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Google penalties for a specific phrase?



8:54 pm on May 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I operate several websites, all selling the same widgets. Our main money site is 8 or so years old, long established and always ranked 1 or 2 for our main money terms. A few months ago, the rankings started to slip, falling a point or two every week or so. We stabilized around 7 for a while, then fell to 11 and stayed there for a month or so.. and all of the sudden in the last month.. boom. gone. We bounce somewhere between 500 - 900, with thin affliate sites, trash and just bizarre sites above us for our main money term.

I would suspect a penalty for this, but it seems penalties are usually site specific, not term specific. We have gained ranking in many other terms, and have #1 and site links for several good terms.

It seems odd to me that Google would slap a penalty on one term, and allow us to gain rank in other money terms. But finding our site at 900 something for a term we ranked #1 for awhile ago seems bizarre.

Any advice? Ideas? Am I wrong about the single term penalty? Thanks ahead for any help you can give me.


9:11 pm on May 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

System: The following message was spliced on to this thread from: http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/3652184.htm [webmasterworld.com] by tedster - 5:16 pm on May 16, 2008 (EDT -4)

When a penalty is applied to a page is the penalty related to a particluar keyword phrase or is the page just penalized for all phrases? I have a situation where our home page is ranked #1 with site links for a fairly popular phrase in our industry.(and ranked well for many other keywords as well)

But when I search for the 2 keyword phrase, that is also our domain name: kw1-kw2.it, the home page is now appearing in position 290 or so. This is a new occurence since the past week. We used to be #1 or #2 then dropped to #11, #10 for a long time.. now this.

I just don't understand if there is a penalty for the phrase or the page? Or it's not a penalty at all?


9:21 pm on May 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

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

The answer is that penalties can apply to one phrase, a group of phrases, a specific page, or a domain. Most of what you are describing sounds like the "minus 950 penalty" - the subject of the longest running discussion we've ever had here (over 2,000 posts right now.) Matt Cutts has only said it's a kind of "over optimization penalty."

Top Level Summary for -950 and -30 Penalties [webmasterworld.com]

-950 Discussion - start [webmasterworld.com]

-950 Discussion - current [webmasterworld.com]

If you want to explore the -950 issue, let's take that discussion to the last thread I linked to above.


There is another issue you should explore that is probably not the -950 penalty. Your domain name falling so low could be a sign of being scraped, hijacked, or even the intentional target of a malicious intention from someone else.

There are a good number of threads about those issues here, too. In addition to reviewing the items in the Hot Topics [webmasterworld.com], which is always pinned to the top of this forum's index page, check out this current discussion featured on our Home Page:

Competitors Can Hurt Your Google Rankings [webmasterworld.com]


9:46 pm on May 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Thanks tedster for the links. One more thing, does it help you to understand the problem if I tell you that the drop in ranking seems to be only for the google.com and not any other google site? Seems like google uses a 'special' filter, penalty whatever you want to call it for the google.com site. For the google.it site we are still #1 for the domain name keywords.. both in english pages and italian pages.


3:49 am on May 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Hi Keepontruckin. There is a big difference, besides default locality, between the .com and .it SERP's. Ranking #1 in the it SERP's does mean you will necessarily even rank top 20 in the .com SERP's, but nature of competition and slight variances.


4:02 am on May 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

It would be useful to know if you've been linkbombing on these phrases to incur a penalty or you think Google is 'picking' on you. i know every phrase i've ever linkbombed, and every reason a site that i work on could be devalued (not banned, as I keep it pretty clean) and most seo I suspect do.


4:14 am on May 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

sandpetra - we keep the links as cleans as possible but I did notice that one directory we registered with had a structure in which the new listings appeared in the right-hand column of each page. This created thousands (like 8k)of inbound links for the phrase in question. That problem was remedied as soon as we realized the situation. The demotion in the google ranking happened about 8 weeks or so after this episode. Do you think that is the problem and the google rank is reflecting that 'old' situation now?

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