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Penalty For Sure (Experienced help/opinions)

11:54 pm on Nov 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Welp after over a week I have talked with as couple legitimate/respected SEO firms and both confirm a penalty.

I am a little bit in shock as I really have babied this site. Never bought a link, all my own content, no tricks and so on.

It appears I have "trademark" penalty in which even when you search my domain name with out the TLD. From what I have gathered it is from being non-compliant as well as deceptive in some way in Google eyes.

I am not completely sure what could have caused it because I have been doing the same things for over 5 years which continued to grow me Google traffic. I do run 2 sites, one is just a database of products, these are affiliate products but the database, checkout and all is set on my own domain and hosting. I use the site which has the penalty as a place to write articles and so forth with links to my product site without. Google never had a problem with this before, but somehow I feel the problem may stem from this.

I recently created a new banner for my site when I redid it a couple months ago, on it I use the name with both the .com and .net on it because I wanted to have visitors feel more comfortable knowing both sites were owned by me.. Could this be a problem in Google?

My backlinks appear fine, never bought a link, I don't see anything that looks suspicious.. 1200 backlinks all from decent sites, all but 50 one-way links no red flags and all with varying anchor texts.

I am looking for any advice as to what to look at the resolve this from anyone who has been through it and knows what they are doing.

Thanks for any help I really need it!
12:30 am on Nov 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

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

This may be more than can be addressed in a public forum, tshirtdeal. In my experience, such penalties are either for:

1) clearly manipulative breaches of Google's guidelines
2) mistakes (false positives) on Google's end

I assume that your domain name's "second token" is unique to you, and also you used to rank #1 for it. Is that correct?

Are you "in the know" about everything that happens on your website? That is, do you have employees or contractors who may have done things you don't know about?

A penalty like you've been describing, is almost never an inscrutable thing. If your backlinks are honest and legitimate, the next thing I'd look for is hidden content - and that includes content that is cloaked so that only googlebot sees it.

I'd also check any outbound links to be sure that their target destinations are still "good neighborhoods."
2:38 am on Nov 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Hi Tedster,

Thanks for the help, I understand the scope of the question maybe to broad... I am just in need of any help, I have never went through this before. Actually have done everything to keep it from happening...

I do all the work on my site... I have never sourced any work for it except for some writing which comes from a friends niece who is a professional writer, she has written for me since day 1. Her work is 100% original, as she strongly opposes any form of plagiarism.

"I assume that your domain name's "second token" is unique to you, and also you used to rank #1 for it. Is that correct? "

Yes this is correct, they are actually the same domains names, both unique to me both on different TLD... Would this be okay? Would putting both TLD on the logo be alright in Google eyes do you think? I was just trying to build branding for both and let visitors know I own both sites, not sure if Google would deem this "deceptive" in some way. They never had a problem with me operating both sites in this manner and both sites always had good PR.

When you say "false positives" you mean this is just an algo glitch that sometimes can work itself out?

"hidden content " when you say this do you mean on my end or someone doing something to cause this to me? I have never willingly "cloaked" anything... I simply write my content and optimize it to the basics and publish it.

I did check my outgoing links a few months ago well before any of this and removed 2 that Norton said where bad... Google never had a problem with them though... I just really think my links are not the problem, 1200 links over 5 years all one-ways with different anchor texts...

The reason I am in need of some help is because the quotes to diagnose this thing are WAY higher then I could have thought.
2:46 am on Nov 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

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

In my comments about hidden content (links especially) I'm essentially pointing to parasite hosting - where someone quietly hacks into your server and places cloaked links that you don't know about. Something like otnot10 discovered in this thread [webmasterworld.com].
3:15 am on Nov 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Okay, but I would see the link code from my source code or from within googlebot through webmasters correct?
4:32 am on Nov 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

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

Maybe not. It's why Google offers the "Fetch as googlebot" tool. It pays to do your own diligent discovery. I would NOT depend only on the Webmaster Tools reports - that data import gets pretty dicey.

