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site: shows all the pages indexed
WMT reports no problems
PR hasn't changed
Reported IBLs haven't changed
My questions are does this suggest a penalty and if so does it look more manual or algorithmic?
I want to be more certain about possible penalties before making any changes, onsite or offsite.
That kind of penalty usually means Google feels you are trying to manipulate the SERPs pretty actively. Been involved in that kind of thing - link and PR building schemes and the like? Automated website creation, scraping, parasite hosting?
If penalized, you might want to check the URL [google.com...] to see if google has detected any malware operating from your site. Also, check the source code of your site to see if it contains any injected links to viagra sites and junk like that. I know hacking always sounds like one of those far-away things that "simply won't happen to you", but I strongly urge you to consider the possibility. Make sure you keep your back-end (CMS/shopping cart/whatever) as up-to-date as possible.
Also, I have found out the hard way that misbehaviour on one domain can cause SERP trouble with another domain, possibly due to google simply devaluing the WHOIS domain owner. Be 100% honest with yourself and clear yourself of ANY AND ALL rule-breaking junk you might have; no matter how old or stale. Two domains not being linked in hypertext does not imply Google doesn't know you own both domains.
I have a group of 5 sites that fell from their rankings to page 5 or 7 for all their keywords yesterday. These are older established sites. They still have their sitelinks though. Does this sound like a penalty, glitch or algo change?
Unfortunately, there's no way of knowing for sure.
I have 3-4 years old sites which sit in this penalty box for 12 months, there is really nothing you can do about it.
Setting up the content on a brand new domain with a 301 (if the site stays in the -50 box) is usually the best idea.
[edited by: SEOPTI at 4:16 pm (utc) on May 16, 2009]
In Webmaster Tools, the only certain indicator of a penalty would be a message from Google in your message box that tells you about it.
There are many possible causes for penalties, and there are many reasons for ranking drops that are not truly penalties. I'd suggest you read some of the threads in the Hot Topics area [webmasterworld.com], which is always pinned to the top of this forum's index page. Also, if you haven't reviewed them recently, be sure you are familiar with Google's Webmaster Guidelines [google.com].
You might want to review your backlinks to make sure they are aligned to Google's guidelines. Also, run a link checker such as Xenu on your own site to be sure you aren't hosting any outbound links that you aren't aware of (and don't want). There's a whole lot of server hacks and parasite hosting these days.
What do you mean by "Real sitelinks on pages other than one are highly suggestive of a penalty"?
Situation hasn't improved, rankings still down 5 pages for everything. Still no message from WMT. But I did discover something odd in the internal links report. Turns out that one of the internal pages has a few thousand IBLs from a site-wides on an affiliate site. In volume terms, that makes it the most linked page on the domain, even more than the homepage. I hadn't picked up on this before (doesn't show up on Yahoo Site Explorer or any backlinks tool I've used). Could this be an issue for a penalty?
Some cases are released as soon as the website change is indexed. Some are released automatically but in stages. And still others are held prisoner until a specific date, when Google releases a whole batch of similarly affected sites at the same time. What makes those different treatments happen is a bit of a mystery, but it seems to be related to how serious (how manipulative) Google considers the issue to be.
I'm still holding with zeus on this current issue - something seems to be off to me, and I'm hoping to see things change in the very near future.
There is a very strong correlation to the pages that have been penalised and the pages that show an unusually high number (>1000) of IBL's showing in WMT.
The pages that have been affected have recently acheived a very high number of backlinks through 301 redirection of all pages of satellite sites.
There seems to be something really amiss with 301 recoignition/acceptance/weight since about the 4th of May.
I have a real fealing though that this has alot to do with paid link detection as well....
I've just had the opposite happen, when my site was new it was hit with a penalty in which only one keyword was not allowed to pass or receive rank, unfortunately it was the sites primary keyword. The site received a sitelink but it looked extremely odd with that one word removed from titles, big blue widgets appeared as big blue.
The site was too new to be competing with the 10+ year sites it has as competition. It reached as high as 6th before getting penalized and I suspect reaching page one with a new site is what triggered it. Now, years later, the site is again trusted for the keyword despite never having made any changes. The site has never purchased links and follows webmaster guidelines so it's proof that you can get penalized even when you've done nothing wrong if it is best for the internet in general.
Don't assume that the only factors are on-page and off-page factors.
We had a site loose ranking and I had all these concerns about duplicate content and such.
We got a clue from Xenu where the site was timing out a lot and no one at the host had any explanation.
I did have the opportunity to sit down with one Matt Cutts (I think at PubCon) and he did take a look at the site (and I got to look at his browser tools!) and he said he didn't think there was anything wrong with it. (I don't know if he'll do this today, this was a couple of years ago).
What we ended up finding out was that there was a backhaul problem that had to do with how the ISP was connecting to the backbone as one of several types of redundancies. Apparently there was icing in a microwave antennae somewhere that was causing intermittent server lags, but they weren't sufficient enough to trigger that the system failed-over to the other backhaul.
No one noticed it in the early part of the failure except Google. Oh yeah, and XENU. Later, the icing increased and caused a total failure with that rout which then caused everyone to realize what had been happening.
So check with our little alien friend and see if he (she?) has anything to report that looks like server time out errors.
So i've been digging into identfying commonalities with the sites that have experienced problems.
One focal observation is that the effected sites all have duplicate content problems- even on their home page. And, the effected sites have been shoved into the supplemental index for their own exact match content snippets.
Key Question: are others that have reported being slapped on this forum seeing their content being shoved into the supplemental index?
A second main common characteristic I have witnessed thus far is that many of the webmasters I have spoken with have been recently dabbling with 301 redirects more than usual.
Is this some kind of updated 301 redirect penalty?