If Google has given your website a “manual action”, don’t panic! In today’s article we’ll tell you everything you need to know.

Google places a manual action on a website after a (human) reviewer decides that the website owner is trying to manipulate their search index.

Most of the time, Google maintains the quality of its search pages via algorithms. However, they have recently started using more human, “manual” reviews in case spam or dubious SEO practices slip through.

In this article, we’ll explain:

  1. Why Google gives manual actions to websites
  2. Why it’s a problem
  3. What to do about it
  4. How to stop it coming back
  5. Key takeaways

Why Does Google Give Manual Actions?

According to their page:

Google issues a manual action against a site when a human reviewer at Google has determined that pages on the site are not compliant with Google’s webmaster quality guidelines. Most manual actions address attempts to manipulate our search index.

In other words, if you try to “game” the SEO system, Google will penalise you even if your behaviour has fooled the algorithms. This can include:

  • Buying links or participating in link schemes
  • Thin pages, automatically generated content or obvious plagiarism/scraping
  • Hidden text, cloaked images or keyword stuffing
  • “Sneaky” mobile redirects

Sometimes, though, Google will put a manual action on your site even if it’s not something you’re doing deliberately. Remember, the process is designed to protect web visitors. So you will also be penalised for:

  • User-generated spam (eg spam comments left on your blog)
  • Spam on other websites which share your web host

What Are The Consequences?

First of all, you can check if your site currently has a manual action. Google will tell you via your Search Console messages. It will also produce a report which you can get to via the Search Console dashboard.

The most significant result is that your website will be penalised in Google’s search engine results rankings:

Most issues reported here will result in pages or sites being ranked lower or omitted from search results without any visual indication to the user.

Manual actions are handled slightly differently from “security issues”. Security issues are flagged up when they think your site is hacked. Because this could harm a visitor, they will show a warning message to anyone coming to your site.

Our article 5 Tips To Prevent A Hacked Website will be useful if you have any concerns.

Manual actions, by contrast, are raised when the website is trying to manipulate the search engines, but isn’t necessarily dangerous to a user.

How Do I Get It Off My Site?

We will start by saying that you can’t just “get the manual action taken off”. The process works as follows:

  1. Figure out what caused the report to be raised in the first place
  2. Fix the problem(s)
  3. Ask Google to review the pages that they originally flagged
  4. Wait for Google to reconsider and, hopefully, remove the action

In most cases, step #2 is pretty obvious once you know what the problem is:

  • Site is infected with malware? Remove it.
  • Been doing some dubious SEO techniques? Reverse them.
  • Someone has spammed your comments? Delete the spam. And block the commenter.

How Do I Stop It Coming Back?

If you want to keep your website free of manual actions, you need to start from scratch. Ensure you stick to the best practices of website security and compliant SEO:

  • Write high quality content which exists primarily to add value to readers
  • Have a strong comment policy and keep your threads free of spam
  • Don’t use any “blackhat” SEO tricks like paying for links or overoptimising
  • Pay for a proper hosting company rather than relying on a free service

As long as you stick to these rules, you should be fine.

Key Takeaways

  • Google uses manual actions to penalise low-quality, spammy or manipulative websites
  • If you want to get it removed, you’ll have to request a review
  • You should be able to do this yourself, or a website expert will be able to help you
  • Don’t allow comment spam or blackhat SEO techniques on your website

If you have any questions about how to get a manual action off your website, please get in touch and one of our experts will be able to help you out.

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