Hit by Google’s hammer: How to deal with a Manual Action penalty

Facing a Manual Action Penalty from Google can be very tough and confusing for many marketing specialists, SMB website owners and web developers. If you’ve faced a Manual Action Penalty it is important to overcome it in order to maintain exposure to your website and business and to minimise the potential long-term damage to the success of your website in organic search.

Road block googles hammer - Google Manual Action Penalty

What is a manual action?

A Manual Action is a method employed by Google to penalise, demote and/or completely remove a website from their search index. It will only be enforced by Google if a website’s content is found to have seen a marketing specialist or a website developer/owner has broken the Google Webmaster Guidelines. 

Google employs thousands of human reviewers, the manual action is applied by a human reviewer. In addition to this, Google employs entire teams dedicated to the ongoing battle of spam and search manipulation, manual actions are implemented as one course of action regarding the fight against spam. 

The method in which these penalties are applied involves the manual review of a website against a quality rating document and the Webmaster Guidelines. Google uses algorithmic detection and spam report submissions in order to bring a website to a human reviewer’s attention, from there, it is up to the reviewer to enforce any penalties.

As a digital marketer, website developer or an SMB owner, it is very important that if you are subject to a manual action penalty, it is treated with seriousness. In more serious scenarios and penalties, websites will see the effect of the manual action penalty both short and long term. This can be seen through a large reduction in traffic and rank placement, to an unrecoverable extent. In the most serious cases, websites can be removed from Google’s search index.

Why does google implement manual actions?

Although it is evident that the development of search engines has improved a considerable amount, it has also become understood by business’ such as Google, it is inevitable that there will always be website developers and owners who may aim to manipulate a search engine to find their way to the top result.

In terms of why, Google has communicated their reasoning well to all website developers, owners and digital marketers. This is through highlighting that these manual actions attempt to resolve spam and manipulation of SEO through improvements to their algorithms. These manual actions allow for a standardised penalty for sites who use these unethical techniques to optimise their rankings.

Why might a manual action be given?

When a site is found to have violated the Webmaster Guidelines, it will be be for one or more of the following types of manual action:

  1. Sneaky Mobile redirects
  2. User-generated spam
  3. AMP content Mismatch
  4. Spammy Free Hose
  5. Hidden Text/ Keyword Stuffing
  6. Structured Data Issue
  7. Cloaked Images
  8. Unnatural Inbound Links
  9. Pure Spam
  10. Unnatural Outbound Links
  11. Think Content With Little Or No Value
  12. Cloaking / Sneaky Redirects

How do you fix a manual action penalty?

It is important for a Web developer, owner and/or a digital marketer to act fast and correctly following a Manual Action Penalty. Recovering from the penalty in many cases can be achieved easily, through rectifying the violation or correcting a mistake on the website.

It is suggested by the Google webspam team on their Help Centre page to follow their recommended actions regarding each manual action penalty. These recommendations range from unintentional violations to purposeful wrongdoings. It is outlined that each recovery process is different and some may be more complicated than others. In the most serious cases, the assistance of an SEO and manual action removal professional may be needed. 

Ultimately, all of the recommendations that are available lead those who are penalised back to the webspam team via the search console. This would involve a Reconsideration Request explaining the quality issue on the site which resulted in the penalty, and the website owner must explain the method in which the issue has been resolved; documenting the outcome of the steps taken.

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