Dropped In Rankings? Google’s Mistake Over Parked Domains Might Be To Blame

google-penalty-squareSearch rankings got you down on Google recently? It’s not the expected over-optimization penalty, as some have been guessing at. Rather, Google may have thought your site was a “parked domain,” when it wasn’t.

Search forums like Webmaster World and Google’s own search discussion areas have had much discussion about recent drops in ranking, such as herehere and as summarized by Search Engine Roundtable. Some have wondered if this was the release of what’s been dubbed an “over-optimization penalty” that Google previously said would be coming this year.

Whether that really will be a penalty of pages with too much SEO or more likely a tougher crackdown on actual spam remains to be seen. But in either case, that penalty isn’t what’s happened.

Rather, Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s web spam team, said the change is due to Google mistakenly classifying some sites as being parked domains, domains that generally lack any content other than ads.

Cutts posted on Google+

I saw a recent post where several sites were asking about their search rankings. The short explanation is that it turns out that our classifier for parked domains was reading from a couple files which mistakenly were empty. As a result, we classified some sites as parked when they weren’t.

I apologize for this; it looks like the issue is fixed now, and we’ll look into how to prevent this from happening again.

At the end of last year, Google announced that it would be targeting parked domains or “placeholder” sites so that they wouldn’t rank as well.

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About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • daveintheuk

    Wow, and Google is admitting liability. FLY my litigation-happy American friends, FLY!

  • hfase

    So, will they be doing another update soon then??

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/DH2KQZ5UI3IVMOOO35DLKLYZHM Jim

    The funny thing about this is that it was all over the forums for the last 3 days and only now mentioned here and most of the other SEO blogs? 

  • http://www.facebook.com/junaid.webmaster Junaid Jaffery

    Woh Google apologized

  • http://www.searchforoffer.net/ Searchforoffer

    but it is not yet solved , I have yet not got my ranking back

  • http://blog.rabinek.pl Paweł Rabinek

    It’s good that Google is able to admit the mistake and make a quick fix of this. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/ciaran.debuitlear Ciaran De Buitlear

     The most important question we all have is “how do I get my site’s ranking back”? 

  • http://iipalbanjary.net/ iip albanjary

    Google too huge too dominate online world–The mistake might be too small for Google, but heavily impacted hundreds of site owners

  • Partyforever

    Millions.

  • Epage India

    It happen with me too my site that was ranking for 4-5 keywords in 1st page suddenly was way back… http://www.momscarseatreview.com... google have a look and correct it.

  • http://twitter.com/seopeace SEO Peace

    Google should ensure that such things are not repeated. It is a huge harassment for everybody. No doubt, spam should be avoided and punished
    however at the same time authentic and true sites shouldn’t be harassed.

  • http://uk.rankfirst.info/ Simone Luciani

    Good to know. Would be nice to see if those websites are ranking again as usual. 

  • http://uk.rankfirst.info/ Simone Luciani

    I must say that one of the sites I manage regain all the lost rankings! I think that was the case… 

  • http://www.afmarcom.com/ Angelique

    WHY did Google think those sites were parked? Was there something about the sites that triggered Google’s wrath, or were they perfectly ordinary websites?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VMQNBJRXQJ3U775KGWMR3FMXIQ Korr Mett

    Yeah, we’ll see. If this was the reason why we all of a sudden lost 99% of Google traffic overnight to a perfectly “Google-legal” website, then I don’ even know what to say…

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Jim, we often want to see if something develops more than just a one day glitch, and then we also like to get a comment from Google if we can. That’s what we were waiting for. Suffice to say, our asking about this help trigger the response you saw from Matt.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Darrin-Michael/1113182930 Darrin Michael

    Our rankings for certain keywords is still down! I thought Google said the issue had been corrected? Danny, do you know what’s going on? It seems to me that I’m not the only individual who is still having issues.

  • http://snipurl.com/2336w5u

    my buddy’s sister got paid $21556 the previous month. she is working on the computer and got a $479800 house. All she did was get fortunate and profit by the information laid out on that web site top of this comment

  • http://newmovementmedia.com/ Shawn Lyles

    I saw a little bit of rank dropping for a few keywords, I was ranked on the first page for. I am wondering if my pages were over optimized or not. What do you think? check out my article that went from page 1 to page none…(alexa.com was the keyword) http://newmovementmedia.com/blog/uncategorized/alexa-com-the-web-information-company-ranking-tools/

  • http://twitter.com/onmarketing onmarketing

    Google almighty xo)

  • http://twitter.com/DaveStopher Dave Stopher

    I saw a rankings drop for one of my sites but this is resolved now. I really think that this apology just shows that Google is trying to get ride of 1 page websites that tend to be link networks.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/KQLK2NZXSB5HBSE4N2DKL5VDHI Warren

    my co-worker’s sister makes $79 every hour on the laptop. She has been fired from work for nine months but last month her pay check was $21644 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Go to this web site and read more CashLazy.c&#111m

  • http://twitter.com/HireSEOExpertLA Jakub Wiacek

    its not fixed now! we are waiting….

