by Christine Scott

If you’re new to working with SEO, then you know that it can be all too easy to make a few mistakes. But sometimes those mistakes can cause you to be slapped with a Google penalty. Say what? A Google penalty is a negative effect on a website’s search engine rank based on updates, algorithms, and/or manual review.  It can have a huge effect on a website’s traffic and potentially effect revenue. Removing a Google penalty should be your number one priority if you’re ever to receive it. But first, to remove it you need to know if it’s a manual action or an algorithmic penalty. Today, we’re going to talk about manual actions and walk you through the best way to identify them.

What is a manual action?

Manual actions are penalties based on breaking Google Quality Guidelines. Google has hired people to manually review and check websites for quality control. If they feel like you are not complying with regulations you are then given a penalty. Finding out if you have a manual action penalty is relatively easy. First, you must go to your Google Search Console, formerly known as Google Webmaster Tool. If you’re dealing with a manual action, Google will send you a message via mailbox as well as message you through the manual action section of the console. The email will tell you specifically which penalty you received and if it affects your entire site or only a partial part of it.

Kinds of Manual Action penalties

The most common types of penalties: hacked sites, unnatural links to your site, user-generated spam, and spam structured markup.

  • Unnatural inbound links
    • Google defines unnatural inbound links as deceptive or manipulative links. It believes there is some kind of link scheme going on to attract more traffic. Fixing unnatural inbound links can be long and strenuous. You must first prove to Google that you are working on removing any unnatural links and explain any that you were unable to remove. Link Detox can help you identify the links Google find unnatural. After you’ve identified them, you must contact Webmaster to remove them.
  • Hacked sites
    • Google knows that it is not your fault if your website has been hacked, but if your site has malicious code or malware it isn’t good for any party. You must remove all malicious code or malware then Google will remove the warning to visitors as well as the penalty. The best way to avoid this penalty is to invest in services that specialize in monitoring and securing sites from hackers and malware.
  • User–generated spam
    • User Generated spam is usually found in forums and comment sections of post. Google has a user-generated spam guideline to help you identify which comments and post are causing the penalty and should be deleted.
  • Spam structure markups
    • Structure Markups are text-based organization of data on a file that helps search engines to understand your post or site. Search engines use the data markups to create rich snippet, which is information that appears in search results. You can receive this penalty from marking up irrelevant information or marking up content that is invisible. Here is Google’s Rich Snippet Guidelines to make sure that your markups comply. Once you know and understand the guidelines you can then update your markups or remove the ones that are in violation of them.

How to request reconsideration of your site

Once you’ve resolved the manual action penalty you must fill out a request reconsideration form. Google will then review your site. If it believes your site no longer violates its guidelines, you will receive a message in your Search Console account and the manual action will be removed.

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