Google's Minus 30 Penalty

    October 17, 2006

Last year, one of the biggest debates concerning Google had to do with the existence of a sandbox, or a place sites were “placed” until they proved to be trustworthy and therefore, admitted into Google’s SERPs. While these debates never reached a consensus, a lot of people used the sandbox excuse when their site didn’t perform like they wanted.

Now, there are rumors of a new penalty that could’ve replaced Google’s sandbox as the penalty of choice – the minus 30 penalty. I first heard about this yesterday at SERoundtable and now the subject is appearing on WebProWorld. As far as I can tell, the penalty takes certain sites and moves them down 30 rank positions, much to a webmaster/victim’s chagrin. There are a number of examples of said penalty in the WebmasterWorld discussion, but the major points for discussion are whether or not the penalty is manually administered or if its automated as well as what causes the minus 30 to occur.

There are a number of theories as to why the penalty occurs, but the consensus seems to be focused on site-wide optimization efforts using techniques that considered gray or black hat SEO. From WebmasterWorld:

I had the same problem few months ago, I believe was an anchor text over optimization. From #1 to exactly #31, still haven’t recovered, but slowly going back… I have never bought a single link, but I been focusing too much on a very competitive key search on my IB link’s anchor text. And this is, of course, an un-natural behaviour for google… now I know.

Another area of debate is whether or not this penalty is manual or automated; essentially asking does Google apply the penalty themselves or is it built into their ranking algorithm? The consensus here lies with the automated choice, but everyone is as accepting of that explanation. More from WMW:

After all my analyses, I am convinced this penalty is manually applied, not algorithmic. Whatever triggered the 30+ penalty, and I really have no idea what it could have been, has been removed now, given all the changes I made. Let me say that to my knowledge I have never spammed Google. Therefore, if it were algorithmic I would have either risen or fallen in the rankings, not stayed static at #31.

However, this statement is quickly countered by poster nippi, who says, “I am equally 100% sure, this is NOT a manual penalty. Why manually penalize 30 places? If its worth a manual penalty, its worth removal. I’m yet to see a single site that’s been hit by the plus 30 penalty that does not have some or all of these problems.

I actually prefer this method to the idea of a sandbox (provided it existed in the first place). At least you know where you stand in the eyes of Google and this knowledge should allow you to make the necessary changes to improve your standings.

Chris Richardson
Staff Writer | WebProNews