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Keyword-Specific Penalty - Over-optimization?

4:50 am on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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We have just started work on a site that was doing quite well for its market previously in the SERPs after about 1 year of not touching it much.

Recently, we have noticed that its under a Google Penalty of sorts. Would appreciate some advice and discussion on this.

Problem and Observations:

1. Site ranks on 1st position and normally(also with site links recently after some recent navigational changes) when searched for <SITENAME>.
2. Site is nowhere to be found when searched with '<SITENAME> <Keyword>' - tested with a lot of different keywords.
3. The exception to (2) is when searched with '<SITENAME> forum' , where the site is in top SERPs for the forum with forum threaded links. Some other keyword to replace 'forum' may also return in a top search position for the site.
4. site: operator search for the domain is normal with 13K results and homepage in first position.
5. Still gets traffic but very little when compared to previously.

1. Because the site is image centric (i.e. showing designs) maybe a keyword over optimization problem. The Main content on homepage and some section pages are for example 40 linked thumbnail images on a page and all 40 may have the same keyword in the ALT tag.

2. Adding of some affiliate links to site although the site always had affiliate links but the ratio has increased during the updating process as there is less user submitted content.

3. Sudden increase of incoming links due to re-opening of site? As the site was quite popular in its market, I suppose the influx of new links compared to the past year may have raised a flag.

Those are my guesses on what may have caused the penalty and would appreciate if someone more knowledgeable than me could give me a few pointers based on the strange observations above.

2:12 pm on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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More observations and more info:

1. The homepage URL is actually in 1st place for some keyword phrases .. such as <Main Keyword> Awards . The <Main Keyword> has over 300Million entries so it is quite competitive. <Main Keyword> Awards however isnt very although still gets traffic.

Interesting that the homepage still can remain 1st for some keyword phrases though.

2. The <SITENAME> isnt competitive and is quite unique especially when the 3 words are written without spaces. Strange that it almost seems as if the <Sitename> is penalised.

A search for <Sitename> <Main keyword> returns the Site's sub-page .. on 46th position. On Yahoo and Bing .. the homepage is first.

4:33 pm on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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It is true that a penalty can be attached to just one keyword -- the same URL can still be unpenalized for other query terms. When I've seen this happen, there is often an unnaturally high occurrence of that keyword in backlink anchor text.

Now that Google has such a penalty mechanism, they could use it in other situations. Internal anchor text is another such possibility.

7:16 am on Nov 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Thx for reply Tedster.

I think I remember reading one of your posts regarding the usual penalty for aggressive link building is usually a site wide penalty?

I haven't done any link building recently apart from what I mentioned in observation 3 but that is relatively minor compared to the linkage the site already has.

Also if keyword penalty, is it normal that I can have 1st ranking for a semi competitive keyword like <Main keyword> Awards (at around 50million results?) and is it possible to be have a keyword penalty applied to your own sitename?

I've made a load of on-page changes and lessened the keywords on ALT tags so lets see if the situation improves soon.

10:44 am on Dec 11, 2009 (gmt 0)

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What has been the results?

I am wondering about a similar situation but I've got no idea why it would have been applied as i don't build links aggressively or do anything else dodgy but I am sure i have a specific keyword penalty to some degree.

Made some SEO changes on page and it has gone from page 15 to 8 so that confuses the issue somewhat but the way it fell away from page 3 to 17 on google 18 months ago, yet still ranked high for other very similar terms made me believe it was a specific KW penalty.

10:39 pm on Dec 11, 2009 (gmt 0)

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I've had this for almost a year now. A search for 'key word' instead of 'keyword' lists my site unfiltered in 2nd spot. I've deleted the keyword from all possible backlinks and moved up from page 3 to page 2. What else can I do? Ask directories to delete links or change the anchor text to something else than the site name? Is that what Google wants us to do? I'm about to abandon the site since it doesn't rank for the site name.
12:19 am on Dec 12, 2009 (gmt 0)

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You should probably go through this thread [webmasterworld.com...]

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