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The "Minus Thirty" Penalty - part 5

#1 yesterday and #31 today



3:30 pm on Jan 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

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

Still penalized for 56 consecutive weeks now. Domain name search swings between 33-45. However, sadly the targeted search terms I follow so closely and ranked #1 for almost all of 2005, now turn up from #283 to #950. This occurred last Friday. They used to be in the same #31-#45 spot.

We have followed everything Adam has pontificated about:

1) make your site squeakly clean. We did. On November 20 we ditched all the crap the hired programmers put up last year which apparently triggered the penalty.
2) provide unique and compelling content. 78,000 new, unique content pages in the past 21 days! Site is now 95% new, unique content--something Google says they love.
3) ask yourself this question: "...why would someone choose my site over others in the same field..." That is an easy one. We provide a unique visual search method. So we are definitely not run of the mill.
4) then file a reinclusion request. Filed on 12/14/06.
5) et al

But Adam also stated: "... it would be extremely rare for a site to be penalized for years..." Looks like we may be that extremely rare occurrence.

FYI, Google continues to crawl aggressively and has since October 5.

Lastly, while Google says that they listen to webmasters and provide communication via their webmaster central and notify webmasters of reasons for penalties or impending penalties, they can't hold a candle to MSN.

I notified MSN in August that I thought I had been unfairly penalized. They answered back in about 10 days stating that I was right, that I had indeed been unfairly penalized and that I would be seeing a return to the serps in a couple of weeks.

They lived up to their word. I did return to their index and guess where I rank and have ranked for months for my targeted search terms. #1, #2, #3 or at least page 1 or 2 for all my targeted search terms (such as <edited>). The SAME EXACT search terms I used to rank #1 for in Google.

Makes you wonder how much Google really does care about correcting an apparent error. Sure doesn't seem like they live up to their promises of communication. Heck even convicted murderers come up for a parole hearing every few years.

<Sorry, no specific search terms.
See Forum Charter [webmasterworld.com]>

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


1:09 am on Mar 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Surprised why? Building a brand new site and getting it to rank is 1000000x more difficult, and in most cases useless.

Many of us are honest webmasters that are searching for reason(s) for the penalty. Putting 5+ years into a valued website is worth to many of us to un-penalize. It can seem like a long journey at times, but I have witness half a dozen sites be freed, some as far as 14+ months under the penalty.

To everyone.. keep the faith and keep searching for clues, asking for help can also be beneficial as outside parties will notice things you may not.


12:08 pm on Mar 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

Waiting a year to come out of the penalty? Possibly wait another year? I thought you guys would have for sure started to at least build another site. If you have not come out of it by now by fixing things, I doubt you will ever come out of it.

Sometimes its better to throw in the towel and start something new.


3:01 pm on Mar 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I would be surprised if I were the only -30 victim setting up new replacement site(s) - I have been doing so for 4 months (7 months post penalty).

While I agree with trinorthlighting on that score, I empathise with AustrianOak. If his site is anywhere as large as mine - several thousand pages, with about a thousand quality backlinks built up over years, this is a mighty pyramid to replicate. Getting out of this penalty is more than professional pride, it is based on simple economics.

I am confident my combination strategy of [1] spending a small amount of time rewriting, updating and re-examining the penalised site and [2] spending the majority of time building up new sites will prove a winner over time.


4:11 pm on Mar 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

trinorthlighting, sorry to dissapoint you but don't throw around false and negative comments such as "If you have not come out of it by now by fixing things, I doubt you will ever come out of it." There is proof of some who have been penalized for 14+ months and recovered. Everyone that has been penalized with this specific penalty HAS a chance to come out, otherwise they would be banned completely.

For me, honest websites are worth every single hour of every day of effort to find the cause and cure for this penalty.

dangerman, great comments. Please do keep us posted on your new site and your continued effort to be released from the penalty as well.

To everyone, do not be discouraged. If you offer an honest website then check and double check the guidlines and skim through the hundreds of threads on the internet regarding this penalty. There have been many that have recovered.. so keep the faith!

[edited by: AustrianOak at 4:13 pm (utc) on Mar. 6, 2007]


5:36 pm on Mar 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

AustrianOak - Great Post! Rewriting a site with thousands of pages is a daunting task but it's difficult to walk away from years of site development.

I'm going to continue the fight and I'm going to make it a good fight. Google you don't own the internet, just at this moment in time you control the traffic. You like to kick webmasters where it hurts instead of working with them in a professional manner.

You know Google we are approachable, we are human not evil pieces of code or websites, we are business people and students. It's time to change your ways and start communicating like everyone else does in the real world.


