Spam problems: Search Engine Land’s ultimate guide to Google penalties and messages

The message highlighting just spam problems is a toned-down version of the major spam problems notification. The wording is similar, albeit less bleak. While past variations of this message occasionally mentioned specifically “thin content” and/or “internal doorway pages,” recently a single message applied more generally to “spam problems” has become the standard.

This manual action suggests that, while the website isn’t entirely bad, bits and pieces are not good enough. That could refer to thin content( (generally considered spammy), and it may very well refer to doorway pages — which, by definition, must be of low quality, as their primary purpose is to redirect users to another location rather than immediately providing an answer.

Typically, a penalty associated with the spam problems message does not result in a complete removal from Google Search. Querying the site: search operator will often confirm that the site is still indexed, though it will likely be much less visible in organic Google Search Results.

Google may try to go about the penalty surgically, penalizing only the offending pages and folders, but leaving the rest of the site intact. That tends to be the case if the violation is clearly isolatable, e.g., doorway pages are located exclusively within a directory like The exact scope of the penalty is usually not revealed to the site owner, and it can, therefore, be difficult to determine the impact the penalty has on site visibility.

How to go about removing the penalty

Removing this manual penalty will require a thorough site review, especially with regard to content quality. Large sites are better off conducting an all-out audit in order to identify which content is being indexed and which is not. For the thin content, webmasters will need to decide if (and how) it can be improved to meet standards, or if it is best to utilize noindex to avoid indexing low-quality content (which could possibly improve crawl budget distribution in the long run as well).

The evaluation process must include a landing page engagement assessment. It must not be driven by looking at word counts. It is not the length of content that may be an important factor, but rather how useful and engaging the landing page’s contents are to users.

Before a reconsideration request can be submitted to Google, doorway pages will need to be removed, and the content strategy will require revamping (often shifting toward less content that is more useful and robust). All these steps are to be properly documented for the reconsideration request in order to put the best foot forward.

Spam Problems notification

Spam problems Google notification, indicating thin content and/or possibly doorway pages

Regardless of the penalty applied, under no circumstances should an empty or placeholder page with a bare “Hello world!” message be submitted for reconsideration. Google clearly states in their notifications that such sites/pages do not qualify for reconsideration and will be rejected due to insufficient efforts made.

Hello World example

A blank or placeholder page instead of a thin content site is no substitute and will be deemed an insufficient effort for a reconsideration request to be successful.

Manual penalties in regard to thin content tend to affect large websites with tens of thousands or more crawlable and indexable pages. A successful reconsideration with the very first attempt is an achievable goal, and a speedy recovery is possible. Cases of sites actually doing better in organic Google Search after dropping their thin content and focusing on quality landing pages are not uncommon.

Unlike sites hit with major spam or pure spam penalties, sites affected by this manual penalty are not fundamentally on a collision course with Google Webmaster Guidelines. In most cases, improvements are needed and a fresh start from square one is required.


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