What kind of Google Search traffic do you still see? Maybe that's another place to start the brainstorming.
4:50 am on Nov 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Thanks Tedster,

I see minimal traffic now, they moved all my pages 5 pages back but I still do get something... I have 13 visitors this month sent from Google, I realized the problem last Tuesday night. I usually get upwards of 10,000 visitors referred by Google each month. They also indexed the last page I put up yesterday, at least Google webmasters reported a new indexed page.

Thanks for any help and ideas of what to look for!
4:50 am on Nov 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I did check a couple of my main pages with fetch as Googlebot with nothing hiding in there.
7:17 am on Nov 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

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

They never had a problem with me operating both sites in this manner and both sites always had good PR.

I don't know why you got a penalty but the term database of affiliate products might be a clue. Google refines their algo all of the time, so not having a problem in the past isn't necessarily a sign of past approval. It might just mean you were doing something they were trying to filter out but simply didn't have the code in place until now to do it.

Strong content sites with affiliate links will rank okay for sure in Google. Correct me if I am wrong, but from what you are describing it seems more just like one thin affiliate site with a site with some content linking to it.
3:04 pm on Nov 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Yeah, it definitely might be the problem, It's just to fix it is going to be a lot of work and I'd really like to know for sure if it is the problem before I start...

It is the only thing I can think of though, I looked at all my content through copyscape and there are no problems there... I see no hidden content, no link problems... and I can't afford the 3k to have someone diagnose the problem...

Debating turning the site over to an Adsence/infolinks site and sending in a reconsideration request... any thoughts?

I would like to keep a product search box on the site also, would that be to risky?
4:42 pm on Nov 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

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

I'm still not quite convinced your site has a penalty, tshirtdeal. The timing is too coincidental with whatver happend on October 21st that slammed many other sites. Remember back on November 2nd you posted in the -50 penalty thread "I seem to have taken this hit as well last week..."? That puts your site's problem squarely in that time frame.

I don't really have much to say that can be of help because I really don't know what knobs Google turned on the 21st. Some folks believe it's the drop of the second shoe of the Mayday update; others that it's another push toward brand/entity results. My own (gut) feeling is that this was simply the initial "Places" push, but without the visual signals (the map and the map pins).

And since Places in itself is a huge push toward local entities, many non-entity, non-local sites such as directories and affiliates have been hit pretty hard. On one of my larger affiliate sites I've seen a dropoff in what I'll call my specific "product" pages as Google is now driving traffic to the local, entity sites themselves. On the other hand, what I consider my "money" pages, the category pages that lead to the product pages, are still very strong.

Not really sure what I'm trying to suggest here. Maybe something along the lines of investigating other category or money terms that might not trigger Places results. You might want to try playing around with some new phrases in Instant and see if there are some terms where you can compete.
4:59 pm on Nov 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Hi Jim,

Thanks for the reply... The reason I now feel confident that it is a penalty is because two penalty SEO firms have confirmed it... The fact that my domain name without TLD attribute does not show up is a clear indicator, as well if you do that search and add products to it I should show up and do not.

Perhaps though it still could be that Google flipped some filters for testing, working on their algo and so forth... Each day that goes by though I have less faith in that theory...

I feel I have eliminated links the problem, content, hidden content so I am not sure what is left... If I had the money I would just pay it to know for sure, it is just way more expensive then I though... It's really tough to sit here and not take any actions.
7:22 pm on Nov 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I may have found something here... Back when I first started this site where the days of having a big link directory on your site and when webmasters would take in tons of links for reciprocals and stuff like that...

Anyway I remember I was experimenting with this as it was actually advised back then and I created a directory for my site. Quickly afterward it was advised that recips and link directories like this were no good for SEO and so forth. I removed the directory (so I thought) and any of the inner linking between directory categories from my live site.

