Google Now Reports “Practically 100%” Of Manual Actions

google-penalty-squareWondering if some human at Google has reviewed your web site and decided it deserves to be penalized in Google’s search results? Google’s now reporting such cases nearly 100% of the time.

“We’ve actually started to send messages for pretty much every manual action that we do that will directly impact the ranking of your site,” said Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s web spam team, when speaking at the Pubcon conference this week.

“If there’s some manual action taken by the manual web spam team that means your web site is going to rank directly lower in the search results, we’re telling webmasters about pretty much about all of those situations,” he continued.

Cutts said there might be a rare “corner case” that might not make it but that reporting is “practically 100%” and “the intent is to get to 100%, and as far as I know, we’re actually there.”

It’s very similar to what Cutts said when speaking at SMX Advanced this June. Then, he gave a 99% figure. Now, the rounding is up to 100% and is even more noteworthy to highlight.

It’s a good time to review the two types of actions that Google has: manual and algorithmic. Google also refers to them as “actions” rather than penalties, even though for most impacted by these, they’ll feel like a penalty, because they may rank lower, often dramatically so.

Manual Actions

With a manual action, some human being at Google has reviewed a site and decided to issue a penalty against it (usually manual actions are indeed penalties). The review might be triggered by a spam report from an outsider or just Google’s regular policing.

Removing manual penalties often involve the targeted site filing a reconsideration request along with showing a good faith effort to correct a problem. For example, last year, JC Penney was hit with a 90 day penalty for paid links. It made an effort to clean up those links, submitted a reconsideration request and the penalty was eventually removed, deemed “tough and the appropriate length,” as Cutts said last year.

How do you know if you have a manual action? This should be reported to you through Google Webmaster Central, if you’ve verified your site there.

Algorithmic Actions

With an algorithmic action, Google’s assessed what feels like penalty against a site through an automated means. In other words, something with the site is causing Google’s computer algorithms to prevent the site from ranking as high as it could.

“Feels like a penalty?” I know, but Google’s adamant that algorithmic actions aren’t penalties but rather simply part of how Google ranks sites overall. Indeed, Google has a wide variety of factors it uses to determine how well any page should rank. Sites that please the algorithm do well; those that don’t get less visibility. That’s SEO 101.

But for almost two years now, Google’s introduced a number of algorithmic filters or “updates” that have had a noticeable impact on some sites beyond its usual algorithmic tweaks. The names of these updates will be familiar to many:

  • Panda, introduced Feb. 2011 to fight sites with poor quality content
  • Top Heavy, launched in Jan. 2012 to prevent sites “top heavy” with ads from ranking well
  • Penguin, introduced in April 2012 to better combat web spam
  • Pirate, launched in Aug. 2012 to penalize sites with many copyright complaints
  • EMD, introduced in Sept. 2012 to prevent poor quality “exact match domain” sites from ranking well

Sites caught by these filters will feel like they’ve been assessed a penalty. But unlike with manual actions, filing a reconsideration request won’t help. The only appeal is to the algorithm. That means making changes and waiting for the next time one of the filters is updated, to see if the site is no longer caught.

The articles below explain more about this cycle of fix-and-wait, when dealing with algorithm actions:

More articles about penalties, actions and specific filters can be found below.

Related Articles

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Features: Analysis | Google: SEO | Google: Web Search | Google: Webmaster Central | Top News


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • Hyderali Shaikh

    What about -950 penalty?

    Now, how can we please the user who’ll manually check our site & decide a penalty against it? There should some kind of guidance or notes given to them by google to make sure those people are first looking at the points before issuing a penalty.

  • Eric Scism

    I mean honestly we had to see this coming. The algo can only do so much, sometimes we need a human judgement call on sites. I’m not saying it’s fair, but it is to be expected!

  • keaner

    They have a whole guideline book for those raters, they are not just deciding on there own. ):

  • Zach

    A really good article Danny, clears too much questions. Thanks for this :)

  • Yw

    nice to know that. at least we won’t have to second guess if we are being secretly manually penalized when we see organic traffic drops..

  • ankit TheRealScholar

    can not understand it even a bit ; can any one help me in finding simpler version of this update???

  • Dean Paul

    Does anything come out of Cutts mouth that is not BS? Yeah big coincidence they lose money 3rd q and now decent sites (not all but many) nowhere to be found) the results across many niches very poor, they are trying to force people to pay for advertising,so any one that pays these greedy jerks good luck

  • Paddy_O_Door

    I’d be interested to hear Cutts’ opinion on negative SEO, especially now that he’s made a night vs. day comparison between artificial and natural links.
    For less than $5 an hour, I could hire people halfway around the world to spam the heck out of a competitor. Sure, some of it might not stick, but if X% did register on Google’s radar as spam, then my effort has been fruitful when they start to lose rankings. It will take them time to disavow suspicious links because they will have to review them manually.
    Yes, I’m an angry casualty of the animal updates, but that’s part of the game.
    Honestly, I wouldn’t spam against a competitor, but what’s stopping someone else from doing it to me?

  • Sandra Tormo Britapaja

    hi danny google penalyzed one of my blogs in august and the tell me that was an automatically decision an i made 8 revision submitts and i actually receiving each week 6- 8 from a indian visitor i thougt that a google revisor but all the times my blog is closed. And i have to make another order. fuck google they are overbookked

  • Alan

    Cutts’ opinion on negative seo will be vague and pointless like every opinion he gives!

    Apparently Google has psychic abilities built into the algorithm they can tell when it is you and not your competitor who smashing all those crap links at your site!

    For $100 at fiverr you could a lot of damage to a competitor. That can be multi millions of crappy links blasted at a website!

    Apparently whitehat webmasters would never dream of blasting their competition with these sorts of gigs.

  • Alan

    Good article Danny

  • Yousee

    No matter what, still EMD websites with poor content are visible in the 1st page especially in the keywords related “Loans”

  • Egan Rao

    Big foot and layout is not declared.. However, it’s nice to see the start date if those big algo changes

  • Hoang Nguyen

    I have nothing to say because Google is too intelligent. Everything Google is doing is to serve the user. I totally agree with the policy of Google.

  • Nick Stamoulis

    It’s important that site owners understand the difference between manual and algorithmic penalties. I see so many site owners submit reconsideration requests and wonder why nothing happens.

  • Danny Sullivan

    Since you know what I’ll say, I guess I shouldn’t say anything. But what I have said is that you can pick any search and find outliers, and you can also find searches that just match you think wow, many of the results are bad. But overall, the results are clearly not so bad as to cause people to be leaving Google, because they’re not. That’s not to excuse Google for having bad results, and I’ve written about this plenty in the past. But people aren’t abandoning Google. By the way, run that same search on Bing. Many of those odd sites rank on Bing, as well.

  • Jereme Thomas

    So if you are running Google Webmaster Tools on your site and you do not receive a notification that your site has been penalized there is no point in submitting a Google Reconsideration Request. Is this correct?

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