If you’ve been hit with a manual penalty from Google, it can be a real pain. Not only will your site’s traffic take a hit, but you’ll also have to go through the process of trying to fix the issue and get the penalty removed.
What Are Manual Penalties?
Manual penalties are imposed by Google when they believe that a site has violated one or more of their webmaster guidelines. These violations range from thin or duplicate content to link schemes and doorway pages.
You’ll be notified in your Google Search Console account if you receive a manual penalty. From there, you can see which pages on your site are affected and the specific issue.
Types of Google Manual Penalties
There are two types of manual penalties that you can receive from Google: partial and site-wide. A partial manual penalty will only affect a specific section or pages on your site, while a site-wide penalty will affect your entire site.
Since it is regarded as spam, keyword stuffing is one of the most common reasons for manual action due to irrelevant keywords being overly used on a page only to attract traffic instead of informing the users.
Not all users commenting on your content have your best interest at heart. Some comments may contain malicious links and can be perceived as spammy and, thus, lead to manual action.
Spammy content generated by users on forums, blogs, or anywhere users can leave a comment or a link can trigger a manual action penalty.
Automatically Generated Content
Meaningless, incomprehensible content created by AI programs or systems without providing any real value for the users might lead to a manual action.
Intentionally misleading users by redirecting them to a different page than the one that appeared in the search results is a cause for a manual action penalty.
Websites with poor and unoriginal content mostly or completely copied from other websites without providing any additional value, can be given manual action and even lead to copyright issues.
Since doorway pages are malicious pages created for the sole purpose of ranking highly for specific queries, they go against Google’s guidelines and can get you penalized.
Cloaking (Hidden Texts and Links)
Any attempt in manipulating users or search engines is a cause for manual action. As such, cloaking (the act of presenting different content to the users and search engines), is another one.
Your website could get penalized if it uses link schemes and paid backlinks that don’t follow Google’s paid advertising guidelines, such as exchanged links, backlinks without the nofollow attribute, or the “Sponsored” tag.
Content with Little Value / Thin Value
Any content on your website with little or no added value is at risk of manual action.
Security issues may cause Google to inform visitors that a website or one of its pages is being hacked to protect them as well as website owners. Unlike manual actions, security issues require that spam is reviewed manually.
What is the Duration of a Manual Action Penalty?
An official time limit does not exist for manual action penalties. Some might be lifted in a couple of days or weeks, while more serious offenses can result in a 1-2 year penalty. You can shorten the penalty period by sending reconsideration requests and fixing any related problems.
How to Avoid Manual Penalties
The best way to avoid manual penalties is to play by the rules, follow Google’s guidelines, and create high-quality, original content that provides value to users. If you’re ever unsure whether something could be seen as manipulative or spammy, it’s always best to err on the side of caution
What to Do if You Receive a Manual Penalty?
If you do find yourself hit with a manual penalty, you should log into your Google Search Console account and check for any messages. Google will usually send a message to your account if you’ve been penalized. From there, you can start working on fixing the issue and submitting a reconsideration request.
If you’re unsure how to fix the issue, a number of resources are available to tap into, including the Google Webmaster Guidelines. You can also contact a professional SEO company that can help you troubleshoot the issue and get your site back on track.
Google manual penalties can be a massive blow to your website’s ranking and traffic. However, they are not insurmountable.
If you have been hit with a penalty, take some time to assess the situation and determine the cause. Once you know what needs fixing, start making necessary changes as soon as possible and submit a reconsideration request.
With patience and perseverance, you can get your site back on track.