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Keyword level penalty - how does this work?

     
5:53 pm on Jan 31, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Matt Cutts has confirmed before that there is such as thing as a site getting a keyword level penalty.

My question is... if you have a keyword level penalty, does this also include keyword + brand name?

Would it also include long tail?

Thanks for your input.
10:39 am on Feb 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

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From what they publish they imply the penalty goes for the whole page which would include the brand. That's what I understand, but I don't know if you can reliably detect the penalty or if they penalize in terms of popular searched terms only. Now if you could reliably detect it, the whole penalty process is obsolete as you can rectify it of course.
4:47 pm on Feb 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Google definitely can penalize just a single word - or a single link, or a single page, or an entire site or section of a site. When a single keyword is penalized, I have heard reports that long tail traffic which contains the keyword can continue without penalty.
10:34 pm on Feb 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Several years ago (2008 I believe?) one of my websites had 'sitelink' status where Google gives an expanded search result when it displays my site index page. Back then that was the homepage title with a link to individual sections below it.

The site was young, less than a year old, and ranked top 10 for a wide range of keywords INCLUDING what you would consider the sites primary keyword. The most important keyword, lets say widgets for this example, was what the site was all about.

One afternoon I noticed a stiff drop in traffic and also noticed that when I looked up my site in webmaster tools that the sitelink title was altered, the main keyword was missing. It was also missing from the sub-links in the sitelink being displayed on GWT.

Mind you that a normal search still showed all words, the words only went missing in GWT and only on the sitelink page. To me this signaled a penalty so I asked for reconsideration, pointed out the obvious evidence, and also pointed out that 'hey, the site is newish but I'm giving 100% here and the keyword in question is 100% accurate as to the sites content'.

Two things happened. #1 - sitelink status was removed and #2 - the keyword penalty was at least partially lifted judging by the immediate return of traffic.

In hindsight I feel that a human thought the site was too new to be knocking down such rankings and manually snipped my ability to rank for the keyword in question. Had the site NOT gotten sitelink status before this happened I have no way of knowing if I'd have ever recovered, surely it would have been a long and fruitless effort since no warning is given.

Yes, a keyword penalty is a type of penalty and it's particularly evil in that you can no longer rank for it no matter what you do... but you'll waste your time trying.

In hindsight I also don't fault Google's decision given the sites young age nor do I think I got lucky in being reinstated, it's a quality site that I still own and update today. I just wish you were given a clue as to the problem and insight in how to fix it. Now THAT would be a giant leap in improving the internet imo. I got lucky in noticing the missing keyword in titles, I think they fixed that bug quickly too although not many sites with penalties also have sitelink status, I don't think.

I hope that sheds a little light you might find useful in your particular case.
9:52 pm on Feb 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Well, now that is interesting.

My site currently shows six of the big sitelinks for a search of 'example.com' with one unusual note.

Five of the six pages that are linked - all targeted at the keyword 'color widgets' - show the title as 'Color Widgets' but don't rank at all, anywhere, for those terms.

The 6th, also targeting 'color widgets', only shows 'Color' as the title in the sitelink. No 'Widgets'. And yet it has been LOCKED in at #1 for months and months for 'Color Widgets', when almost all others on the site have disappeared.

After reading your post, Sgt., I expected to see all the non-ranking terms listed without the 'Widgets' keyword and the one ranking page with it, but it's the opposite.

Very strange.
 

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