Google's "minus 950" penalty comes up every now and then and now it is coming up again at the WebmasterWorld forums.
The thread goes into how a few webmasters are claiming around the time of the Google EMD update they got hit by a -950 penalty. Now, they all say they do not have exact match domains, and thus do not qualify for the EMD update. Note, Panda also struck down around then, but they claim they are not a Panda like site.
So now the question is, can you recover from a -950 penalty? In 2007, Google's Cutts confirmed the -950 penalty is related to over optimization.
Donna said at the thread that she helped a site recover from it, she wrote:
I had one site at -950 for long time till I tried to de-optimize the OnPage SEO, it recovered in less then a month afterwords.
Whereas bwnbwn said there is no recovery:
A 950 is the death sentence and your better off moving on.
Personally, I find it hard to believe you can't recover because sites have recovered over the past several years from this.
Tedster from WebmasterWorld wrote:
My main point is this. No matter how low you are currently ranking, it is not a cause for hopelessness - especially if you used to rank well. The fact that your URL is still in the result set anywhere at all is a positive sign in a very negative situation.
The main point I want to make is that these "penalties" are algorithms that adapt over time but never always fully go away. So the -950 penalty from several years ago, well - yea, it is still here in one way or another. Knowing which penalty your site was hit by, well that is hard.
Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.