5:37 pm on Mar 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member


What I am saying is just like dangerman said, spend some time trying to fix your site, but as a back up plan start devoloping another. Unless you want to chance it...

One good month of revenue on a new site can equal 14 months of revenue on a penalized site. You can easily start to develop a new site and have it rank top 10 within 3 months and the $$$ can start flying in. Unless money is not a concern....

Yes its time, but time is money.... I know if one of our eccommerce sites ever was hit like that, we would start rewriting after 30 days.


6:42 pm on Mar 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I'm taking the tweak the old site while building some new ones approach. I find too much time spent analysing and tweaking a site that's having problems can lead to fatigued webmaster syndrome.

Faith for the old site, hope for the new ones - Tabula Rasa :)


6:43 pm on Mar 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

northweb, keep the faith my friend.. I do believe that the solution does exist.. and it's impossible to find it if you quit. I am with you.. and with encouragement and support to each other on this thread.. we will come out of it.

trinorthlighting, I admire you skill. Building a new site and having it rank in 3 months in the top 10 is amazing! However, it is very far from realistic for most. Yes it's an option to try a new site, however I do feel as many others do that putting in effort to show google that our sites are indeed worthy is much more worthwhile.

Whatever path anyone chooses, I with them luck and success!


6:46 pm on Mar 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

You guys might want to check across the data centers, there seems to be an update of some sort spreading. We are seeing two different sets of data across the board.


9:22 pm on Mar 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Up until this morning our site has done really well in Google for quite a long time. I took a forensic look around and it appears that most all of our serps including a search for just our domain name have been pushed back 3-4 pages in results.

Our domain name went from 1 - 35

< kw phrase #1 >
Went from 1 - 50

< kw phrase #2 >
Went from 3 - 46

< kw phrase #3 >
Went from 5 - 43

< kw phrase #4 >
Went from 12 - 31

< kw phrase #5 >
Went from 3 - 38

I have also noticed that the domains that have taken our place are newer domains that are using many spammy techniques like links on blogs or scraper sites irrelevant to the industry.

Has anyone else had this happen to them since the backlink update? Any ideas? Is this the classic - 30?

I usually take a wait and see approach to this but for other reasons I am concerned.

Any help is appreciated.

<Sorry, no specific search terms.
See Google Forum Charter [webmasterworld.com]>

[edited by: tedster at 2:07 am (utc) on Mar. 8, 2007]


7:30 am on Mar 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

TechPad, welcome :(

The test is to type your "domain.com" or "domain" in google search.. you should come up in spot #1. If you are in spots #28 or worse.. you're in the club.


12:06 pm on Mar 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


Sometimes throwing out a site and starting over is NOT an option. That advice reflects a web-centric notion about the internet.

Some Business models ARE built around a web presence other businesses have added a web presence to an existing business model. When marketing for a business, BRANDING plays a vital role. If a company has built a website [www.ourbusinessname.com] and that site was doing well but then became part of the collateral damage of one of Google's growing pains, it is NOT as easy as just trash the site and start anew [www.NOTourbusinessname.com].

Afterall, isn't the whole idea suppose to be to build your site for your customers? Not every website is a MFA site.

I built a site for a local Electrical contractor. The site was, for about 9 mos, #1. Then it just plumitted in the serps. It stayed there for nearly a year and nothing I did changed things. Then, BOOM - one day it just returned to #1 and has been there for 3 years now.

That company had gone to great expense to Brand their company name and publicise their website including having the url painted on the side of their fleet of vehicles.

Trashing the site was NOT an option and, in the end, it proved that it was Google's sandbox swollowed the site up and then just spit it out all those months later.

Currently - I have a site that was 'hit' by a Google event back in April 2006. Ninty percent of Google traffic was lost. That site stayed like that for seven months in spite of the changes I made.

Then one day - BOOM - the flood gates opened and traffic returned. The traffic remained strong for 2 weeks then BOOM - gone again!

Now after one month of only a trickle of G-traffic - BOOM - traffic is back on again!

This site IS BRANDED. There is no other option than to try and figure out what the hell is going on...


12:13 pm on Mar 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

I fully understand about branding


1:07 pm on Mar 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Oh - and just for the record...

This latest spurt of Google traffic seems to have been VERY SHORT LIVED!

24 hours and back to a trickle :(


3:24 pm on Mar 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

caryl, when did this increase in traffic occur and did you rank better than the usually #28 or so?


