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The Minus 50 Penalty

     
4:07 pm on May 18, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Hi everyone,

Have been a webmaster and SEO guru for years but am stuck on an issue I have not encountered to often. I know some of you have heard of the Google (-50 penalty).

What my take on it is that google sets you back 50 slots, basically using page 5 as a border you cannot cross for x amount of time. A site I did some work on that was in Page 1 for a few popular highly competitive keywords appears to be affected by it. Everything that was in page 1 vanished into the sandbox for exactly 2 weeks (14 days) and then showed up again for all keywords but after page 5, so it was clear that it is a -50 penalty.

Now I wanted to gather opinions for anyone who has encountered this and what you did? Here are a few questions I have and any answers would be highly appreciated:

1) How long does this penalty last if you do not request re-inclusion?

2) What could have casued this penalty? (I know there are many factors to this question but all the site has done is link building, sometimes 3 - 5 unique a day)

3)Have any of you had to deal with this penalty, did you wait it out?

4) Should the site hold back on link building for a while and just continue adding content and blog posts?

Thanks to anyone who can respond and I thank all of you for your help.

Maximus

7:59 pm on May 18, 2009 (gmt 0)

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First, I'd like to point out that there is a new batch of -50 penalties (5 pages down at least) being reported in the May SERP Changes thread [webmasterworld.com]. This new batch may be something different from what we've seen in the past - the jury is still out.

In the past, this kind of penalty was often for "unnatural" backlink manipulation. Websites who had cleaned up their act were often released from the penalty in batches, all on a particular date and usually after several months. Anchor text that uses keywords too often (instead of just the domain name) can be a tip off to Google that these links are not freely given, editorial votes for the site but rather were somehow under the direct control of the site owner.

The kind of penalty I discussed above often hits the brand name for the domain too, and not just keyword searches. It's a serious smackdown.

There are other cases I know of where a reconsideration request did get rankings to return sooner than that, and without waiting for a whole batch of sites to be released at once. It all depends on what kind of mischief your link building has been up to.

8:51 pm on May 18, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Tedster,

Thanks for replying and I went through that thread.

This is weird and unusual because we have not engaged in any aggressive un-natural link exchanges? We do about 3 to 4 links a day Monday through Friday but most are all one way blog and forum posts. We use different anchor text everytime, for example:

Instead of using "order flowers" we switch it up every time such as: "place to order flowers" "this site" "good site to order flowers from"........

The site is indexed because if you type in:

thesite.com (it appears in first position)

but if you type:

thesite (it appears on page 5 position 1)

All major and non-competitive keywords show up anywhere from page 4 to 7, prior to this they were all in page 1 and some page 2.

You mention this is a serious smackdown, have no idea were we went wrong though. The only incident that did happen was 3 weeks prior to this, were our sites security was breached through our forum and a link was inserted to a pills site on the homepage. Google did cache it but we removed it after about 20 hours (took us a while to find it). As the weeks went on everything was normal. This only started happening on April 30th exactly!

I do consider submitting a reconsideration request but I have had bad experiences with them in the past :( So I prefer to wait it out as long as possible? Can anyone give me some insight on this? Have you been in a -50 penalty before and got out after certain amount of time? How many months did it take?

Thanks so much..

9:03 pm on May 18, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Are you 100% sure that your site hack has been cleaned up, with the security loophole closed? I didn't focus on that bit in my first reply, but parasite link hosting can also be a cause for a 5 page demotion.

I've always used reconsideration requests for the sites I work with, so there's not much I can say from experience about other kinds of release from a -50 penalty, except what members here have reported.

9:21 pm on May 18, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Yeah pretty sure the hole is closed because we replaced all files from a previous back up :)Something is just not right here. I am going to join the discussion on the other thread, seems like I am not the only one with this issue?
9:53 pm on May 18, 2009 (gmt 0)

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we replaced all files from a previous back up

Did you also patch or update the forum software itself?

10:10 pm on May 18, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Yeah we patched every thing and updated all modules? Even went through the source code myself on all the main pages to see if I find any sneaky URLS? Could double check though...
12:24 pm on May 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

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I've got this same penalty into 3 websites. It is caused by external linkbuilding. We bought some links for those 3 websites and all 3 get this penalty. I think this penalty is related to inbound links and its anchor texts.
12:58 pm on May 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

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This new 4-6 page dropp for specific keywords is certainly tied to Google 's evaluation of inbound links and detection of paid links ( evn if they are not paid - but look paid )

It also looks to me as if they are penalising on the old "too much similar anchor text"

2:53 pm on May 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Thanks buguela and conor.

Buguela are you 3 sites still penalized? How long does this last? Did you file for re-consideration or are you just waiting it out? We never buy obvious links and are very careful about this, how can Google know which links are bought if there is no obvious sign?

4:58 pm on May 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Hi maximus12,

They still penalized since May 13. We already sent reconsideration for all them and removed the bought links and all SEO techniques inside the websites.

We don't know how they detected the "paid" network, but all websites inside that network get the same penalty. It's weird but we think it is related to sites pointing to that paid network.

5:32 pm on May 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

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buguela, they will probably always detect the links if they are coming from off-topic URLs.
6:14 pm on May 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

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But our link schema was not off-topic. This is the weird thing. It was related content linking to related websites.
6:40 pm on May 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

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I have had a site banned because I got hacked and I had 2 sites with a minus 50 penalty. I did a Re inclusion request on all of them. The hacked site returned the fastest. I did not know I was hacked since it was hidden text links. I did a re inclusion request and google quickly told me the problem. I fixed it did another re inclusion request and it came back. With the -50 penalty I knew what had happened. My client had a bunch of wordpress themes made and put up some free counters. I did a re inclusion request stating what we did and why and that we were sorry and told them what we were doing to get the links removed. It took 4 months but we are back and rank higher than we ever did.
9:54 pm on May 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Note: there is a current new batch of minus fiftyy penalties being discussed in two other threads:

Diagnosing a possible penalty [webmasterworld.com]

Google.com SERP Changes - May 2009 [webmasterworld.com]

Those are both home page features, so I'm locking this thread in order not to have three parallel discussions. Let's take further "minus fifty" discussion to one the above.

 

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