How I Got My Google Ranking #6 Filter Removed

My site was stuck ranking at #6 in Google for a lot of keywords. The site that I had that got hit was a site that I had not built links to in a year, and the on page optimization for it was done years ago. Realizing the issue might have been on-site as much as off-site I decided to tweak it a bit...

  • All page titles on the site have a brand name in them as this site is devoted to reselling a brand. For the deep product pages the brand was at the end of the page title and on the homepage the brand had one word in front of it. About a half dozen core pages in the site started with the core keywords of a brand the site was reselling. For those page titles the brand related terms were moved to the end of those page titles.
  • Some of the sitewide image navigational links had alt tags in them that contained a piece of the core keyword that the site was filtered out for. I removed that modifier and let the navigational links be slightly less descriptive.
  • I also got the site a few new links which did not focus on the site's core keywords, but I don't believe that these were the key to getting it ranking again, as the site already has thousands of inbound links, and their were only a couple new links of low to average quality.
  • I nofollowed links to some of the to administrative type pages, but I don't think that was a make or break issue either.

The site is ranking in the top 3 or 4 on many Google IPs for many search queries. My sample size is only 1 site though, so I would love to hear what you did to get your sites ranking again if you have any sites that recovered from this Google penalty / filter.

Published: January 23, 2008 by Aaron Wall in


January 23, 2008 - 2:38pm

Aaron, what is the cause for this penalty? I think that one of my sites was penalized with this filter :-(

January 23, 2008 - 3:31pm

Thanks for sharing this. I am in the process of re-doing a website of mine and I am concerned it may be over optimized. You mentioned making navigational links slightly less specific - that got my attention. I am following the SEO advice of Xsitepro - the website builder I am using. As I get results back from Google (and other search engines), I will let you know what I have come up with. Thanks for your input.
My site =

January 23, 2008 - 6:31pm

Would it be possible for you to explain a bit further with examples of before and after for better understanding?
Greatly appreciated!

kid disco
January 23, 2008 - 6:44pm

None of my sites were hit with this filter... but from what I've been hearing, it sounds like sites that have become authoritative that also contain signals of being optimized/over-optimized are the ones that have been hit.

Things to look at:
-Anchor text of backlinks being unnaturally aligned
-Title, URL, header tags being too tightly aligned
-Alt tags and other similar elements that tend to be over-optimized

To alleviate these issues... tweak the over-optimized items so that they don't seem so unnatural, let go of the SEO tunnel-vision that led you to this filter, and think about the big picture when optimizing.

January 23, 2008 - 7:15pm

This #6 penalty seems just like a 950 penalty for strong sites.
If you break some rules, and if your site is strong, Google does not want you on the last page(s), but they want to send some pain your way.

January 23, 2008 - 7:20pm

I got a -30 filter removed after the site was hit for 3 months (I largely ignored it at first - was too busy). Removed a few thin affiliate pages (stuff I added but meant to pad out later but never got around to it) and submitted a reinclusion request saying what I thought was wrong and how I fixed it. Site was back ranking as normal after a week (may have been the fix / may have been the reinclusion request).

A few folks have questioned the existence of these types of filters but from that limited experience it seems to be the case that they exist in some shape or form. The site in question had ranked for 5 years for "sitename" - one word unique term with only 1,200 competing pages. When the penalty hit, even that ranking was reduced to -30 - behind vague references to the word on Bebo pages, etc.

Aaron do you reckon the positioning of the brand term in title tag could have been an issue? I would have thought that the way you describe was a very common (and legitimate) approach to writing title tags.


January 23, 2008 - 10:53pm

My control set of sites had their issue resolved about the same time as the sites with external properties applied to them came out, indicating that it probably wasn't anything I did to remove the problem. My guess is that something was being tested (ctr?, a new type of filter?) and is now just a piece of history along with other things Google has tested in the Dec/Jan timeframe.

January 24, 2008 - 4:05am

I have to second Cygnus here.

When my main blog site dropped rankings from #1 spot to #6, I immediately added some new posts, and within a few days my site was back to it's previous rankings.

At the same time I checked on it's sister site (same registrar info, web host, and IP address) and noticed it had dropped rankings too. The main site is an SEO article site, and the sister site is an SEO video tutorial site. Both sites have very similar topics, but no cross linking.

I didn't get a chance to do any work on the video tutorial site, but just like the other site... a few days later the rankings were back where they were.

