse not.. they don't have to do anything.. they hold the ultimate power and don't need to answer to anyone.. for them.. our few cries are insignicant in the grand scheme of things. I think that the webmaster tools was a good start.. however it would be much more useful to make usefull communication regarding these innocently-induced penalties rather than stats on crawl rates, etc

[edited by: AustrianOak at 11:57 pm (utc) on Dec. 2, 2006]


11:52 pm on Dec 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

For anyone reading Tedster's post above, I would concur with all his points. I would add however that for quite a few people hit with this penalty the level of fluctuation from the #31 position has increased significantly in the last 3 weeks i.e. can move from day to day from #28 to #49, sometimes up to #59. So if all your former high ranked pages including your domain are now ranked say at #45, don't feel left out!


11:53 pm on Dec 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

daveblake, yes.. I have seen identical flux.. from #28 to #59.. not higher.. no lower. It is interesting to note that my site can variate in about a dozen (atleast the amount of times I check a day) position throughout one day.

[edited by: AustrianOak at 12:00 am (utc) on Dec. 3, 2006]


1:02 am on Dec 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Finding dozens of sites discussing this issue. Here is a snipplet from another site:

Posted by anthony: 11:09 AM, November 18, 2006

Ugh -- after being devastated by the 30 penalty rule, I broke out and am back in my normal 1-5 rankings. Since I was so clueless as to why I was penlized I felt I should post what I *think* I did to cure this.

I was also freaking out because a lot of sites said if you get hit by the 30 ranking penalty you'd need to switch domains. Don't do that ... there's hope.

I came across a word document (it's probably fake) that was rumored to be release by a Google employee who broke the NDA.

Anyhow the doc (whether fake or not) did give me insights... it specifically talked about thin affiliates and even more specifically about linking to Hotels to get affiliate money.

I was desperate so I went ahead and took off all my hotel links. I wasn't using them as affiliates whatsoever.. what I was doing is linking to host hotels for some events being held to help my web surfers shortcut to the hotels... nothing spammy or affilate whatsoever...

Google must have thought I was profiting as a thin affiliate... and tripped me up with 30 rankings down.

I made a lot of other changes too so cannot be sure that THAT is what tripped me up... however, as soon as I fixed that... I was back to where I needed to be..

So now.. how the heck to I link to the hotels? Maybe I can put a "nofollow" in the link.. Not sure.. or maybe a JavaScript link of some sort?

Hope this helps anyone else out there!



1:11 am on Dec 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

So now.. how the heck to I link to the hotels? Maybe I can put a "nofollow" in the link.. Not sure.. or maybe a JavaScript link of some sort?

Good idea. I think I am going to try to make my links javascript.


1:20 am on Dec 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

changing how you link to your affiliates, if you are a thin affiliate, really should make no difference to the +30 penalty.

The issue is not are you passing link value, its is your site unique and relevant. No problem using affiliates to make money, but you must add value.

I ahve one site that is a dead set thin affilaite, but it has not tripped any filters on google, as I have rewritten all the product descriptions. Google in its wisdom considers this rewrite, enough to be adding value.

I ahve another running 25 different affilaites, no changes of descriptions, but each product is reviewed and rated by admin.

Neither, has any problem ranking well on google.

My site that remains in + 30 territory, was a thin affilaites plain and simple....plus hepas of accidental duplciate content. All fixed, but problem remains my site is very similar to many others, so passing a manual check is going to be very difficult.

Point is, if you DON"T rewrite info about your affiliates, you need to add value, reviews, ratings, etc. to prove your site is worthy of being indexed as well as the site(s) you are affiliating with.

rel=nofollow is not the issue or solution.


9:45 am on Dec 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Nippi, I agree. After months of reading, changing , testing etc I believe one of THE main factors is duplicate content. Sure is for me anyhow. The very last thing we identified is the Overture/Yahoo partner feed of content match ads that is delivered to my site using xml. Therefore these ads are integrated into the html of the page. We are obviously not allowed to alter the wording of these ads, so we are left with 2-3 paragraphs of effectively copied content per page (as we have 2 or 3 ads at the bottom of each page).

So what we have just done is to bring in these ads through an iFrame from another domain. We will wait a week or so for Google to completely re-spider, then resubmit a reinclusion request. Fingers crossed.


4:00 pm on Dec 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


for what it is worth...

This AM I discovered that my site is no longer coming up #27+ for a search for it's own url in Google. It is now resulting in the top positions for the search - across ALL datacenter c-blocks!

THIS is THE ONLY change I have seen. There has been NO detectable INCREASE in traffic at this point.

