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Is a penalty permanent - like a blacklist?



8:04 am on May 27, 2008 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I have a site which was listed #1 for some of the keywords (it's pretty niche), and which came at least top 5 in most relevant searches. Suddenly now it can only be found by searching for the exact URL. Searching for keywords and for specific phrases on the homepage in inverted commas now gets "no results found".

From reading around on this site I may have suffered a penalty - which is possible as last week I re-registered the site perhaps three times in one evening because I recently updated it with some new more relevant keywords.

My questions are:
1) does this sound like I've been penalized?
2) if so - is this a permanent blacklisting or, should I leave it and will all return to normal within a few weeks...or months?
3) is there anything I can do about this?

I've checked and the main site that links to mine (and which helped it get to #1 in the first place) is still live.

thanks in advance, ed


5:53 pm on May 27, 2008 (gmt 0)

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

Hello starman - welcome to the forums.

This does sound like it could be either a penalty or a bug (your server's or Google's) Have you seen recent googlebot requests on your server, and do they look good? Also, do you have a Webmaster Tools account set up, and have you checked it for feedback?

Google has always been more interested in including sites than excluding them. The algo now allows automated placement AND REMOVAL of penalties that used to be done manually. Even the harshest of penalties stand a chance of being manually removed through a reinclusion request if all the problems are cleaned up and Google is convinced there will be no repetition.

If you are familiar with the guidelines and do your best not to cross the line, it is extremely unlikely that your site would attract any of those harshest penalties.


12:18 am on May 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

I don't know if this is a matter of course for Google or not, but my son-in-law's site had a similar problem. He filed the reconsideration request and within 12 days, his site came back. However, it did not last as his site disappeared in the rankings again. Anyone know if this is common? If so, how long does it take for it to come back and remain consistent in the rankings?


1:41 am on May 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Most of my content rich sites disappeared from Google on January 4th and - despite near total rewrites of my core modules to eliminate all of the potential violations of Google quality guidelines - and several re-inclusion requests documenting my changes in great detail - those sites remained banned by Google. I'm completely at a loss. One site in particular was 7 years old and was arguably the most comprehensive resource of its kind with over 80,000 individual companies in 26 countries actively maintaining their information within the resource. But one day, *poof*, its banned, as well as most of my other resource sites, old and new, simultaneously. It was the most painful emotional experience of my professional life.

I haven't given up on Google. I've got very good sites with unique content (that expands daily, thanks to professional community involvement) and I think my sites are deserving of inclusion within the index. However, about two to three months ago, I stopped obsessing about the ban. With two other search engines out there, I simply began focusing on improving the accessibility and user experience for each of my sites. My traffic continues to grow thanks to MSN and Yahoo, and I'm having some of the most fun I've ever had developing my technologies and designing interfaces. If Google ever takes me back, great. But I'm not going to gut my sites in an effort to abide by a fundamentalist's interpretation of the Google quality guidelines.

This experience would be less frustrating if competing niche directories - that were clearly venturing into naughty-naughty-land - were also banned. But they're not. One example is a competitor's directory site with barely 20,000 vendors organized into 200,000 pages! Uh. Okay. Yet my site, with nearly 30,000 vendors organized into 8,000 index-able pages, is banned :) Oh, the irony.

My sites all integrate AdSense in a tasteful way, and I'm flirting with 5% AdSense CTR, even though AdSense takes a backseat to my direct advertisers. I understand that being an AdSense publisher has no effect on SERPs nor will it prevent you from being banned. But if you're getting close to 5% CTR on targeted AdSense ads that are not prominently displayed, I think it is reasonable to assume that your content is appropriate and appropriately targeted. That sort of performance should trigger an automatic reconsideration.

I've heard anecdotal reports of reconsideration requests taking anywhere from days to years for Google to lift a ban. I understand that the utter lack of transparency in the "appeals" process exists to combat reverse engineering attempts. However, at some point, I wonder if Google might be legally considered a monopoly in the U.S. search industry. And if that happens, I suspect the Google ban will begin to attract the attention of federal and/or state governments. A Google ban directly affects interstate commerce, and without transparency in the appeals process, the federal government (or the public at large) cannot know whether or not the ban itself is applied fairly and without prejudice.

Honestly, I'm not entirely sure how a more transparent appeals process would help black hatters reverse engineer the guidelines. Even so, it would seem that the risk of harm would be dwarfed by the potential for good in that white hatters would more fully know how to walk the line without becoming a statistic.



3:32 am on May 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

Sean, have your sites been completely banned or just manually penalized with the now infamous minus 30 to minus 60 penalty?


9:54 am on May 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

My primary site received a -60 penalty in July of 2007. My other sites were not affected at that time. The penalty itself remained until January 2008, when the penalized site was banned along with most of my remaining sites. That was probably not what you wanted to hear.


12:53 pm on May 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

i guess your competitors have more inbounds?


6:46 pm on May 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Prior to my ban I was doing very, very well with traffic and inbounds. On my flagship site, I had 10,000+ good inbounds from professional vendor sites. And those were inbounds I didn't pay for, nor did I ever require a link back to my site in order to be included in the resource. Alexa.com ranking was 14,000 which for a niche vendor directory was pretty darn good. An order of magnitude better than my closest competitor. In fact, I made the difficult decision after the original -60 penalty to split that flagship site into 9 individual category sites (the flagship had 9 vendor categories, each in the I.T. and Marketing fields but with very little consultative overlap). I thought that perhaps Google thought the original site had grown too large and vague contextually and applied an automated penalty. In some ways I regret making this change, because I was in effect sacrificing my authority with Yahoo and MSN. But overall each site is stronger and more useful to both vendors and consumers. After 8 months I'm doing better with Yahoo and MSN than I ever have so I'm pleased with the outcome. One step backward, two steps forward, as the saying goes. With the Google ban still in place, I've still got a ways to go to grow back my original traffic levels. But I'll get there. I'll tell you that the ban hurt more than just my own business income. The ban literally sent a ripple through multiple industries. I had advertisers who for years grew to rely on my flagship site for a majority of their leads. PR firms, photographers, web firms, across the country had to downsize not long after my site traffic dropped 80%. My conservative estimate was that about 1,000 people across the country lost their jobs because of my ban. I'm not kidding. That's an icky feeling.

Lately I'm concentrating my energies on adding more social currency models to my resource sites ("Ask the Pros" type stuff, along with nice features like intern recruitment brokerages for specific industries that are free to use for colleges and universities, and vendors).



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