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Google backs out of the position 6 penalty

Three weeks ago, we informed you about Google's new position 6 penalty. At this time, it was unclear why Google assigned this penalty to some websites.

The theories were that Google considered usage data when calculating the rankings and that Google had a better understanding of word and phrase relationships.

Was this just a bug in Google's algorithm?

In a discussion about this problem, Google's Matt Cutts recently wrote the following:

"When Barry asked me about 'position 6' in late December, I said that I didn't know of anything that would cause that. But about a week or so after that, my attention was brought to something that could exhibit that behavior. We're in the process of changing the behavior; I think the change is live at some datacenters already and will be live at most data centers in the next few weeks."


This statement means two things:

  1. It seems that Google made a mistake that sent many position 1 rankings to position 6.

  2. Google has released a patch for this.

Indeed, many webmasters who experienced problems with the position 6 penalty reported that their rankings are now as good as before.

What was Google trying to do?

Even if Google says that the position 6 penalty was not intended, it is clear that Google tried to do something with the results.

What was it and will Google continue to do this without the unwanted position 6 effect?

The changes might have something to do with Google's increased integration of Universal Search in the results. In addition to the normal 10 web page results, Google now often returns results from Google Images, Google Maps, Google News or other Google services.

The way Google integrates Universal Search results into the normal search results changed during the last weeks. These changes also might have caused the temporary position 6 problem.

If your website has been affected by the position 6 penalty you can relax. Your web pages should have regained their high positions by now.

If your website doesn't have top 10 rankings on Google yet, you should take a look at IBP's top 10 optimizer. The top 10 optimizer will help you to get top 10 positions for keywords that are really relevant for your website.

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February 2008 search engine articles