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Google Manual Actions in Search Console Explained

Google Manual Actions or Penalties are sent to webmasters via the Manual Action section in a websites Search Console, formerly Google Webmaster Tools.

If your website or parts of your website is no longer appearing in search results or you notice that your website has dropped significantly in positions within search results, it is recommended that you check the manual action section in the websites search console. Once you have corrected the issues you can reply directly via the manual actions report.

Google Manual Action Notice


Types of Google Manual Actions:

  • Manual Action : user-generated spam
  • Manual Action: pure spam
  • Manual Action: thin content with little or no added value
  • Manual Action: unnatural links to your site
  • Manual Action: unnatural links from your site
  • Manual Action: hidden text and/or keyword stuffing
  • Manual Action: unnatural links to site – impact links
  • Manual Action: spammy structured markup


Manual Spam Action : user-generated spam



Google notifies website owners through the Message Center in Google Search Console when a site’s search results ranking have been negatively impacted by user-generated spam. This problem is typically the result of website, blog or forum comments being abused by spammers with posts or profiles that look like advertisements, often containing commercial names with hidden text or keyword-stuffed unnatural links from your site.

Google’s Manual Actions page lists whether the problem involves site-wide matches affecting the entire site or partial matches impacting individual sections.


Google recommends include:

  • Implement anti-spam tools like CAPTCHAs — These tools reduce spamming engine comments by making users prove their human be entering letters or numbers in seen in a distorted image.
  • Moderate comments — This will simply prevent comments from appearing on your site until you have reviewed and approved them.
  • Use “nofollow” tags — The microformat Google introduced will not necessarily eliminate spam, but it will prevent links embedded by spammers from being a factor in your PageRank.
  • Ban hyperlinks in comments — Simply disallow HTML tags in comments that prevents users from publishing active hyperlinks.
  • Blacklist repeat offenders — If you notice that the same website is being linked to by one user or a larger number of fake profiles, you can block the repeated spam efforts.
  • Let users help report spam — Ask your readers or users to alert you when they see spam being posted.
  • Monitor your site — Many search rating slides caused by user-generated spam are the result of a failure to regularly check comments, but site owners can use Google Alerts or Keywords in Webmaster Tools to better stay aware.


After you have taken corrective action, you can ask Google to reconsider your site by clicking “Request a review” and detailing the steps you have taken to eliminate user-generated spam.


Manual Spam Action: pure spam



A website’s search results ranking can be negatively affected when its pages use techniques that fall outside of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Some of the most common violations of Google’s quality guidelines include automatically generated (also called “auto-generated”) content, scraped content or cloaking. Hidden text or links, sneaky redirects and loading pages with irrelevant keywords are also techniques that violate guidelines. In its video, Google’s Matt Cutts claims these types of websites make up a “vast majority” of the domains that the search giant takes action on.

Matt notes that it is “more of a difficult task” to come back from that and approach Google with a reconsideration request.


Google recommends include:

  • Clean things up — Try to remove any “nasty” content that violates Google’s quality guidelines.
  • Give reasons why Google should trust site again — Discuss a change in ownership or articulate how you have implemented new policies after being unaware that the site contained so many offending qualities.
  • Prove you are “trying to turn over a new leaf” — If you are seeking a “clean slate,” you will have to do some major redesigning too. This means limiting the numbers of links on pages and making sure all links are valid. Prove you are attempting to be a legitimate website and not just creating additional pages for online real estate in an effort to make a quick buck.
  • Document it well — Again, Google treats pure spam issues as being some of the most difficult issues to bounce back from. If you want to win them back, you will need to substantiate significant changes being made.


If you believe that you have updated your site to meet Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, you can submit a reconsideration request.


Manual Spam Action: thin content with little or no added value



Low-quality or shallow pages can negatively impact a website’s Google search results ranking. These pages can be “doorways” that are pages optimised for a certain keyword or phrase but all direct visitors to the same site. They can also be pages that contain virtually the same content with the only differences being a different geolocation keyword.

Thin affiliate sites that fail to provide additional value and websites made up of thin content such as syndicated articles that appear on thousands of other sites can also be in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.