4:08 pm on Mar 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


The first "spurt" occured from Jan. 14th until Feb 1st. During that time, traffic levels returned almost to levels recieved back in April.

...then just stopped [returned to a trickle] like someone turned off a faucet!

Likewise, sometime in the evening of March 6th traffic surged again! It remained strong until yesterday evening when it, once again, returned to a trickle!

When I say surge I mean that Traffic is suddenly 10 fold! (ex. 30 Google hits to 300 Google hits)

edit to add: I do not follow specific keywords for the site - it is dependent on longtail searches. Let me look into my logs and check what keywords where doing...


4:54 pm on Mar 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

caryl.. very interesting. There were no significant increase in traffic on my site whatsoever. Still the same old trickle since the penalty.


6:12 pm on Mar 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

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

TechPad - it does sound like a classic "minus thirty" penalty. The fact that you dropped 3 pages for the domain name search is a very telling symptom.

Earlier in the thread, nippi posted a nice summary of his undertanding - well worth considering, IMO.

(1) Reason for penalty is trust breach, you have somehow notified gogole you are trying to rank higher than your site deserves.

(2) Google does a manual confirm that site appears not worthy of its rankings.

(3) WHatever the reason for the penalty, to get out, you must show attempts to rank higher than your site deserves have been removed, and that you now deserve any ranking you get.

(4) If your site has similar content to other sites, before the penalty is lfited, you must show you have value added.

(5) Helps greatly, if in your reinclusion request, you explain in detail how you have value added, and compare your site with other sites in your market.


7:09 pm on Mar 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

OK - so I checked my logs for yesterday.

There was a two word keyphrase that got several hits yesterday.

Today my site ranks #2x plus on most datacenters and NOWHERE on a handful of datacenters for a search on that phrase.

I do not claim to still be effected by the -31 penalty BUT I once was.

I have posted here to touch base and let those still effected by it that there IS 'life' after this penalty.

Although bouncing around in the serps is NOT great, it is better than nothing. It may be an indication that I am on the right track back.

I can't tell you how many times I kicked myself in the ass for being so rediculous in trying to revive my "dead horse" (site)...

One thing I do remain convinced of is to continue work on acquiring high quality links back to your site!



7:37 pm on Mar 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Although I haven't posted here before, I've been following this thread on and off for months, and much of the information I've read has proved invaluable as I have worked to clear a client site of this penalty. Late last week I finally had success! So I'm posting detailed information about my efforts as a "thank you" to all the others who have posted here.

First, a little history: for the 6 months preceeding its "minus thirty" penalty, this site had been banned completely from Google's index, and for good reason: previous SEOs/webmasters had created a network of spammy "doorway" sites, listed keywords in light-colored text, and created hundreds of near-duplicate content pages, with only the names of cities changed or in other cases some minor rewriting. Of course, with a large site it took some digging to find all this, but after almost exactly 6 months from the application of the ban, two reinclusion requests, and a lot of sweat on my part (including weeding out and 301-ing tons of near-duplicate content), the site reappeared in the index. But after a day at the top of search results, the site was hit with (what I later realized was) the minus thirty penalty, with exactly the same symptoms as others here. Of course, we didn't realize this at the time, and although I suggested a site redesign and further improvements to site content (for users and Google alike), the site owner wanted to play the waiting game.

Finally, last October I discovered the original "minus thirty" thread, and with it the fact that the site's SERP position was not a unique problem. It also became clear, thanks to this thread, that manual reinclusion was the only way to recover from the penalty, and that it would likely require a serious demonstration of good faith from the affected site/company to "earn" reinclusion. So after more prodding, the site owner agreed to let me make several changes:

1. I redesigned the site using CSS, cutting way back on code bloat and creating a more attractive, easy-to-use interface for site visitors.

2. I cut down the number of links per page where this was excessive, also increasing usability for visitors.

3. I helped rewrite content, removing overused keywords and generally cutting down on "fluff." I also helped add a host of "quick facts," mostly in list and table format -- information that was not offered by competitors. NOTE: adding this content sitewide took months and a lot of hard work. But it ultimately paid off with Google, and should likewise pay off with customers who keep coming back for this information.

4. I streamlined forms using PHP (previously, outdated FrontPage-based forms had been used), which also gave site visitors a much faster, more intuitive experience.

5. I added small, useful features to the site, including a (subtle) Flash-based demonstration of products, an online poll, and a downloadable toolbar.