As I just noticed this possible "-30 phenomenon" last week, there really is not enough evidence to support that my site was an actual victim of this particular penalty.

Right now the reality that remains is that Google Traffic, that was > 1000 hits per day prior to April 26th this year, STILL remains at a trickle of it's previous state.

So - over the previous 7 months my site has experienced all of the symptoms others have reported...

- dropped from 15000 plus pages indexed to 500 pages indexed.
- eventually recovered to currently 1500 plus pages(more realistic).
- Index.php page dropped from #1 position in site:search to? (later recovered)
- Many pages went supplimental then returned.

BUT it has NEVER recovered (not for one day - not for one hour), one iota of the TRAFFIC hit it had suffered back in April.

...onward I plod...



5:52 pm on Dec 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

if your domain came up at 31 for a domain search then we can assume you did have the penalty.
Good on yer for coming out of it.
What changes did you make?


6:16 pm on Dec 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


The changes I made were "the standard fare" - Fixed some duplicate titles, fixed links to main page from "index.php" to "www.mysite.com/" - you know - the types of 'issues' that elicited Duplicate Page penalties. BUT - THOSE 'fixes' had been made a while back. (I fixed the index.php link issue back in early Sept.)

AGAIN, this is a somewhat "hollow" victory (if indeed it was a victory at all - not just coincidence)as it has not effected the main issue - TRAFFIC!

If I saw any, even minute, positive effect on my Google Traffic - I'd be ecstatic at this point.

THE one recent thing that happened was that I found a site that was scraping mine and had them cease and desist! That was on Nov. 13th.



7:41 pm on Dec 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

caryl, we seem to have been hit at the same time.. teh fateful APRIL 26th of this year. I currently am still sitting at the same ole penalty.. and my site is in spot #33 as I type this.

Please do share if there was anything else that you did since we seem to be in the same boat.


8:22 pm on Dec 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

First, thanks everyone for the encouragement to continue....

Another update,

As you may recall I reported on Friday that one of my sites had a reinclusion request 2 weeks before and was released on Wednesday from the -31 domain search. Additionally I noticed a position of #12 on a very competive term (Up from -55) . Today I looked at the stats in Googles webmaster tools and found 20 or so keywords all under #10. Thereafter another 10 keywords were in the realm of 50-100. Maybe there is some ray of hope here.

On to the Google analytics... According to the stats for the past 6 days the site saw an increase in Google refferals of 318% (A whoping 205 visitors from google in 6 days), MSN showed a 16% increase and for whatever reason Yahoo doesn't appear at all. The site is most definately in Yahoo.

That is all to report for now. The other site does not seem to be enjoying a return to Google yet... In fact it's various keyword rankings seem to have moved back into the hundreds.


9:05 pm on Dec 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


As far as I can tell, I am NO BETTER OFF than I was yesterday - when my site placed #27 for a search for it's own url in Google!

My log files indicate that as of 10:AM EST My site has had a total of 5 lowly hits from Google's search engine. - 5 hits -!

To give you some perspective...

I keep copious notes and monitor/document spot checks throughout the day.

My site was NOT doing this bad prior to July 26th (when I was dealt yet another blow from google).

My records indicate that on Mon. July 24th, my site had already accumulated 72 google hits by 8:30 AM!

So, you see, I am STILL behind the 'Eight Ball' here.

I have done nothing to my site that I did not mention above. I did NOT nor have I ever even filed a 'request for re-inclusion' to google. (I guess it is my ego that stops me as the thought of begging for absolution for such venial infractions just pisses me off...)



9:27 pm on Dec 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

It is now resulting in the top positions for the search - across ALL datacenter c-blocks!

it has not effected the main issue - TRAFFIC!

Something does not compute here. Do you also see the same position on regular Google search? Is it there at different times of the day?

If so, does a click on that link really go to your site every time? If not, there are some DNS cache poisoning exploits that might be in play (a site search on DNS cache poisoning will turn up some good threads).


9:44 pm on Dec 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


Yes, www.google... as well. I have checked several times since this morning and everything is holding.

If you click on the link, you go to my site.

I do not necessarily see why you are so astounded that my Google hits have not been effected though.

Just because I come up for a search on my url is no indicator that my site should place well in any other keyword search.

I will investigate that "DNS cache poisoning" though.



10:43 pm on Dec 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

Wow, guys!

The little topic I posted about what I thought to be a rather obscure issue turned into a four-thread monster. I feel honored and scared at the same time: not so obscure after all.

Now, couple months later I have some additional observations to share with the great group of people that keep coming back here.

So, I had four sites hit with this penalty. It is no longer exactly #31 (#27 through #45) although I have all reasons to believe it is the same penalty.

