I committed to blogging the good, the bad and ugly. So here’s ugly.

From Friday the 23rd our organic search traffic disappeared excepting the home page terms and subsequent traffic.

From a little research in the Google webmaster forums we appear to be have been algorithmically hit by something termed the, “-50 penalty”. I say algorithmically because we’ve received no notification via Google’s Webmaster Tools. Thanks to Matt Cutts via Hacker News and a Google reinclusion request, it’s confirmed this is algorithmic.

We relate the term, “-50” to our experience as our business listing pages, “business name, where” queries certainly seem to have been pushed from first or second page to page 3-5 or 6.

See: Decorama Fine Woodworking San Diego

What are we guilty of?:

We took a long hard look at the site over the weekend from a third party perspective, Google eyes, and as far as we can see, the penalty may have been incurred by having what Google describes as doorway pages. http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/search.py?query=doorway+pages+more%3Aforum&ctx=en%3Asearchbox&forum=1

Catch 22:

These aren’t doorway pages, but pages that propagate content as listings are claimed and categorized. What we think is irrelevant, however.

Without Google as a high part of our early traffic mix, these pages won’t get content.

Bootstrapping as we do means we have a very tight budget, that’s currently all dedicated to core product improvements and doesn’t allow for paid search, yet.

What we intend to do:

Quite simply, remove those pages that are causing Google to think we are creating Doorway pages from it’s own index. That is, for all pages that have no content, (Or very thin content) we are going to apply a robots directive to noindex,follow. As these pages start to propagate content, we’ll remove the noindex directive and we’ve already started work to only present facets of search, (On our results pages) that only propagate content, (As opposed to, “No results found”)

How patient should we be:

According to Matt Cutts, (Head of Google web spam & Google Webmaster outreach front guy) we should wait 30 days and see what happens. We will…

Plan B & C…:

Yes, we need to have these as well… but I’ll save those until 30 days after the, “Doorway page” fixes.

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