Search Engine Penalties at Yahoo & MSN

In the second of a two-part article, we look at search engine penalties applied by Yahoo and MSN, and how webmasters can avoid them, or get them removed once sites are in the penalty box.

A longer version of this story for Search Engine Watch members explains specific observed penalties applied by Yahoo, and offers suggestions on how to remove them. Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

Part one of this article is Coping with Search Engine Penalties.

Yahoo’s search engine penalties

Yahoo has many penalties, but their systems are much more enigmatic than Google’s. Some penalties are fair, while many people complain in the forums about receiving unfair penalties with Yahoo. I personally have witnessed both.

Yahoo has a very strict spam control department, thus they have many penalties that are applied automatically and many others that are manual.

The main difference between Yahoo and Google is that penalties in Google are automatically removed, while removing penalties in Yahoo is very difficult and can only be accomplished manually, by requesting that Yahoo remove the penalty via email.

In Yahoo’s guidelines pages for webmasters, the following is considered spam:

  • Pages that harm accuracy, diversity or relevance of search results
  • Pages dedicated to directing the user to another page
  • Pages that have substantially the same content as other pages
  • Sites with numerous, unnecessary virtual hostnames
  • Lots of pages that were automatically generated or of little value
  • Pages using methods to artificially inflate search engine ranking
  • The use of text that is hidden from the user
  • Pages that give the search engine different content than what the end-user sees
  • Excessively cross-linking sites to inflate a site’s apparent popularity
  • Pages built primarily for the search engines
  • Misuse of competitor names
  • Multiple sites offering the same content
  • Pages that use excessive pop-ups, interfering with user navigation
  • Pages that seem deceptive, fraudulent or provide a poor user experience

Other Yahoo penalties that I have encountered as an SEO:

  • Acquiring too many inbound links too quickly
  • Setting up sites especially to boost link popularity for other sites
  • Multiple domains owned and promoted by one company
  • Linking to other sites using a 302 redirect
  • cgi scripted links that pointed from other sites to your site, fooling Yahoo’s robot’s into believing your site has duplicate content
  • High anchor density due to scraper sites using similar anchor text, which is the title of the site found in the engines

MSN search engine penalties

MSN has the fewest penalties of any search engine. Currently, they are applying only basic spam checking filters and consequently, penalties are few and spam abundant.

MSN describes the following as undesirable:

The following items and techniques are not appropriate uses of the index:

  • Use of these items and techniques may affect how your site is ranked within MSN Search and may result in the removal of your site from the MSN Search index.
  • Loading pages with irrelevant words in an attempt to increase a page’s keyword density. This includes stuffing ALT tags that users are unlikely to view
  • Using hidden text or links. You should use only text and links that are visible to users
  • Using techniques to artificially increase the number of links to your page, such as link farms


To ensure that your site performs well and ranks consistently, consider the brick and mortar analogy. Treat your site like your store. Study what works, and build on it. Announce your site without engaging in “illegal” practices. As you’re working on your site, think “If Sergey Brin reviewed my site, would he approve of it?” This will help you to establish and maintain a successful site.

Marcela De Vivo is a search engine optimization consultant and the owner of

A longer version of this story for Search Engine Watch members explains specific observed penalties applied by Yahoo, and offers suggestions on how to remove them. Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

Search Headlines

NOTE: Article links often change. In case of a bad link, use the publication’s search facility, which most have, and search for the headline.

Yahoo Launches Audio Search
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A Q&A with Will Johnson, YP & GM of Yahoo Publisher Network Online
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JenSense Aug 3 2005 3:16PM GMT
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Retailers, News Sites Battle For ‘John Roberts’ Searchers
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