Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Hit by a Google -50 penalty (exploreto.tumblr.com)
36 points by cupcake_death on Sept 27, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 14 comments

The post links http://www.explore.to/listing/usa/me/see/restaurants-food/br... as an example of a page that he is not sure should be classified as a "doorway page". I would be annoyed if Google returned that if I searched for "Brazilian Restaurants in Maine", because it has no content.

Google's users are looking to find information, not looking for a place to contribute it.

The article's guess is correct: I don't see any manual action on this site, but our algorithms don't think explore.to is a great site.

Jabbles is certainly right, and listen to blauwbilgorgel too--it's good feedback from typical Google users. When I clicked down randomly, I got to the category "Body Shops in Bowers, Delaware" only to see "No results were found for the search criteria you requested, we have included web search results for your query" with a link to Google's own search results: http://www.explore.to/listing/usa/de/bowers/see/auto/body-sh...

Users dislike landing on pages with no content, and they also dislike landing on search results from Google's search results--especially if it's Google's own search results.

Once you've removed the no-content pages, you still have many issues. I searched for pizza in New York and the #1 result was in Florida. That's poor quality, but even your #1 listing for pizza in New York had no original content. It was just an address, a phone number (which I had to click again to get?), and a map. Everything looked autogenerated. No reviews, images, comments, hours--anything, really.

So my advice to you would be to step back and ask yourself, "What separates explore.to from the thousands of other sites that just grab or license data from Acxiom or other yellow page data providers? Why would anyone searching on Google want to land on my pages instead of other the tens of thousands of other yellow page sites on the web?" Then concentrate on really pushing on the areas where you can add value for users.

We've reorganized our backlog and really appreciate the time taken to highlight those areas we need to place the most resource and focus.

Precisely. That's a page I'd be frustrated to wind up on, and Google's easiest option for getting webmasters to actually act on removing them is to get their attention in a way that is quite noticeable.

There are both architectural errors with this website and original content issues.

I see no brazen violation of the Webmaster Guidelines demanding a penalty. As far as I know, manual penalties (and their cause) get communicated through Google Webmaster Tools.

What I do see is architectural issues.


Is an empty page, that is linked to from the homepage. For listing websites: Don't put up pages for which you have no content.

The search result pages are indexable too. Even though the post claims they have blocked these pages in robots.txt, they aren't:


(Won't link as to not pollute your index).

These pages wreak havoc on your crawl budget.

Then on to the issue of original content:


This isn't content that will ever perform well in search engines. I'd even go so far as to say these results pollute the search results. They are an address and hopefully a tiny copied description. What added value does this have for a visitor? What added value does this have for a search engine to present high up in the results?

Look at how Yelp or LinkedIn got people to enter content on their listing pages. Or even Yahoo, look at all the widgets added to listings, to increase the content size and relevancy.

You even use Facebook comments (which are not crawled all that well by Googlebot, seeing they are javascript and reside on the Facebook server, not yours). Any user generated content to make pages more unique, you freely donate to Facebook, instead of adding it to your pages in plain text.

Conclusion: No (manual) penalty, but bad non-engaging duplicate content listings combined with a poor site architecture that allows zillions of page combinations with meager to no content on them. The issue is confounded by not making sure your site is canonical:


Site architecture and SEO is massively important for the success or failure of these kinds of websites, and both seem quite poorly thought out at a glance.

If the site is young, the initial boost in rankings (honeymoon period), will decay overtime and settle together with your page authority, content quality etc. If you see a decrease in visitors, you could attribute it to this initial popularity, instead of a penalty. Current visitor numbers might reflect your content / site quality a lot better.

Look at how SEOmoz helped Yelp produce a solid strategy: http://www.quora.com/How-do-StackOverflow-and-Yelp-achieve-s...

All, please re-read the point about content in JavaScript NOT being crawled. Yes, this is true. Accept it, move on, and don't waste hours or days debating this with your SEO or product manager.

Google will parse js to find links to index, but don't count on getting credit for any content you put in there.

Agree 100%. Look at ways to get each page indexed with original quality content.

These are great points. Is it possible to fix the architectural issues using "noindex" and "nofollow" on the empty pages? Are there other good strategies to clean up issues as detailed above?

The "fingers walking" logo they're using is a trademark of the Yellow Pages, so I expect them to get hit by a bank account -$millions penalty shortly, too. Logo theft from a litigious company = bad idea.

That caught me off-guard as well.

But from Wikipedia/Yellow_Pages:

  The term Yellow Pages is not a registered 
  name within the United States and is freely used by many 

  AT&T ... never applied for a trademark on the logo. While
  they eventually received a trademark on a different 
  version of the logo, the version with the three fingers was 
  not considered by AT&T to be proprietary and they in fact 
  allowed any telephone directory to use it.

Thanks everyone for the valuable feedback. All the comments here have been taken on-board and are part of the new highest priority for the backlog.

It is more fun when you are banned from AdWords and have no recourse.

Google will actually refuse to take your money.

At least with the organic stuff, you can modify your site.

I've had cases where I've had sites penalized for no good reason. Sometimes Google makes mistakes. Plan B, for me would be buy another domain (maybe an old one with some Google juice), and transfer all the content to that one. Plan C would be to redesign your business model so it places less importance on SEO, and more on recurring traffic, and traffic from other places

Sites with grey font on grey background, similar to the one posted here, should be algorithmically removed from search index, since it is malware that is trying to harm it's visitors eyes.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact