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Is Google Using a Position #6 "Penalty"?

     

tedster

10:35 pm on Dec 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

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



Something is happening that was mentioned in our December 2007 SERP Changes [webmasterworld.com] thread and deserves a dedicated thread.

What some site owners are reporting is that search rankings that have held for a long time, often at #1, were knocked down begun to #6. These reports happen often enough that it looks like there might be something specific going on. However, there are always ranking shifts, so zeroing in on exactly this one thing can be difficult.

-- Here are the main signs --

1. Well established site with a long history.
2. Long time good rankings for a big search term - usually #1
3. Other searches that returned the same url at #1 may also be sent to #6, but not all of them
4. Some reports of a #2 result going to #6.

-- What we can identify so far --

A. It's search term specific (usually the biggest and best converting phrase)
B. Therefore, not a url or domain-wide penalty on all terms
C. A little testing on one site seems to show it's not an on-page problem
D. That leaves off-page but on-site, or off-site, or posibly backlink issues

-- Some loose guesswork and brainstorming --

i. Backlink profiles are not diverse enough - is this a new algo tweak on that factor?
ii. Backlinks are aging or stagnating, with no new ones being added?
iii. I thought about the possibility of paid link devaluation (even going back two or three steps from the site) but that would not consistently place a url at #6, so I've ruled that out.

Is anyone else seeing this Position #6 problem? Something like this could be hard to separate out from all the other movement that the SERPs show.

However, I've now seen it happen to key terms on three different sites operated by the same person (different WhoIs, no incestuous linking) and two corporate sites. Plus there are several other reports in the Decemeber SERP Changes thread. Every one of these cases seems to be hitting the domain root, and not internal url.

I'm not happy with the current level of analysis, however, and definitely looking for more ideas.

[edited by: tedster at 6:28 pm (utc) on Dec. 29, 2007]

rudy102

10:40 pm on Dec 28, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



Amazing. Just read through this post to find answers to our push down to #6 for our main keywords on an established site. This site does use GA. Will be watching this thread closely.

espmartin

1:50 am on Dec 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



I'm checking my SERPs now, and will reply if any are dropped from #2(#3) to #6.

ridgway

2:26 am on Dec 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Studied this issue on a cluster of four long established sites.

Site #1: 2-word primary term for home page, was #2, down to #6. 2001 site, very few new links, no GA, phrase is in domain (key-phrase-word-word.com), does not use nofollow. 3.48 million competing pages.

Site #2: 2-word primary term for home page, was #1, still #1. 2004 site, very few new links, no GA, phrase is in domain (key-phrase-word-word.com), does not utilize nofollow, on same server as Site #1 above. 460k competing pages.

Site #3: 2-word primary term. had indented #1/#2 listings, now indented at #6/#7, (both pages pr5 TBPR) one of the two words in is domain name (word-keyprase.com), this site gets a steady stream of new links spread around on many pages, but few with targeted anchor to either of the two listed pages recently. does use some nofollow, no GA. This site is on a dedicated server not related to sites #1/#2 above. Note: can't find any other 2-word terms affected on the site. 2001 domain with 3000+ indexed pages. 513k competing pages for this term.

Site #4:2001 domain, 2 and 3 word primary terms, home page for both pushed from top 3 to #6. no new links for over a year. Site is an old ecomm that basically sits. no keyphrases in domain name. (compoundword.com) Low quality shared hosting on server unrelated to above three sites. No nofollow, no GA. 1.6 million competing for two-word phrase and 257k for 3-word phrase.

Data Points:

1. Do not believe it's a slow loading pages issue. Three sites on three separate servers took it at the same time, while a fourth, on one of the same servers, did not.

2. On page factors. Site #2 above changed content recently, and it was quickly spidered and indexed. Did not budge in serps.

3. The effect seems to be targeted phrases, and not specific pages. for site #3 above, the singular of the primary term returns as #1/#2, as well as returning #1/#2 using any of the common modifiers (ie location blue widgets, style blue widgets, outdoor blue widgets, indoor blue widgets)

4. Studying sites above site #2 above, I am seeing many obvious paid links in 4 of the 5 sites.

5. Don't usually pay much attention, but seems G is reporting many fewer pages for competing pages on some searches.

....scratching head....
....quizzical look....

Miamacs

2:38 am on Dec 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



Anyone else getting this error?

I don't see data for some periods either.
I know they *had* it at some point, which makes one wonder.

But no #6 penalty on my end to any of the sites.

...

( But what I can tell of the SERPs I watch is that they have been frozen throughout most of december, some showed irregular changes which eventually reverted to pre-holiday, and those SERPs which did react in the usual way, did much slower than I'd have expected. )

Crush

8:55 am on Dec 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



No point looking for an answer. Google is testing something and either it is an algo shift or temporary blip. The only thing that is could be IMO is linkage. I saw it happen on one site we have about 10 days ago and lots dropped to 6 or below on page 1.

sandboxsam

12:08 pm on Dec 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Hi Crush,

Could you be more specific about “The only thing that it could be IMO is linkage”?

Internal links, incoming links or outgoing links?

ChiefBottleWasher

2:33 pm on Dec 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



There's a big reduction across the board in displayed links and if there's been a big purge of low value links that were previously rated then many sites would fall precipitously. I would guess simply that Google is rating low page rank links less. What I observe is in line with that and also some other posts here give weight to it.

My theory is that those sites are being held by a transitional "safety net" avoiding a drop past 6 to allow a period of grace in which to take remedial action.

europeforvisitors

3:50 pm on Dec 29, 2007 (gmt 0)



I would guess simply that Google is rating low page rank links less.

Could "TrustRank" play a role? If Google is trying to devalue low-quality links, wouldn't it make more sense to give more weight to, say, a one-way NEW YORK TIMES link than to a reciprocal link (or even a one-way link) from joes-widget-affiliate-site.com?

My theory is that those sites are being held by a transitional "safety net" avoiding a drop past 6 to allow a period of grace in which to take remedial action.

Any "remedial action" would be artificial by definition. Why would Google want to encourage and support inorganic SEO efforts such as the solicitation or purchase of higher-quality links (which it would be doing if it provided a "safety net" or grace period for sites that have been ranked well because of brute-force inbound links)?

Rlilly

4:04 pm on Dec 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



Google Webmaster Tools - Just a tought! Since they now showing "Content analysis", could the #6 mean that you should "Fix" the issues with you site?

tedster

6:23 pm on Dec 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

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



Comment from Matt Cutts about our thread:

Hmm. I'm not aware of anything that would exhibit that sort of behavior.

[seroundtable.com...]

This could mean:

1. There is no underlying cause that connects these reports. We might be looking at a handful of incidents and forcing a "causal pattern" where none exists. That's one challenge of having a small data sample, plus the natural tendency of the human mind to project pattern onto randomness.

2. There is an underlying cause that connects these reports, but Matt isn't aware of it. Google Search has a very big team these days, and Matt is focused in a specific area.

3. Or, we're seeing the unintended result of several combined factors. That's what happened at first with the "sandbox" phenomenon: webmasters noticed it before Google engineers could understand what we were seeing.

This 164 message thread spans 17 pages: 164
 

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