I found about 10 pages I never deleted from the backend and they were still there... These pages where not obtainable from surfing my site as there were no links to them within the site or frontend. The pages did have a bunch of reciprocal (probably 1 way links by now) or whatever on them.

I have never noticed these pages being visited by Google or indexed at all over the years. Perhaps because I did a site overhaul and updated many pages of my site (non-seo, just looks and appearance) Google did a deep crawl and found these off my sitemap or something?

I see in Google webmasters these pages showed up with crawl errors and that is what had me investigating it. The pages had links on them for the internal link structure of my site, since those were deleted years ago when I took down the directory those links are dead.

It seems Google found these pages which were still in the backend of my site and is reporting crawl errors off the dead links in them all of the sudden.

Could Google have found these pages out of the blue, felt they were suspicious or automated linking or even hidding links somehow and penalized me?

I wasted no time in deleting all of these pages and links off my back end so they are now 100% gone...

This stupid mistake could be it I think, mainly because of the sudden crawl errors showing up on these pages.. Google must of somehow just found them, otherwise the crawl errors would have been reported years ago or somewhere in between then and now...
7:32 pm on Nov 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member planet13 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month

I do run 2 sites, one is just a database of products, these are affiliate products but the database, checkout and all is set on my own domain and hosting.

If that is the case, then you are really a drop shipper (as opposed to a pure affiliate site, which would be along the lines of a made For Adsense site).

I haven't heard anything saying that google would penalize a site for being a drop shipper.

You mentioned that you put your content through copyscape. Can I ask, where did you get the product descriptions from? Are these original (i.e., written by your friend's niece)? Or are they just the descriptions supplied by the manufactured (and which would appear on numerous other sites out there)?
7:40 pm on Nov 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Hi Planet,

Thanks for the reply... It is not a clear cut affiliate site, as in the sence the products database is handled by me, so there are not a ton of other sites affiliating or pointing to it to make sales. I am not a technical wizard, i get by... The reason I did it this way (rather then all on one site) was because at the time and really still today, the product site is heavy and not great IMO for SEO work... The main product site I try to brand online or buy Adwords campaigns for, market offline and so forth. The second site was just to have more SEO, my writing and so forth but be able to send visitors to check out the products... It is somewhat an affiliate site but not in the standard sense, it does resemble a drop shipper style as well.

My content is totally not reliant upon any standard form of descriptions. It does not contain one manufacturer style description anywhere. It contains more my personal thoughts, reviews and so forth, all fair and honest... Of course I want people to buy but I do not hype things... The site is really just an online magazine on the industry in a sense...

Hope this clears things up a bit.
9:01 pm on Nov 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

@ Tshirtdeal -

When someone places an order... do YOU process the credit card charge on your own secure server, or does the buyer click a link to another website, where it's handled by the company that ships the tshirt?

If you are actually handling the orders in any way, then you may want to go to the Google Webmaster Forums and ask them for help as well, (I think we talked about that in a different thread also) and see if any of the forum mods who are closer to the source can offer you any guidance. I have recently seen a few threads where John Mu steps in and pushes the issue higher up the ladder, helping webmasters who were caught up in this.

On the other hand... if you are just processing visitors and sending them through a tracking link to the actual vendor website... I'm sure you know that its probably viewed as a thin affiliate site.

9:12 pm on Nov 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Hi Mhansen,

No I do not handle the orders or processing. That is true, a drop shipper would handle that I guess, I never did tradition dropshipping. Again the product site is thin, I do not deny that, but also I do no SEO on it or submit it to Google or anything. They do not really click a link to another website, the merchant account on my site processes it and records the sale as mine, if that makes sense...

I see many others in my niche doing what I am doing without problems so not sure... Like I said the relationship with my two sites is clear and very transparent so it would not be as if Google just discovered this out of the blue. But perhaps they tightened things up and now it is a problem, again though it does not seem to be for others.

I have posted to GWF but with no help so far...

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