One (main) site has a lot of unique content but also lots or syndicated content. Has (legitimate) links from .edu, professional associations and other authority sites in its industry.
Other three sites are almost exclusively syndicated, links are rather scarce and from low quality places like blogs. Did not even start directory submissions until recently.

On all sites I have gone through checking for usual suspects and have gotten rid of exact duplicate pages. Some pages (such as directories of web links) had too many links (close to 100). Removed those or severely cut their amount where was applicable. Then I REMOVED Google sitemaps from ALL my sites. Let them find my pages by links. Submitted re-inclusion requests for all four sites. Don't recall what sin I confessed to but looked just like an appointment with an inquisitor: no idea what I'm accused of but will confess just in case :) BTW, confessing never helped any of inquisitors’ victims – just a side thought :)

Two months later one of the lesser quality sites got the penalty lifted. Of all the sites that one has probably the least amount of links to it, overall pages and I spent less time developing it than others.
The main site with unique content is still -30 (still has the RELEVANT syndicated content - I'm not going to remove it 'cause I want it for my human visitors) and so are the other two sites that I (subjectively, of course) think are of better quality than the one that got the penalty lifted.

Wait, that's not all! I have another site based on the same template with different but also syndicated content that has not even been hit with the penalty (yet).

No site can be called a thin affiliate of anyone but Google themselves because they are rather heavy on AdSense (as the main site always was since 2 weeks after AdSense went live back in 2003).

So, that's the current state of Google affairs here. There is still considerable Yahoo traffic to support development of all sites, especially the main one and I am seriously considering switching to YPN, which may not be happening soon because they still lack relevance in ads for technical sites like mine.

Is there hope for having the penalty removed? Not really. Let me explain: I would think that this human-applied (or human-lifted. it does not matter) cannot be lifted because I do not want to change my sites especially for Google. I like them the way they are and Google obviously does not like them that way and so it seems to be a deadlock. The human editor may come back, see the same site and will probably never come back again. Let them have it.

Is there hope for the site hit with the penalty? I think yes! I think that the best time spent on a site that's hit by this (and others for the matter) penalty is to work on the site's features and appearance to its visitors so that you increase your visitor retainage and no longer depend so heavily on search engine traffic.

Good luck with getting your penalties lifted, everyone! Just don't center your life around such negative matter.


3:02 pm on Dec 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Well 1script, I for one, am really happy you did start this topic.

We are also affected. We have completely overhauled our site, I am now really pleased with how it looks, appears to customers, navigation is much better etc.
We've been through all html, sorted out possible duplicate content, sorted out who we link to and will now file a re-inclusion request.
If that doesn't resolve this problem then I would really be at a loss as to how to resolve this.

Current contenders for the cause of this penalty appear to be:
1) Link exchanges with not particularyly good sites or relevant ones
2) Duplicate content.
3) Over SEO'd pages - thinking about this, this could mean anything - bit of a catch all.
4) Purchasing links?


5:27 pm on Dec 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

1script, yes thanks for starting this topic off.. even though we have not come up with any solid solutions it is nice to have support amongst fellow members..

avalanche101, best of luck! I applied a few days back and still nothing.. you can almost hear the crickets.

Question: How many of you people in the penalty are using GWT? How many have uploaded a sitemap? I am using both.. even though I left out the sitemaps for a few months since I wanted googel to do it's own searching - plus I just have a gut feeling that the whole thing has a "big-brotherish" feel about it. If you notice.. you will get different search results if you are logged into GWT in google as opposed to not being logged in.

Millions of sites are not using GWT and ranking amazingly! If Google doesn't wish to tell me why I have been penalized through that gateway.. it's not very valuable. Dunno.. GWT hasn't helped me yet..

[edited by: AustrianOak at 5:29 pm (utc) on Dec. 5, 2006]


5:55 pm on Dec 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

you will get different search results if you are logged into GWT

You will get the same "different" search results if you are logged into any Google account at all,not just GWT. They call it personalized search.


6:20 pm on Dec 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Ahh thanks tedster. I personally don't like it all.


7:30 pm on Dec 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Cheers AustrianOak, fingers crossed.

Is there still no word from anyone from google regarding this?


7:42 pm on Dec 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

No word that I have come across. Now if you search for this penalty online you get pages of results.. it's obviously a serious issue.

The only words I can recall are, "cleaning up the infraction and filing a reinclusion request is the fastest and most surefire way of having that penalty removed". And my favorite.. "penalties are always short lived, and will never go near a year". Ha.

This 169 message thread spans 6 pages: 169

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