Sign up for our daily recaps of the ever-changing search marketing landscape.
All Google Manual Penalties Explained from SMX East
Eric Enge shared insights at the "All Google Manual Penalties Explained" session.
How can you identify if your site is suffering from a manual penalty?
Google’s manual penalties differ from algorithmic updates such as Panda for content or Penguin for links. Those updates can also be perceived as penalties since sites also tend to lose their organic search visibility as a result. However, Google manual penalties are triggered by a manual change to your site. They’re done by Google’s reviewers, who will assess your site following Google’s quality guidelines.
If the reviewers find that your site is not following Google’s quality guidelines, you’ll receive a manual action notice in the relevant site’s Google Search Console, explaining how the site is not compliant with the guidelines and whether this is happening in certain pages or at a site level.
Manual penalties are usually sent for the following actions:
- Unnatural links to your website.
- Unnatural links from your website.
- User Generated Content spam.
- Hacked website.
- Pure spam.
- Spammy structured markup.
- Hidden text or keyword stuffing.
- Thin content with low or no added value.
- Cloaking or sneaky redirects penalty.
- Spammy freehosts.
How can you get out from a manual penalty?
The “thin content pages” penalty is one of the most common content-related penalties, shown usually for sites with:
- business listings that have no specifically relevant and useful information in them, which are mostly ad-targeted.
- pages featuring curated links with no additional content in them.
- doorway pages whose only purpose is to obtain search traffic and convert it, with little added value, often poorly linked from the other site pages.
If your site suffers from this or another type of content quality penalty, the initial step is to find your poor-quality pages. Then you need to decide whether to improve their content so those page start featuring specifically relevant and unique text content that delivers value to the user or to prevent their getting indexed by 301-redirecting or canonicalizing the poor-quality pages to better content page versions or noindexing the weak pages with a meta robots noindex, follow tag.
In the case of the link-related penalties, some of the unnatural links that can cause trouble are:
- web directories.
- article directories.
- international links.
- bad anchor text mix.
- coupon codes.
- poor quality widgets.
- affiliate links.
Ideally, you should work on a day-to-day basis to avoid suffering a penalty. In the case of the link-related ones, you should prune your bad links by using various link resources. Categorize and analyze them in order to identify those that are very low-quality and/or following an unnatural pattern.
Only eliminate unnatural links that are really hurting your site. Although certain tools can help with this process, to avoid further errors, it is critical to understand that this process shouldn’t be completely automated.
One of the most common issues in the link-pruning process is finding that certain links cannot be removed from the sites where they have been placed. In this case, you can use Google’s own disavow tool, which can be found in the Search Console.
After you take these actions to make sure your site’s page content and links now comply with Google’s quality standard, you should then submit a reconsideration request, for which you are reminded to:
- be respectful.
- be brief and to the point.
- acknowledge what you have done.
- clearly state that you intend to follow Google’s Guidelines from now on.
If you want more details about Google’s manual penalties, read Search Engine Land’s own Google Penalties Guide.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.