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I had a look and I verified that several sites (competitor sites as well ... ) show the same problem. The Google toolbar is grey or white.
It seems that the phrase "photo gallery" combined with other factors can be filtered as "spam".
Most of the penalized pages are good pages: they have a pictures and text describing the pictures. In fact they are genuine pages!
No tricks, no over optimization.
Is the new algo penalizing photo galleries?
I think that there are some collateral damages as usual....
Are you seeing any ranking changes, or just the toolbar PR change?
I am seeing ranking changes as well.
Those pages ranked for no "high value" phrases, but now they are nowhere.
They ranked for phrases related to the pictures; we wrote the text description in a natural way: we did not optimize the description to increase the "long tail" results.
The lose is not important in term of money.
For some phrases, now, the home page is replacing the photo gallery pages.
I have a theory that Google is in the 2nd phase of its plan to stop paid links.
First they devalued the PR of sites selling links. Then my theory comes into play. They then created a database of suspected link selling sites.
They are now in the process of comparing sites backlinks to this database and if you go over a certain threshold, its goodbye and thank you for playing.
Which leaves the issue that people now have a new way to Google bomb a site.
I hope I am wrong, but the more I look at the sites being affected the more this makes sense.
[edited by: tedster at 5:33 pm (utc) on Mar. 26, 2008]
It has nothing to do with photo gallery titles or spam. The issue basically is duplicate content. Google looks at ten photo pages of George Bush and figures they are redundant -- even if all pages have different title, descriptions and alt text.
The solution is simple and hard: add LOTS of unique text to each photo page. If you have ten photos of Bush waving, then find a way to write three paragraphs that somehow say "Bush waving" in different ways.
That was my first thought upon reading the OP. I run several little webcam sites. Even though title, etc. are changed, the streaming video pages get a grey bar sometimes and the main static image page of course does fine.
If I get around to really wanting the dupe pages ranked, I will use js or something to "hide" the text until a button is clicked; I prefer these pages not initially show more than a sentence or two of text, like I prefer on most photo galleries.
Google, if you're listening.
I'd love to have a way to remove links to our site through webmaster tools. Maybe a way to say "Hey .. dont count these links" we dont want them.
I cant tell you guys how many scrapers have links on their pages to our site that show up in webmaster tools and there is nothing we can do about it.
I've written hundreds of emails to their site owners and nothing ever gets done to get them removed.
[edited by: Bewenched at 5:19 pm (utc) on Mar. 27, 2008]
Unless there's a phrase-based spam algo gone past Beta. Lots of very similar phrases/content.
Google knows there are webmasters that try to dodge their algo with filler text. Different titles is sometimes enough without extra unique text. You can use the titles as text, but don't repeat it in meta tags (keywords/descriptions).
Key: don't try too hard to optimize.
Is there a relatively direct click path to deep pages? If not, you can fix the structure (often a big job on sites that run from a packaged solution) or at least shore it up a bit with a few deep backlinks.