There are at least a dozen known Google penalties and probably several dozen more that SEO firms suspect exist but haven’t taken the plunge to test out. As far as I know Fruition is the first to write about the Google Domain Registrant Penalty. The Google Domain Registrant Penalty (“GDRP”) knocks out all domains registered under a certain entities name. Here’s how I found out it exists.
In February 2010 I purchased DenverColorado.org from BuyDomains. I purchased it for obvious reasons, it’s a great domain, Fruition is headquartered in Denver, a lot of Fruition’s clients are in Denver, and I still have delusions of competing with the DenverPost and making the site into a destination for news and features about Denver.
Since it was a new domain name (meaning no content, not a new registration) the first order of business was to get some good high quality content up on the site. I decided that a year of building good content was needed before we could spend some money on the design and development of unique features for the website. Fruition hired five Denver metro copywriters to write about anything that struck them as interesting about Denver. All content was proofed by an editor and run through Copyscape. The content is definitely better than content you see on Associated Content, HuffPo, and all of Demand Media’s websites, that was on purpose. We weren’t creating a low quality content site, we were creating a destination site for everything related to Denver.
Everything seemed to be going along as planned. We were getting some long tail search visits, visitors seemed to be engaging in the content, and new website content was getting picked up pretty quick. Since I had a long term view of the website I wasn’t concerned about its search engine rankings thus I didn’t even monitor the main keywords. We were just on cruise control for a year.
After a year of building content, I started to dig into the websites search engine rankings a bit more. I was pleasantly surprised to see the website in the top 10 for “Denver Colorado” on Bing and of course Yahoo!. I was a little concerned that the site wasn’t showing up anywhere for “denver colorado” on Google. It wasn’t even in the top 1000 spots. That raised an eye brow but we were getting long tail search traffic and the following image shows some impressive impressions via webmaster tools. I figured with some directory submissions a few guest blog posts and getting an article or two Digged it’d pop up quickly. It didn’t. Several other sharp SEO companies helped me come to terms with the fact that there was some sort of Google penalty on the domain name (credits coming soon for you guys).
The image below shows what Google webmaster tools was showing with the penalty. The rankings look pretty decent, don’t they? Number 12 for “Denver Colorado”, number 10 for “Denver, Colorado” (note the comma), etc. Those are solid rankings but when I manually ran the searches the website never showed up. I tried different browsers, different IP addresses, different computers, etc. Thus, webmaster tools was showing where the website should be ranked without a penalty but not where it actually was ranking. The penalty essential removes the site from the search engine results but in webmaster tools it looked like everything was normal.
When it became clear that there was something wrong with the domain name I became worried that whatever happened before we purchased it had carried through to the current registration. This was worrisome because we have thousands of domain names registered not only for our company but for our clients as well. Time to start digging into the history of the domain name again and find out what the previous owners did that was so bad (which I did before I purchased it and didn’t find anything).
I did a whois search and found out that I made a big mistake. I never changed the domain registration from BuyDomains to the entity that bought the domain name. Why does this matter? Because all domains at BuyDomains are blacklisted. I know this penalty existed because I’ve checked sites listed on BuyDomains before and they all had Google penalties. I previously assumed that any sites listed on BuyDomains would get blacklisted through some Google bot indexing of the domains listed for sale on their website. Apparently, that is not the case, instead it is tied to their registrant name. It makes sense from a Google quality standpoint because the domain listed for sale doesn’t have any original content on it. This isn’t a knock on BuyDomains. They sell good domain names, it’s just a way for Google to help clean up the search results. In this instance, it makes sense to call it a domain condition and not a Google penalty because Google should remove this automatically very quick once the domain name is purchased. Nevertheless, for simplicity sake it’s probably easiest to refer to it as the Google Domain Registrant Penalty or GDRP.
For the above referenced domain name the penalty hasn’t been removed yet but its only been a few hours. Here are the steps I’ve taken. First, and obviously, I changed the domain name registrant. Second, I deleted the site from webmaster tools and re-verified it. I anticipate that within a week it will show up appropriately for “Denver Colorado.” I’ll keep a time line updated so that you know how fast your purchased domains with a GDRP can get indexed.
It took just three days for Google to update and unblock the domain.
Let me know if you’ve had any similar issues with having a domain registrant getting hit with a registrant wide Google penalty.
To find out if your domain name is blacklisted or in some way penalized try out our free Google penalty checker tool. Setup is super easy and it only takes a few minutes to update.
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