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The New 950 Penalty?



3:14 pm on Oct 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I have posted within a few other topics that there seems to be an increased use of the "end of results" penalty by Google in recent months.

I had a couple of sites that suffered from 950 several years ago when it was a hot topic around here. Eventually they recovered... I think due to a few high quality links being received.

It looks to me like a lot of the recently hit EMD's are at the end of results, but also a lot of other sites that appear to be of some quality with decent content and a pretty good link profile. I'm also seeing obvious spam sites down there as well.

I have two sites presently at the end of results for a bunch of keywords. This pre-dated the EMD update. I have spent a lot of time over the past few months studying what these pages have in common. I can best describe it as follows:

If a site would ordinarily rank in roughly the 40th position or better for a given search, then results that would have appeared within the top 40 are sent to the end of results.

This also gives a false sense of belief that some pages that aren't in 950 are stronger than those that are. In fact, the pages at the end of the results are the strongest, but the penalty overlay sends them to the back.

I would like to again begin a discussion of what these sites have in common, or what options exist for recovery.

For those of you new to this penalty... set your search preferences to show 100 results. Then go to the last page of displayed results (page 8, 9 or 10 usually) and look at the pages that are there.

I am starting to believe that this is more of a catch-all penalty for sites that google just doesn't want to rank - although the algo would otherwise rank them. One example is that for several years Google Books results have stayed at the end of results in my niche... because they probably rank well per the algo given the authority of the google domain.. but aren't at all what the user is looking for.


6:51 pm on Oct 21, 2012 (gmt 0)

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@ Nichita -

I would take it a step farther and suggest you find all common traits about your sites.

- Same server?
- Same Whois account owner?
- Same Webmaster Tools account?
- Same backend technology? (like wordpress or other CMS)
- Same Adsense or other ad network?
- Same look and feel or theme?
- Same niche market?
- Same type of site (articles, blogs, buying guides, ecommerce, etc)
- Etc...

I would make a list of everything my sites had in common, and use that in determining what else could be wrong as well.


8:32 pm on Oct 21, 2012 (gmt 0)

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@ mhansen

I would take it a step farther and suggest you find all common traits about your sites.

- Same server?
- Same Whois account owner?
- Same Webmaster Tools account?
- Same backend technology? (like wordpress or other CMS)
- Same Adsense or other ad network?
- Same look and feel or theme?
- Same niche market?
- Same type of site (articles, blogs, buying guides, ecommerce, etc) ...

I am sure it is more complex than that. After 09/29 3 out of my 4 sites disappeared from top search results where they used to be. These 4 are on two different webhosts, although they all have the same AdSense and Webmaster Tools accounts. Furthermore, both subdomains of one of the "penalized" sites were not affected and still rank high. Which seems to suggest that each domain or subdomain is treated separately (and common authorship does not matter).


6:27 am on Oct 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

- Same server? -> YES
- Same Whois account owner? -> YES
- Same Webmaster Tools account? -> YES
- Same backend technology? (like wordpress or other CMS) -> YES
- Same Adsense or other ad network? -> YES
- Same look and feel or theme? -> Partially
- Same niche market? -> Partially
- Same type of site (articles, blogs, buying guides, ecommerce, etc) -> YES

Now I've changed the Owner / deleted the sites from WT account and from Analytics.

@mhansen, your sites have the same problems like my sites (similar profiles etc.) ?


5:48 pm on Oct 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Having your sites connected isn't that big of a deal. I have all our sites connected in all the above with no ill effects. It has more to do with the same content remashed on different sites probably.

Content has to be unique not reformatted with the same or near same content.

Google is making it were the day of a single webman/company running 20 webistes it getting much harder and way more expensive.


7:01 pm on Oct 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

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@mhansen, your sites have the same problems like my sites (similar profiles etc.)?

No. We have 1 site negatively affected by Penguin last April 24th, but do feel it is a "End of Results" penalty/filter or whatever they call it. But we have seen small networks of sites burned to the ground in the past, and the when a group of sites loses ranking at the same time, you have to list out all the common traits as part of the discovery process.

I feel it would be very naive to assume Google did not look through our WMT's account, Adsense account, Analytics account etc... if they find one site in violation of their webmaster guidelines.



7:32 pm on Oct 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

I forget to mention. The sites was NEVER linked between, even few of them are related.