Lee Johnson
January 24, 2008 - 9:34am

I work as the SEO manager for and I have noticed some funny results before Christmas. We have been going in and changing onpage work including our h1 and h2 tags and also the titles and we have noticed a huge improvement in our rankings over the last 12 days. We are currently getting 33% extra traffic through our network of three business directories. I feel the improved traffic is due to us getting our own house in order and making the pages within our directories the easiest to read for the engines. P...
January 24, 2008 - 7:54pm

I noticed a similar drop in just our homepage rankings in early to mid December. We held solid rankings (top 3 positions) for most of our our core keywords, and then I noticed them slip to position 5 or 6. In the following weeks, some have gone up a position or down a position.

It is my belief that this drop is not due to linkbait, paid links, or PPC advertising. Rather, I believe it has everything to do with an unforeseen decrease in RELEVANCY.

We introduced new on-page factors in mid December, including a new homepage, site-wide vertical footer, and a new header that includes a specific website/channel navigational bar with links pointing to our other same-industry product based websites being offered under our core brand.

Even before reading this post we decided to take some action to regain our higher rankings for our homepage, but this post definitely lead to a greater emphasis on acting now, not tomorrow.

In an attempt to regain our previous ranking glory, we are going to remove this new vertical footer and go back to an even more simplified, standard footer. We are also going to remove the website/channel specific navbar from the header.

I'll let you know if there are any noticeable changes in our rankings (positive, negative, none) following the implementation of the aforementioned changes.

Happy SEOing!

Eric Itzkowitz

p.s. @ Lee - Did the positive changes you saw in your "crawlability" and traffic do any harm to your conversion--whatever it is you want people to do on your category pages (click an ad, download, submit a website, etc.)?

January 24, 2008 - 11:38pm

Sorry for the text in Spanish and automatic translation with google.

I have this web in Spain and was the first "coches de importacion," "coches de alemania," "coches alemania" and also was on the front page for other keywords ("coches usados", "coches","")
On January 14, I lost all those positions but still I am in the top 10 in the keywords that was priemro. I am trying to find the causes and one of my suspicions are some blog that I have with links to the web. Like these,

Can this be the reason or the cause?
It may be the penalty position 6?
I have also left many links with keywords in the blog and forums.
Thank you for all
My e email


Perdonad por el texto en español y traducción automatica con google.

Tengo esta web y estaba primero en "coches de importacion", "coches de alemania", "coches alemania" y tambien estaba en la primera página para otras palabras clave (coches usados, coches
El día 14 de Enero perdí todas esas posiciones aunque todavia sigo en el top 10 en las palabras clave que estaba priemro. Estoy tratando de buscar las causas y una de mis sospechas son algunos blog que tengo con enlaces hacia la web. como estos,

Puede ser este el motivo o la causa?
Puede ser la penalizacion posición 6?
También he dejado muchos enlaces con palabras clave en los blog y foros.
Gracias por todo

Sam I Am
January 29, 2008 - 7:48am

Looks like this was actually due to Google fixing a mistake in their algos more than anything you did Aaron. Matt's confirmed it over at

January 29, 2008 - 8:14am

Glad to know they fixed that issue. I wonder what the people who called me a liar about it even existing are thinking now. P...
January 29, 2008 - 12:16pm

@ Aaron:

Who cares what they think? You saw something that was affecting too many people nearly the same way, and under the same circumstances. You blogged about your thoughts, and even provided advice for how you overcame the #6. That's awesome!

In my opinion, anybody who would call somebody a liar for simply exploring the possibility of some algo update gone awry, and adversely affecting the wrong people is just asinine--typical of those too close-minded to question things.

As my first reply post covers, we (a long time, and well established .com) were very much affected by the #6. We saw traffic to our homepage for our core keywords significantly decrease in December--a key retail month.

I have seen some traffic recovery beginning a few days ago, but our rankings have not yet fully recovered.

Thanks in advance for your continued hi-level perspective on our industry.


January 29, 2008 - 12:33pm

Thanks for the kind comment Eric. :)

January 30, 2008 - 2:58am


I think there is no such filter that site should not move up from 6th position.

Possibly, It may be the reason that you have altered sitewide image navigation links.

Our site ( never faced such a google panelty or filter what are you talking about. We are always at number 1 position for our prime keywords like "Directory Submission Service"

Directory Maximizer

January 30, 2008 - 10:49am

It is not something that hit all sites...after all someone has to rank #1, but it hit a number of websites.

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