Manual Google Penalties & Actions

Google relies primarily upon algorithms to help determine the search engine results pages. However Google will also take manual action on websites that have been using spammy techniques, or link building techniques that are outside of their Terms of Service. In order to determine whether or not your website has a manual penalty you must first setup your Webmaster Tools account, verifying domain ownership during the process. After verifying your domain you’ll want to visit the Message Center and see if there are any notices from Google regarding penalties.

In the event that there is a manual Google penalty notice you’ll want to read the message to determine what kind of penalty your website has received. Manual actions include, but are not limited to:

  • Unnatural links to your site – impacts links
  • Hacked site
  • User-generated spam
  • Spammy freehosts
  • Unnatural links to your site
  • Thin content with little or no added value
  • Cloaking and/or sneaky redirects
  • Unnatural links from your site
  • Pure spam
  • Hidden text and/or keyword stuffing

You will notice that many of the penalties listed have to do with the backlinks pointed to your website. However there are other penalties such as thing content and/or hidden text that have to do with the content found on your website rather than the backlinks pointed to them. I will break down each penalty and the best course of action to removing the penalty as fast as possible.

Unnatural links to your site—impacts links

This is one of the most common manual Google penalties in the last couple of years. As Google has refined their algorithms they’ve been able to identify unnatural links with better precision resulting in the ability to roll-out manual penalties quickly to those Webmasters that have been caught “cheating” their way to the top.

In order to remove an unnatural links to your site-impacts links penalty you will need to do the following:

  • Identify all backlinks pointed to your website using backlink checkers like Ahrefs or MajesticSEO
  • Perform analysis on links to determine the unnatural links, unnatural links include:
    • Article directories, link directories, spam comments, spam forum posts & profiles, PR sites, and much more
  • Contact webmasters and remove backlinks while documenting the process
  • Submit a reconsideration request file to Google

There is no other way to remove an unnatural links to your site penalty than by removing backlinks. Disavowing links without removals is ineffective and a waste of time.

Check out our preferred link removal service provider who can help you identify and remove your unnatural links quickly.

Hacked site

Technically fixing a Google hacked site manual penalty is easier than any other of the penalties out there. It may be difficult to find the hacked pages or cloaked pages on your site but regarding the reconsideration request and penalty removal it’s much faster than any of the other penalties.

The first step is to analyze your web traffic and look for anomalies, it may also be helpful to analyze your incoming links to determine what pages on your website may be effected. We recommend hiring an expert to do analysis and removal of hacked pages on your site. Leaving it to an amateur or yourself could jeopardize your rankings in the future. Websites that are regularly hacked and abused will have problems ranking well in Google in the future. That’s why it’s important to patch vulnerabilities and make sure there are no sneaky redirects or cloaking taking place.

User-generated spam

This penalty is triggered to website owners who have let their forums, blogs, or websites become overrun with spam. Using a forum as an example spammers will sign up for and create profiles for backlinks and other malicious reasons. If left unmanaged for long an entire forum can become a spam ridden place. It’s important to keep an eye on user generated content, especially when links can be placed by users.

Tips for removing user-generated spam:

  • Find areas in which users can add content, such as forums, user profiles, blog comments and user blogs
  • Check user posts and profiles for advertisement usernames
  • Check posts or profiles for off-topic links
  • Find posts or profiles of commercial usernames that don’t sound human
  • Remove the content that meets the above description
  • Patch your site and/or implement spam prevention measures

Spammy freehosts

This is uncommon and focused on hosts that are harvesting a large amount of spam. For example WPMU websites that are created and have been overridden with spam. In other cases an entire IP block could have ranking issues, or the domain as a whole could receive this penalty in the event of mass spam.

Unnatural links to your site

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This penalty is very similar to the other unnatural links penalty mentioned before, however it seems that this penalty is focused primarily upon spammy links rather than paid links.

How do you fix this penalty:

  • Has the issue been corrected? Were the unnatural links removed? The key is to properly identify any and all link spam and aggressively remove those links.
  • Will this be a problem in the future? You need to reassure Google that you have learned your lesson and will not create spam again in the future
  • Link removal requests: All unnatural links must be removed as discussed over and over again by Google’s head-of-spam Matt Cutts. To ensure you don’t remove valid links, or risk the removal of your penalty entirely we recommend using our preferred link removal service.
  • Types of links to remove:
    • Article marketing, link directories, blog spam, forum spam
  • More importantly documentation in the reconsideration request is key. The preferred link removal service mentioned above handles everything for you, from identifying the bad links to the proper documentation required for a reconsideration request.


Thin content with little or no added value

This penalty is triggered by websites that consist of many low-quality pages with little to no content. These often include sites such as:

  • thin affiliate pages, cookie cutter sites, doorway pages, automatic content (scraper sites), copied content)

There are usually two variations of this penalty as well, either site-wide or partial matches.

The key to remove this penalty is to document your site fully and determine which pages are of low quality. We recommend having more than 400 words of unique content for each page where possible. Another tactic would be to review all of the content to make sure that it’s unique as well. More often than not ecommerce sites are filled with duplicate content. This is the type of content you will want to rewrite and make original, otherwise there’s no way to recover from this penalty.