@mhansen, maybe few old sites don't meet the actual Google requirements. However, the new sites are clean. I've changed the owners / removed the wt / analytics accounts from the most of all.

Now I am sitting and I am waiting to see what is happen next. It's very frustrating, after years of work to see what is happen...


3:11 am on Oct 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Less then a month after those changes I started to go -500 , -300 , -150,... and then i settled at page 1-2 for multiple kwds . Took about 3 months all together to reach 1st page and than I started to build links again :)


The 1-8 changes that you mention: (1) did you make them all at once and gradually see the improvements in your rankings that you saw or (2) did you make some changes, see an improvement in rankings, make more changes, see an improvement, make more changes after that and then see more improvement?


3:44 am on Oct 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

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@gouri All at once and then left it sailing .


7:01 pm on Oct 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

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@gouri All at once and then left it sailing .


Thanks for the response.

Can you tell me when after making the changes did you start to see an improvement in your rankings?

I know you said less than a month in your post, but when did you first start to see movement.


11:29 pm on Oct 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

This happened to us last year...It was duplicate content (bad coding) and took 3 months to recover. Got hit again this week and the timing could not get worse. Have not lost traffic because of the long tail search but lost rank in the top keywords which we were on the top. It could be over optimized, dup content or anchor text?

This sounds exactly like what's going on with my site. I've never had a penalty of any kind, and my site has ranked well for the terms for years. Never got hit with Panda or Penguin. Whatever algo changes happened around end Sept. or begin Oct. really blitzed my ranking for the most competitive keywords though. I am now middle of third page for terms that I was in top 5 for before, with many many lower PR junky pages ahead of me...makes no sense. The long tail traffic is still there, but the most competitive terms are down 80% or so. My site is showing 750 pages with dupe titles and 950 pages with dupe descriptions now...out of a total of around 7,000 indexed pages, and with 39,000 "not selected" as shown in Index Status...perhaps 1,000 of those are 301-redirected pages...but I don't have anywhere near 39,000 pages on my site altogether. I think this has to do with google finding too many dupe pages and/or too many redirected pages. With so many changes lately how can one know for sure?


10:46 pm on Oct 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

I'm working on a site that was hit with what I believe to be some incarnation of the -950 penalty -- at least as it has been described.

Client's site launched in 1999 and has mostly survived Google penalties up until now.

The penalty hit during the review process (before any changes were made) and I've since converted the static site to WordPress, deleted a bunch of old, duplicate pages and cleaned up the client's *very* spammy meta data and on-page titles.

It's a curious case really. I'm hoping to defeat it by cleaning up the site. I'll keep you guys updated. If something doesn't change in the next month, a domain move may be necessary in my opinion as the site ranks *worse* than a nearly new site and my client (an attorney) is bleeding cash.


5:07 pm on Oct 27, 2012 (gmt 0)

I am finally seeing movement on our top keywords going from the last page of search to page 4-6. I studied the top 10 and found something they all had in common. On their category pages (we are retail) and they all have content, about 300 words. They describe on their cat pages: what is a widget, what is a blue widget, what is a red widget. Whereas we have the descriptions of a widget, blue & red widget in the product descriptions (not dup content) and also we have separate guides on other pages in more detail. So I added more content on the cat pages, without it being duplicate content. I also noticed on their front page they all have have about 500-750 word content so yesterday we just added 250 word content about the fold and hope this helps. In the last few weeks we focused on keywords and on the over optimizing. I focused on the those pages and pulled down more keywords (even though I did not think it was over optimized) and I worked the titles, alt tags, meta description and of courst the description. I have one more issue to figure out on my blog and if this does not help, in the next few weeks for the first time i will have to purchase adwords.


12:10 am on Oct 31, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I thought there was a consensus a few years back that -900 (end of results) penalties are the result of duplication, either inter- or intrasite, perhaps with some unintended queries as part of the URL or canonical issues. Has this thinking been completely supplanted by concerns of over-optimization. I just got myself a site which, while I was down without power, thanks to Sandy, got hit with -900 (number fluctuates, so "end of results" is a better name).

I've never really done any optimization there, so it would be hard to see how it is over-optimized but I do see mysterious 190,000+ "blocked URLs" in WMT. I don't know yet what they are (just got the power back a couple of hours ago) but they seem like something URL parameters may create.

