Google: Sorry We Accidentally Penalized Your Site

Mar 21, 2013 • 8:27 am | comments (36) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Digg LogoYesterday, Digg was completely delisted from Google's search index. Some thought it was an issue with their robots.txt file, some thought it was a Google bug and some had no idea what to think.

What was it? Google accidentally penalized the whole site. Yes, it was an accident.

Matt Cutts, Google's head of search spam, said on Hacker News, "we were tackling a spammer and inadvertently took action on the root page of"

Google released an official statement as well:

We're sorry about the inconvenience this morning to people trying to search for Digg. In the process of removing a spammy submitted link on, we inadvertently applied the webspam action to the whole site. We're correcting this, and the fix should be deployed shortly.

Shortly after, someone responded to Matt on Hacker News asking, "if this would happen to a less popular site, what chances does a site-owner have of getting attention to this problem, and getting it fixed?"

Forum discussion at Hacker News.

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Michael Cropper

03/21/2013 12:32 pm

My thoughts; Absolutely ludicrous


03/21/2013 01:35 pm

"In any hierarchy, each individual rises to his own level of incompetence, and then remains there." Murphy's Law in action ? Does Google achieve its level of incompetence ?

Sandeep Pattanaik

03/21/2013 01:52 pm

Google always does the same mistake many times. You see in interflora case. After 2-3 days google again index interflora. Damn.. what happen to google?????


03/21/2013 02:27 pm

In this whole story, I am more surprised that Google bothers to delist certain pages on a site due to spammy links... Personally, I wouldn't bother. If Digg doesn't care to monitor their own site for spam, just delist the whole site. I would have just said that we delisted your site because it contains spam. If Google can monitor so many sites, I'm sure Digg can monitor just their own. Surprised that no one is pointing this out.

Michael Martinez

03/21/2013 02:39 pm

Sites like DIGG can be turned into fulcrums for spam. If Google is willing to experiment with surgical despamming, I say more power to them. They'll also figure out a way to scale it out.

Barry Schwartz

03/21/2013 02:40 pm

It would be interesting to 'dig' deeper into this to see how that works but I doubt we will find out.

Kevin Gerding

03/21/2013 04:24 pm

If it happened to a smaller site, like the poster questioned, you would get the same follow-up response you see from Matt in that thread - nothing.


03/21/2013 08:30 pm

it clear sign what google so overdoing with their penalties. Any small website not have any chance to survive at such conditions. I just waiting when ALL websites in the world will penalized, google will total adwords search engine, cool! Because everybody will know what this is not normal web search engine.


03/21/2013 09:18 pm

Google is just playing with major websites! just like they penalized BBC's article the other day :)


03/21/2013 10:08 pm

Been there. It took about a year for Google to finally re-list one of my sites.

Christopher West

03/21/2013 10:13 pm

er I think they made that mistake with one of my sites too ;)

George Hilbert

03/21/2013 11:26 pm

This is one (relatively minor) reason citizens of the USA must guard their right to keep and bear arms.

Prashant Bairwa

03/22/2013 04:22 am

It should be taken care of before taking any big and small action.If it was for new site or small business site then no body would have noticed this and it was End with penalty.

Ranu Jain Gupta

03/22/2013 04:36 am

May be it happened because a few days back Digg had announced that they are coming up with the replacement for Google Reader ;) Well, good to see that Google has admitted its fault and re-indexed the site back.


03/22/2013 05:07 am

Will Google penalize itself if it find its own site for spam while it is doing nothing but other playing a game? Don't you think it would be better to tell people why they are exactly being penalized for... Robin perhaps has the right imaging that its a time when a path is being created that leads to the Adwords stadium only. Gather and play safe.

Khalid Irfan

03/22/2013 05:44 am

Thats right Ahsan, these big websites like BBC doesnt need google, they should block the google bot to drawl down :)

Maulik Masrani

03/22/2013 07:13 am

Kevin 1000% agree with you. Barry We request you to ask this question to "The Matt Cutts" what if any small medium site will face this problem ?

Powder White ❄

03/22/2013 11:11 am

I'm in UK, The Google Updates and the Rusty Brick spam list pages are showing a database error, is it my connection or is something going on there?


03/22/2013 12:01 pm

What the hell are you talking about?


03/22/2013 12:44 pm

what happen if domain registrar for main google domain will tell something like it?

Guy Code

03/22/2013 04:38 pm

Kiss the ring digg

Kenneth von Rauch

03/22/2013 06:57 pm

I guess it would never happen if it were a site that hardly anybody knows about. That approach scares me actually.


03/22/2013 11:16 pm

Yeah they should tell people what they are penalizing them for, but Digg should also monitor their own site. In this case, I am assuming that the spam pages were created by someone that trying to sell pharmaceutical products or something as bad as that. In such cases, I think the site owner should be held responsible. Of course if I had a UGC site I might see things a bit different. As for Digg, the other issue here is that Google is only removing individual pages of that site because it's a brand and because Google users expect to find Digg when they search for it. It's again, Google doing what is best for their business. They would take another route with a small business...


03/23/2013 02:03 am

MC and other googlers lie, Google is for big sites only.


03/24/2013 02:02 pm

Monopolyof the Google, Nothing else.

Michael Aulia

03/25/2013 12:31 am

Exactly my thoughts

Arun Jaiswal

03/25/2013 04:55 am

I think google Unnecessary present Mc [MATT cutt, NOW I feed bad to see his face on the NET] as HERO,.. Google is WORD wide Big company and have a lot of other business activity other than SEARCH... BUT After PANDA and Penguin itr Seems that MC is CEO of google... I think Google Management should think about their Goodwill and BRAND image .. History Always ALERT to DICTATORS ..


03/25/2013 10:22 am

Yeah, I would say the same thing, Kevin. Small and even medium sites are totally unprotected against Google's penalties. Still, it's vital to know how to define what kind of penalty hit you (a nice way to do this is explained here: If there's a manual penalty involved it's only a matter of reconsideration requests and they take too much time and usually are negative. SEO is becoming darker and darker matter...


03/25/2013 10:41 am

Oh! GOOGLE also has a word "Sorry" in their directory. But what about those other small business who have been the victim of Google Panda and penguin.

mayur kawale

03/25/2013 10:46 am

I think the chances are very low of same rollback, considering the small sites.....

Ahmad Wali

03/28/2013 10:59 am

In your dreams, Google never respond to small business owners.

aj martin

03/31/2013 10:38 pm

Google is perfect - must have been Digg's mistake.

Sarah Nuner

05/05/2013 02:34 pm



05/09/2013 05:05 pm

One of my mates blog was also deleted from google searches recently and gmail was down for couple of hours..what is hell is happening wid these googlites..:/


06/13/2013 06:24 pm

Sorry!!! Google does so many dirty mistakes in Past and still continuing...Never expect these kind of mistakes from this web giant.

Flower Delivery Guy

06/27/2013 12:48 pm

i read constantly about playing by the rules and so on but to be hones all i see is cheats being number one two and three. how on earth can you produce 20k links and more by manual effort, lets be serious now.

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