Finally, I waited until all these changes were complete before requesting reinclusion. I thought this was important, because I felt that requesting reinclusion after each change might be construed as an indicator of "bad faith" (i.e. trying to make the minimum necessary changes just to lift the penalty, instead of truly making the site more useful, attractive, etc. -- a great indicator of good faith). My reinclusion request included all the changes I've listed above (along with more specific descriptions), plus a history of the site's infractions going back to the original ban and a list of the changes I'd made following the original ban. I also included honest language about the site owner's readiness to see cleaner, better design and content produce better results with Google, and about my commitment to maintaining the site this way into the future. Lo and behold, a few days after the reinclusion request, the site reappeared in the first page of Google's SERPs.

Was it excessive internal linking that got my client's site penalized? Abnormally high keyword density? A laundry list of previous infractions? It was important to pay attention to all of these things, but in the end, I believe that taking a comprehensive, top-to-bottom approach to revamping the site for the sake of visitors was what demonstrated to Google that the site no longer deserved any penalty. If you read Matt Cutts, Adam Lasnik, or the Google Webmaster Central Blog, it's pretty clear that this is what they're looking for. And as others here have suggested, I think that once you've been penalized, you need to take more than the usual steps to show good faith. I did it with this site and I was ultimately rewarded, not just with a return to page one, but with a site owner who now believes in building his site for visitors and with visitors who will help him succeed financially, thanks to the friendly site environment and unique additional information he now provides.

Hopefully this post can somehow enrich the discussion, and maybe help a few others get a fresh perspective on their own penalized sites. Good luck, and thanks for all the posts that have come before!


8:28 pm on Mar 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

quakerc, first of all - thank you SO much for this post! Second, congrats on your success! Sometimes one feels very alone and this is another boost to my determination to show Google my site is 110% worthwhile in their index.

It's is extremely encouraging to read your post and browse the details that you specify. Over the past 11 months nearly, I have performed all of these exact changes. Turned the site inside out and have truly transformed it into a very useful, original and informative resource.

Yesterday evening, I sent in my latest-request, very detailed, outlining multiple proofs, changes and evidence of my good faith.

Can you specify exactly how long it took you from time of request to noticing the penalty being lifted?


8:39 pm on Mar 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

It took about 3-4 days.


8:49 pm on Mar 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Thanks.. I'll keep you all posted on my progress.


5:40 am on Mar 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

quakerc - sounds like the client owes you a whole lot of thanks!


9:57 am on Mar 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

quakerc, useful comments. You did very well for your client. Good on you.

It is good to read a post like this from time to time. Goes some way to allay my fear that the hard work being put in on a regular (though part-time) basis to rewrite and recode my site may not be a monumental waste of time!


4:01 pm on Mar 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

The penalty is thriving and well in my corner.. just passed 11 months! :)

How are the rest of you guys?


4:10 pm on Mar 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Google has 'tightened the screws' on my sites just a little tighter... :(

Yesterday my sites - collectively - garnered a whopping TOTAL of 29 hits from Google.

The good news is - it can't really get much worse.


5:01 pm on Mar 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Tedster, have you made any progress finding the cause of the penalty? I reckon it's a PPC thing.


Sometimes throwing out a site and starting over is NOT an option.

I agree. For many people their site is their life's work. Building a really good site is much more difficult than most SEO-consultants realize.

If you have one really good site with unique content, then you're blessed. During the dotcom boom everybody was talking about content, now it's all about number crunching.

It's time for change.

[edited by: Martin40 at 5:40 pm (utc) on Mar. 24, 2007]


7:43 pm on Mar 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I'm still at -32 with very little movement since
i was hit on jan. 20th.

A few weeks ago had my other large site hit to -32.

starting to rewrite one large site and see what happens.


8:15 pm on Mar 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

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

Tedster, have you made any progress finding the cause of the penalty? I reckon it's a PPC thing.

Not sure what you mean - a ploy to increase your PPC spend? I really doubt that in a big way. Maybe you mean something else?

The one thing I suspect to date is that there's some kind of loss of trust involved - demoting the search for the domain name by 3 pages is a pretty intense. A number of -30 domains I researched showed signs of, shall we say kindly, less than natural linking patterns. But that's far from something conclusive, just a general impression.

If "Minus Thirty" is not just a hand applied penalty, I wonder if there could be false positives - and what kind of factors would need to be involved. But as of late last fall, it did seem to be a manual penalty, not algorithmic. It was also pretty darned rare.

In general these days, possibly because there are now so many legitimate sites online, Google seems to be willing to hand out some very harsh smacks. At least the receiveing site has no doubt that they've been hit - a minus 5 wouldn't get the same attention.

This 185 message thread spans 7 pages: 185

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