So, do you think it makes sense to still pursue the old dupes theory?


7:39 pm on Nov 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I agree with Nichitia with:

"1. Possible excessive internal anchor links (in the case of one of the affected sites); "

I just had a site take a -950 penalty and I'm almost positive its because of internal linking. The site is only like 4 months old and just dropped all its rankings overnight. It has about 20 pages in total on the site. On the menu on the left we had on each page a few of the pages linked between each other but then overnight we decided to link all the pages between each other. I think this sudden addition of internal links caused the overoptimization penalty. You wouldnt think it would because its simple navigation of the site: links to your other pages for the browsers/users of the site to goto other pages that might interest them. We are going to remove like 50% of the links and some extra keywords on the page and see where it gets us.


10:38 pm on Nov 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I think this sudden addition of internal links caused the overoptimization penalty.

Could this mean that the effect of internal link changes is seen pretty quickly?


9:41 am on Nov 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I think the internal links is a big factor too - had a new-ish 50 page site take a -950 hit a few weeks ago, removed a bottom navigation menu that linked all the pages together (the menu used page titles, which on reflection must have looked like keyword-stuffing) and after 3 weeks of literally zero Google traffic it's starting to recover - several pages back on page 1 and others working their way back up.


10:37 pm on Nov 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

I've just redirected one of affected websites to a new domain. I've changed a lot of things:

- a new theme;
- the ads was moved in other locations;
- I've changed the titles / urls of a lot of pages (shorted all the long urls / titles);
- I've minimized the internal website architecture (less related posts etc);
- rewritten some articles (decreased the keywords percent);

So far the redirected pages (now located on the new website) are ranking good.

@pteam, can you tell me when you received the penalty (the date of penalty) ? I believe you can be affected by the latest Panda update (3 october).


11:40 pm on Nov 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

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It happened to my site on Oct 30th or Oct 31st. I guess it was a sick halloween joke! :(

I am starting to see some results after I removed the internal links I added.

After the -950 penalty. I am now seeing alot of results that have moved up +100 spots, and some results that have moved up +800 spots to around spot #150. I have a few results that are around #99 and even a couple results that are back to the first page already!

Honestly the biggest problem with your penalty is figuring out what caused your penalty. Once you know that you have a huge chance of solving it.


7:20 pm on Nov 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

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All of my results are now back. All of my page 1 results have returned and the penalty is completely gone! :)


4:12 pm on Nov 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I've watched keywords climb from the 60's to the 50's and right when they get on the verge of breaking into the top 40... they drop to the end. Which tells me that without the re-ranking they would be somewhere near the top.

Just had a site do this. It was -950 and had been going up for weeks after deoptimization. It went to -150 almost instantly, then -90, then -60... as it approached -40 it is now back to -950.


9:56 pm on Nov 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Yes, that is the confusing part about this penalty. When your site jumps from 950 to 250 you think you have made progress, but in reality you fell from the top 40 to 250 (or wherever). So what looks like an improvement (950 to 250) isn't. Your site is very strong when it's at 950... you just are stuck behind a curtain so that no one can see it. The trick is figuring out how to open the curtain without falling off the stage.


7:58 pm on Dec 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

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@pteam and @darthoon,

After you removed the internal links, did you see rankings decrease for keyword phrases before they started to increase? Were all the internal link changes made at the same time?

Also @pteam, did your internal links contain a lot of keywords and how long did it take to start seeing ranking increases?



11:26 am on Dec 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

One problem is that EMD and non EMD sites are treated differently (much stricter criteria for EMD sites) and the criteria are different in different market sectors.

However, it is overwhelmingly about the anchor text in external links and the internal linking. Possibly even more the former than the latter.

Areas you might consider looking at for a possible recovery as far as external linking is concerned include:

% of keywords in the anchor text - less than 25% (both overall and in each link);this implies wordy links. But of course, a large number of diverse, wordy links might be a factor working against you (too great a diversity of anchor text can harm you, maybe). Tricky.

10% - 25% of links as the www.domain.com and / or the name of the site (branding really does matter) - but one catch is, I believe, that for an EMD the domain name itself can count towards your keyword % in anchor text: this means using www.domain.com as anchor text can penalize you, not help you. Even more tricky.

