… I just have to link to North South Media’s neat collection of Search Action Figures.
Paul pretty much dislikes folks who don’t link to him, so Danny Sullivan and Rand Fishkin are well advised to drop a link every now and then, and David Naylor better gives him an interview slot asap.
Google’s numbered “penalties”, esp. #6
As for numeric penalties in general …
repeat("Sigh", ∞) … enjoy this brains trust moderated by Marty Weintraub (unauthorized):
Marty: Folks, please welcome Aaron Wall, who recently got his #6 penalty removed!
The Gypsy: Sorry Marty but come on… this is complete BS and there is NO freakin #6 filter just like the magical minus 90…900 bla bla bla. These anomalies NEVER have any real consensus on a large enough data set to even be considered a viable theory.
A Red Crab: As long as Bill can’t find a plus|minus-n-raise|penalty patent, or at least a white paper or so leaked out from Google, or for all I care a study that provides proof instead of weird assumptions based on claims of webmasters jumping on todays popular WMW band wagon that aren’t plausible nor verifiable, such beasts don’t exist. There are unexplained effects that might look like a pattern, but in most cases it makes no sense to gather a few examples coming with similarities because we’ll never reach the critical mass of anomalies to discuss a theory worth more than a thumbs-down click.
Marty: Maybe Aaron is joking. Maybe he thinks he has invented the next light bulb.
Gamermk: Aaron is grasping at straws on this one.
Barry Welford: I would like this topic to be seen by many.
The Gypsy: It is just some people that have DECIDED on an end result and trying to make various hypothesis fit the situation (you know, like tobacco lobby scientists)… this is simply bad form IMO.
Danny Sullivan: Well, I’ve personally seen this weirdness. Pages that I absolutely thought “what on earth is that doing at six” rather than at the top of the page. Not four, not seven — six. It was freaking weird for several different searches. Nothing competitive, either.
I don’t know that sixth was actually some magic number. Personally, I’ve felt like there’s some glitch or problem with Google’s ranking that has prevented the most authorative page in some instances from being at the top. But something was going on.
Remember, there’s no sandbox, either. We got that for months and months, until eventually it was acknowledge that there were a range of filters that might produce a “sandbox like” effect.
The biggest problem I find with these types of theories is they often start with a specific example, sometimes that can be replicated, then they become a catch-all. Not ranking. Oh, it’s the sandbox. Well no — not if you were an established site, it wasn’t. The sandbox was typicaly something that hit brand new sites. But it became a common excuse for anything, producing confusion.
Jim Boykin: I’ll jump in and say I truely believe in the 6 filter. I’ve seen it. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it happen to a few sites.
A Red Crab: Such terms tend to become a life of their own, IOW an excuse for nearly every way a Webmaster can fuck up rankings. Of course Google’s query engine has thresholds (yellow cards or whatever they call them) that don’t allow some sites to rank above a particular position, but that’s a symtom that doesn’t allow back-references to a particular cause, or causes. It’s speculation as long as we don’t know more.
IncrediBill: I definitely believe it’s some sort of filter or algo tweak but it’s certainly not a penalty which is why I scoff at calling it such. One morning you wake up and Matt has turned all the dials to the left and suddenly some criteria bumps you UP or DOWN. Sites have been going up and down in Google SERPs for years, nothing new or shocking about that and this too will have some obvious cause and effect that could probably be identified if people weren’t using the shotgun approach at changing their site
G1smd: By the time anyone works anything out with Google, they will already be in the process of moving the goalposts to another country.
Slightly Shady SEO: The #6 filter is a fallacy.
Old School: It certainly occured but only affected certain sites.
Danny Sullivan: Perhaps it would have been better called a -5 penalty. Consider. Say Google for some reason sees a domain but decides good, but not sure if I trust it. Assign a -5 to it, and that might knock some things off the first page of results, right?
Look — it could all be coincidence, and it certainly might not necessarily be a penalty. But it was weird to see pages that for the life of me, I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t be at 1, showing up at 6.
Slightly Shady SEO: That seems like a completely bizarre penalty. Not Google’s style. When they’ve penalized anything in the past, it hasn’t been a “well, I guess you can stay on the frontpage” penalty. It’s been a smackdown to prove a point.
Matt Cutts: Hmm. I’m not aware of anything that would exhibit that sort of behavior.
Audience: Ugh … oohhhh … you weren’t aware of the sandbox, either!
Danny Sullivan: Remember, there’s no sandbox, either. We got that for months and months, until eventually it was acknowledge that there were a range of filters that might produce a “sandbox like” effect.
Audience: Bah, humbug! We so want to believe in our lame excuses …
Tedster: I’m not happy with the current level of analysis, however, and definitely looking for more ideas.
Of course the panel above is fictional, respectively assembled from snippets which in some cases change the message when you read them in their context. So please follow the links.
I wouldn’t go that far to say there’s no such thing as a fair amount of Web pages that deserve a #1 spot on Google’s SERPs, but rank #6 for unknown reasons (perhaps link monkey business, staleness, PageRank flow in disarray, anchor text repetitions, …). There’s something worth investigating.
However, I think that labelling a discussion of glitches or maybe filters that don’t behave based on a way too tiny dataset “#6 penalty” leads to the lame excuse for literally anything phenomenon.
Folks who don’t follow the various threads closely enough to spot the highly speculative character of the beast, will take it as fact and switch to winter sleep mode instead of enhancing their stuff like Aaron did. I can’t wait for the first “How to escape the Google -5 penalty” SEO tutorial telling the great unwashed that a “+5″ revisit-after meta tag will heal it.