Sunday, April 20, 2014
   
Text Size
  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Categories
    Categories Displays a list of categories from this blog.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that has been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Team Blogs
    Team Blogs Find your favorite team blogs here.
  • Login

Google Manual Penalty Messages; a history

Posted by on in Forensic SEO
  • Font size: Larger Smaller
  • Hits: 1961
  • 1 Comment
  • Subscribe to this entry
  • Print
  • PDF

Yes, it sucks. Yes... getting one is never fun. But it does happen and it happens a lot. Hell, it's been the cornerstone of a lot of my SEO consulting work over the last few years. When things go wrong, they seek out the fixer!

Anyway, I figured it was time that I had somewhere to keep my collection of various manual actions and reconsideration request replies for all time. Something to refer to for relevance and history. So here we go.....

Not sure if you have a manual penalty? Try out this new tool from Google.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Google-manual-penalty.jpg

 

Types of manual actions;

The first thing we need to look at are the types of messages folks are getting out there and what they mean.;

Unnatural Links Penalty

This is the most common one over the years and likely what most are familiar with. They're generally for shoddy and low quality link building activities. To get a better sense of what might be an issue, be sure to see the recent changes to the Google Link Schemes page.

Another interesting addition is the new manual spam tool from Google. All of the people we talked to with these, it was listed under 'partial' penalty, not 'site wide'.

The messages look like these;

We've detected that some of the links pointing to your site are using techniques outside Google's Webmaster Guidelines.

We don't want to put any trust in links that are unnatural or artificial, and we recommend removing any unnatural links to your site. However, we do realize that some links may be outside of your control. As a result, for this specific incident we are taking very targeted action to reduce trust in the unnatural links. If you are able to remove any of the links, you can submit a reconsideration request, including the actions that you took.

If you have any questions, please visit our Webmaster Help Forum.

 

Another earlier example looks like;

We’ve detected that some of your site’s pages may be using techniques that are outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site that could be intended to manipulate PageRank. Examples of unnatural linking could include buying links to pass PageRank or participating in link schemes.

We encourage you to make changes to your site so that it meets our quality guidelines. Once you’ve made these changes, please submit your site for reconsideration in Google’s search results.

If you find unnatural links to your site that you are unable to control or remove, please provide the details in your reconsideration request.

If you have any questions about how to resolve this issue, please see our Webmaster Help Forum for support.

 

We've also seen;

We’ve detected that some of the links pointing to your site are using techniques outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

We don’t want to put any trust in links that are artificial or unnatural. We recommend removing any unnatural links to your site. However, we do realize that some links are outside of your control. As a result, for this specific incident we are taking very targeted action on the unnatural links instead of your site as a whole. If you are able to remove any of the links, please submit a reconsideration request, including the actions that you took.

If you have any questions, please visit our Webmaster Help Forum.


More recently we've seen those taken down some with messages such as;


Google has detected a pattern of artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site. Buying links or participating in link schemes in order to manipulate PageRank are violations of Google's Webmaster Guidelines.

As a result, Google has applied a manual spam action to <domain>. There may be other actions on your site or parts of your site

I don't really try to go overboard as far as analyzing the messages, it's not likely worth much. What we can say is that they often contain links to support pages. These are often updated, such as the recent updates to the link schemes page. This might have something to do with the changes in verbiage over the years.


On a separate note, I came across this quote from Matt Cutts (via Google Plus) on UL messages;

If you received a message yesterday about unnatural links to your site, don’t panic. In the past, these messages were sent when we took action on a site as a whole. Yesterday, we took another step towards more transparency and began sending messages when we distrust some individual links to a site. While it’s possible for this to indicate potential spammy activity by the site, it can also have innocent reasons. For example, we may take this kind of targeted action to distrust hacked links pointing to an innocent site. The innocent site will get the message as we move towards more transparency, but it’s not necessarily something that you automatically need to worry about.

 

So, even if you've been the target of negative SEO or some hacking scheme, you can indeed get an UL message.

Getting a manual action revoked

This post is really more about me keeping a record of the evolution, so we'll be writing a post in more detail in the future on getting things fixed. The short story on this one is;

  • Identify all bad links (manufactured, low quality, network, paid etc..)
  • Try to get as many removed as possible
  • Get the balance together and file a disavow file
  • Write the reconsideration request explaining how you screwed up and what you've done about it

Don't go light on this process. In most cases people try to keep as many as possible. Seemingly they seek to actually find the threshold Google is using. I'm not really a fan of that. Had a consulting client recently say something like, “we should keep most of them since they look natural”. Uh huh. The person that built the crap links shouldn't be evaluating them. They obviously didn't know a good link in the first place.

Thin Content

This one we're fairly certain that it's fairly recent. When I was writing about it over on SNC recently, the furthest back we could find one was around April or May 2013. These are also included in the new Google Spam checking tool.

From the way it reads, it seems to be an extension of the Panda algorithm. Just a more severe version of it. This makes sense because Google did state they were lightening up on the Panda. Anyway, it goes like this;

We've detected that some of your site's pages may be using techniques that are outside Google's Webmaster Guidelines.

Specifically, we've detected low-quality pages on your site which do not provide substantially unique content or added value. Examples could include thin affiliate pages, doorway pages, automatically generated content or copied content. For more information about unique and compelling content, visit http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=66361.

We encourage you to make changes to your site so that it meets our quality guidelines. Once you've made these changes, please submit your site for reconsideration

 

We've also seen one that reads;


Google has detected that some of your pages may be using techniques that are outside our Webmaster Guidelines.

As a result of your site having thin content with little or no added value, Google has applied a manual spam action to laptoptop7.com/. There may be other actions on your site or parts of your site.