Less than two backlinks from each inlinking site- not so sure about this as I have conflicting evidence but it looks like it can be a factor in some cases.

Having an EMD, a meta title and the anchor text as the same or similar words means you are (sometimes) history!I believe this is a trigger for the end of results penalty in conjunction with on page keyword density of over 2% (though that varies with sector too, in my experience). Tricky.

Recovery can take 6 months even if you get the changes right.

Rate of change of links is a factor too - too rapid change (acquisiton or reduction) = a penalty.

All in all recovery is not easy - but it can be done. You have to tread very, very lightly. I also believe another factor that makes this harder is that varying the anchor text is more difficult now because LSI is being applied to the words used in the anchor text. So, for example, stop, control, overcome, avoid and so on, might be treated as synonymous not different. Clearly if this is true then you might think you were varying your anchor text when the impact on Google's assessment of your anchor text word-diversity was zilch.

Good luck!


12:44 pm on Dec 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

Hi everybody, I'm new but I've been following this Forum for a while now.

I would like to thanks fred9989 for your insights, I found it very interesting.
I have a penguinized site and I will work on what I've just learn from you, hopefully it will help me to recover. I'll let you know if I see any improvement.


3:54 pm on Dec 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Yes please do - but recovery may take 3 months or more! Once you have made your changes - leave it alone!


7:04 pm on Dec 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

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You can see the time dates on my posts to see when my penalties occurred and when the penalty was lifted. The rankings were pretty much as low as they could go -950 and then moved up like 100 spots or more and then finally moved up to around spot 100 then to page 1. All the internal links changes were made at the same time.


8:28 pm on Dec 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member


I see what you are saying about looking at the dates, but can you tell me how long you had to wait until all the pages were crawled and reflected the internal link changes that you made to start seeing movement?

Or did you see the movement of 100 spots after some of your pages picked up the internal link changes and then the move to around spot 100 and after that page 1 after all the pages picked up the internal link changes?

I can see from your dates how long it took you to move up, but I am trying to understand when the moves occur.



9:20 pm on Dec 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I'm sure this is "tin hat" type of thinking, but...

I realize that automated queries are against G's TOS. I also know that in the laundry list of things that Matt Cutts occasionally mentions as potential violations is automated queries. I have just never bought it as being a real factor without me having recieved a warning or something.

But... On my penalized site in May I started using a popular rank checking tool. (Post-Penguin penalty). I run it pretty much daily. It only checks about 35 queries to check the top 50 positions for each. It seems like it does its queries with 10 results per page. So, since all pages on that site are now -950, I suppose it runs roughly 150 searches per day within about an hour and a half (it's also searching bing/yahoo during that 1.5 hours and has a delay of several seconds between queries).

Unlike the pros that use proxy servers etc to check rankings, I never really considered what I was doing to be that far out of bounds. Heck, I probably do more than that many manual searches in a day. It uses the same ip from my local computer that I also log into my WMT account with. My -950 penalty started in late June... roughly a month after starting to use the tool.

I would never consider this to be a legitimate cause of a penalty. But - about 2 weeks ago I had 3 pages come out of -950 for a few days. (sort of). But what has me interested in the connection is that the penalty was lifted for those pages ONLY for the exact word order that I use in the automated tool.

Meaning... If a page was about Small Red Widgets, my automated query (one per page) was "Cheap Red Widgets Small" - clearly not a common word order for the search, which would normally be "Cheap Small Red Widgets". For the 3 pages that moved out of -950, the penalty was lifted ONLY for the exact word order of my automated query for that page. Any other word order (including more commonly searched word orders) and I remained at -950.

One more piece of data... this occurred after I had taken a 3 day break from using the ranking tool. Once I saw a glimmer of hope, I went back to running the program daily and everything went back to -950 again.

I am almost positive that this is a coincidence and not causation. But I'm going to stop my automated queries for quite awhile to see what happens. The coincidence between the exact word order seems to tell me that there is something going on as that word order is not contained in any backlinks, or anything on-page. The only connection to the exact word order is the ranking tool.

I'll report back.... I'm sure with news that it was another wild goose chase.


4:46 pm on May 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

1. Possible excessive internal anchor links (in the case of one of the affected sites)


Are these internal links in the body text?
This 59 message thread spans 2 pages: 59

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