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/DH2KQZ5UI3IVMOOO35DLKLYZHM Jim

    Thanks for the reply Danny. I guess I was just surprised that it hadn’t been mentioned on any of the big blogs. However yes that makes sense, you guys have writers, editors, quality control, etc etc to get through before anything gets published. (which is a good thing) Forums by nature are open season. One thing I have to ask you Danny.
     Do you believe that a file can be left empty on the production system of one of the most powerful code shops on the planet? I know Matt probably dumbed down his answer for the general public and wouldn’t want to get to specific, but it really seems suspicious to me.

  • http://www.searchforoffer.net/ Searchforoffer

    have you got the answer ?? I have not yet got it 

  • http://www.searchforoffer.net/ Searchforoffer

    some may be dead because of heart attack

  • http://www.searchforoffer.net/ Searchforoffer

    have you got back your ranking

  • http://www.searchforoffer.net/ Searchforoffer

    I also have the issue yet 

  • http://www.j2pulsa.com/ Pulsa

    We really hope Google has a powerful resources and well-educated engineers to create proper and useful algorithm, not just pretend to be

  • http://www.wordpresssites.net/wordpress/ BradleyDalton.com

    My traffic was growing at a healthy rate then got hit hard at the start of this week down 30-50%. I asked Google for a reconsideration and still waiting for a reply. Can’t see it as a penalty but maybe its because of an expired change of address after 6 months which ended on monday?  Any thoughts?

  • http://www.facebook.com/indianseocompany Seo CompanyIndia

    Good post Danny!! Yes, sometimes it happens that the site ranking falls down drastically. This post would gives a good concept of”parked domain”. I also like the sayings of Matt Cutts. It is true due to the existence of this parked domain, sometimes our sites goes down in google ranking. Thanks for this informative post!!

    Regards,
    Aditi Datta
    http://www.indian-seo-company.com/

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    Any idea if any of the effected sites have recovered? While it’s great that Google is admitting fault, that’s little consolation to the site owners that are still waiting to bounce back.

  • http://www.bloggingcage.com/ Kulwant Nagi

    Over optimization has affected some sites so badly that they have lost big traffic in just one day !! There must be some warning kind of thing or some saturation point for over optimization !!

  • Robert Varga

    No, not yet, i see on my statistics.

  • Χρήστος – Αναστάσιος Κωστούρος

    Consider all of you Reading my small post here. I promise that you will LOVE it. I promise. This is knowledge about SEO and Google algorithms that you CANNOT miss.
    Just go here:
    http://googlicious.gr/matt-cutts-only/ 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/4QTLU64GNIZR6RIHNMEAHB7KOY Pauline

    my roomate’s ex-wife makes $73/hour on the computer. She has been unemployed for five months but last month her check was $12185 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more here CashLazy.c&#111m

  • http://twitter.com/KurtHenninger KurtHenninger

    I believe this is the reason behind Seer Interactive’s issue…but that one seems to have been resolved.

  • AdwordsAgencySA

    Strategic PR is to not always be right and apologise when you are not. It builds trust. Well done Google…

  • http://blog.clayburngriffin.com/ Clayburn Griffin

    Well, for me, it seemed all the domains I had hosted together were hit.  And it just happens that I host my parked domains on the same hosting I use for my personal blog and website.  So, those two went down and had no reason to.  

  • hfase

    How does that have anything to do with what I said? Go spam someone else’s reply.

  • http://www.searchforoffer.net/ Searchforoffer

    same with me 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Hi-Etopmost/100002330662755 Hi Etopmost

    This is a nice post. Our traffic was down by 60%, We have not recovered yet. Did every one start to recover?

  • http://www.cutey.co.uk/ cutey

    Any idea when this will be fixed? or is it?

  • http://www.facebook.com/fionn.downhill Fionn Downhill

    Yes on life support until the rankings come back….

  • MalGreen

    I am still skeptical.  The fact that all my clients that received a warning received a penalty. While I do not have any clients that received a penalty without a warning. My other question is, is this really a penalty or simply a devaluation of the “unnatural” links? any thoughts?

  • http://www.searchforoffer.net/ Searchforoffer

    OK , So what is the situation now ? have you all got your ranking back ? and if I have not got it back yet is it mean that this was not the case with my site ?

  • MathewBruce001

    Its difficult to digest when Google makes a mistake, website which doesn’t have a sitemap have faced this problem. Regular updates on the website would be ideal, even if the rankings drop it wouldn’t disappear. We will have to wait for couple of days until the Google Shuffling stops and then make the neccessary amendments.

  • Guillermo López Velarde Gonzál

    I’m getting hopeless D: haha seems like it’s not going to get fixed soon…  my ranks just keep dropping like no end :(

  • injurydoctor ny

    i have a couple of client sites that have dropped in ranking and im just praying that its a glitch — This is nerve racking! This business is my bread and butter — 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-Goff/100003745805608 Adam Goff

    my classmate’s sister-in-law makes $84 hourly on the laptop. She has been fired for 7 months but last month her income was $9078 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Go to this site N u t t y R i c h dot cöm

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