Getting a manual action revoked

The issues here are often related to known Google Panda algorithm type dampening. While I am not certain, the most likely issues would be related to thin content (pages devoid of real value) and a large number of scraped pages etc.

Take stock in a content audit and start to fix the issues by beefing up or removing thin or copied pages. I personally doubt that canonical issue would play into this. For Panda? Sure. For an actual manual penalty? Doesn't seem likely.

Pure Spam

There's some confusion over this one, but one Googler I spoke with stated that they're;

Pure Spam = Blackhat = stuff that any reasonably tech-savvy person would consider spammy, essentially. It can be on-page or off-page, and it's typically just obvious spam. Since it's usually obvious, it's usually on-page. Imagine the kind of autogenerated junk that used to rank back in the early days of search engines.

That's not the official line, just a conversation. The more official line reads;

Site appears to use aggressive spam techniques such as automatically generated gibberish, cloaking, scraping content from other websites, and/or repeated or egregious violations of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.


This obviously would include things such as;

  • Cloaking
  • Keyword stuffing (page and TITLE)
  • Selling text links
  • Scraped content
  • Auto-generated content

What I do get the sense with this one is that it's more about a pattern of multiple attempts to manipulate. If you get locked into a box with one of these? Good luck. This one likely carries some trust scoring loss over time.

Interestingly, there's not a lot of examples for this one. By and large I'd be looking for things that mention issues ON THE SITE.

One example is;

Dear site owner or webmaster of [domain],

While we were indexing your webpages, we detected that some of your pages were using techniques that are outside our quality guidelines, which can be found here:

http://www.google.com/support/webmas…er=35769&hl=en. This appears to be because your site has been modified by a third party. Typically, the offending party gains access to an insecure directory that has open permissions. Many times, they will upload files or modify existing ones, which then show up as spam in our index.

We detected cloaking on your site and suspect this is the cause. For example at [domain] we found:

<large list of keywords unrelated to the site>.

For more information about what cloaking is, visit http://www.google.com/support/webmas…er=66355&hl=en.
In order to preserve the quality of our search engine, pages from [domain] are scheduled to be removed temporarily from our search results for at least 30 days.

We would prefer to keep your pages in Google’s index. If you wish to be reconsidered, please correct or remove all pages (may not be limited to the examples provided) that are outside our quality guidelines. One potential remedy is to contact your web host technical support for assistance. For more information about security for webmasters, see http://googlewebmastercentral.blogsp…-now-what.html. When such changes have been made, please visit https://www.google.com/webmasters/to…deration?hl=en to learn more and submit your site for reconsideration.

Sincerely, Google Search Quality Team

That one though, seems to be more about a hacked site than anything.

Getting a manual action revoked

Like I said off the top; good luck. These kinds of cases the website owners likely knows exactly what they've been up to unless there's a hacking situation as above. Google seemingly will take the harshest action on this kind of spam and even if you manage to get out of the manual action, there's going to be a trust scoring issue for some time to come (6-12 month minimum).

Avoid this penalty at all cost.

Paid Links – Onsite Unnatural Links

I really haven't seen a ton of these, but as I come across more, I shall post them. They might be rolled into the Pure Spam messages (above). Here's one I have though;

Google Webmaster Tools notice of detected unnatural links on [domain]!
We’ve detected that some or all of your pages are using techniques that are outside our quality guidelines, which are available here: http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=35769&hl=en

Specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links on your site pointing to other sites that could be intended to manipulate PageRank. For more information about our linking guidelines, visit http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=66356&hl=en
We encourage you to make changes to your site so that it meets our quality guidelines. Once you’ve made these changes, please visit https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/reconsideration?hl=en to submit your site for reconsideration in Google’s search results.


Fairly straight forward.

Getting a manual action revoked

Pretty simple, remove the paid links or nofollow them, then file the reconsideration request. Will you come out unscathed? It's possible, but much like the pure spam, there might be some inherent trust loss

We'll see where it leads

As mentioned off the top, this post is sort of a record keeping exercise for me. As I come across more of these I shall add them to the page. While I don't think there's a TON to be learned along the way, it is always important to keep track of things. We're also posting some historic examples of replies to reconsideration requests, you can find that here.

The goal for these two posts (also see; ) was keep a bit of a record of various messages and replies that we can add to over time. We shall certainly set about putting something together as far as more detailed posts on dealing with the various manual spam penalties.

While I was writing this post Google came out with a new tool for checking to see if a domain has been penalized. You can read up on that over in this post.And more on the specifics of each in a series of videos from Google here.

Until next time... stay tuned...

More reading;

Tagged in: Forensics Google Penalty

Hi my name is Dave and I, am an algo-holic



I am an avid search geek that spends most of his time reading about and playing with search engines. My main passion has always been about the technical side of things from a strong perspective rooted in IR and related technologies.



Also hook up via

Comments

  • Guest
    Jennifer Sunday, 15 September 2013

    Google has marked a Dmoz link as unnatural by mistake so are there any manual actions happening or not? Is Google getting link wrong? A forum thread received some attention when a webmaster claimed that this happened to him. Eventually Google responded, not quite admitting a mistake, but not denying it either. What can we consider them? rare or Google is getting things wrong often?

Leave your comment

Guest Sunday, 20 April 2014

Recent Comments

Congrats guys. Keep on doing the same great work.

Alexandra Petean-Nicola
Hi Debi. Actually, its something that we mentioned a little in the long live chat we had on Humming...
Ammon Johns
Hi Dave. Kudos to a post which actually made some sense in the midst of all the crap shooting happen...
Bhavya
Already seeing a few optimizing for hummingbird posts with people talking utter shit, amazing how so...
Gareth
In the discussions I've read about Hummingbird there is a lot of emphasis on semantic search, the de...
Debi Davis
Please update your Flash Player to view content.
Restore Default Settings