Google recommends include:

  • Creating more original content — Regularly add high-quality, unique content that contains personal analysis or information. You want to have more pages that are notably different from other sites that cover the same topics. You may want to consider asking friends, family members or other real people not directly affiliated with your website to critique the content and possibly share ideas for improving it. Strive to sound authoritative and trustworthy.
  • Remove all thin content — Look for content on your website that is a duplicate of pages found elsewhere. Check for pages with auto-generated content or thin content with excess affiliate links, and remove any doorway pages. Google penalizes for pages that have lots of words but no original content, so you should try to maximize the amount of pages you have with rich information and appropriately used relevant keywords.


It can be difficult to create content that is compelling enough to capture the attention of a large audience, but the key to avoid being penalized for thin content is constantly updating your website with material that contains insights and thoughts that cannot be found elsewhere.


Manual Spam Action: unnatural links to your site



Google notifies website owners through a message on the Manual Actions page when a site’s search results ranking have been negatively impacted by so-called “link spam.” This message is usually the result of a pattern of artificial, deceptive or manipulative links that Google has detected going to your site. Many sites buy links or participate in link schemes that come from unnatural sources, and these links can negatively impact Google’s ranking of the website being linked to.

It can take some effort to fix this problem after Google has notified you, but here are a few steps you can take to get back in the search engine’s good graces.


Google recommends include:

  • Evaluate links to your site — Use Webmaster Tools to download a list of links to your site. Look for links that violate Google’s guidelines, beginning with perhaps the links that were most recently created or the sites that link to you the most.
  • Try to get links removed — With any links that violate guidelines, attempt to contact that site’s webmaster to ask that they be removed or have a “nofollow” tag added to prevent them from passing PageRank.
  • Use Disavow links tool — If a webmaster fails to respond to your requests, you can create a file containing all the links that you want Google to ignore and uploading it to Google. These can be specific page links, but you can also ask Google to ignore all links from an entire domain in certain cases.


As Google’s Alex says in the video, it is important to “reinstate trust.” After making legitimate attempts to remove or disavow unnatural links, you can help your reconsideration request by documenting the steps you have taken to prove you attempted to address the problem.


Manual Spam Action: unnatural links from your site



If your website is linking to low-quality or spam-type sites, Google will deem the links as unnatural and send you a message notifying you that the links do not pass PageRank. This negatively affects your search results ranking because Google often believes that you may be selling links or participating in a link scheme. Either way, the links violate Google’s guidelines and you will need to remove them in order to revoke the search engine’s manual action.

The good news is that unlike unnatural links to your website, it can be much easier to remove unnatural links from your site. After you identify the links that violate Google’s linking guidelines.


Google recommends include:

  • Remove the offending links from your site — Perhaps the simplest way to get rid of links affecting your search result ranking is just to take them down. This may not be feasible if you entered into an agreement with another site in exchange for a backlink, but you can also contact other site owners to notify them of your decision and attempt to terminate such a deal.
  • Add a rel=“nofollow” attribute — The “nofollow” attribute tells search engines and robots not to crawl for specific links. This can help keep your site from passing PageRank to unfavorable neighborhoods on the internet, and the attribute will enable Googlebot to crawl other pages you would prefer to see in the search giant’s index.
  • Redirect the links through a page blocked by robot.txt — Using robot.txt URLs will also help change links so they do not pass PageRank.


After removing unnatural links from your site, you can submit a reconsideration request to Google showing that you have taken steps to correct the problem.


Manual Spam Action: hidden text and/or keyword stuffing



Two techniques that can cause Google to send you a message on the Manual Actions page are hidden text or keyword stuffing. Hidden text involves computer text that is invisible or disguised from the average website visitor. As Nelson notes in the Google Webmaster video, it may involve white text on a white background, for instance. The idea is that this can help keywords factor into Google searches without being used for the actual content of the website.

Keyword stuffing is the practice of using large amounts of terms and phrases that are commonly searched for, also in hopes of helping search result rankings. This used to be a fairly common SEO practice, and many websites still use auto-generated content that publishes low-quality material which relies heavily on keywords.

If you have been flagged by Google for wither of these techniques, you should immediately correct the problem by removing the hidden text and pages of posts that are guilty of keyword stuffing.


Google recommends include:

  • Check for content that is visible to Google’s crawler but not the human eye — You can do this with the Fetch as Google tool in Webmaster Tools.
  • Check for hidden text using CSS styling or positioning — CSS, HTML and JavaScript techniques can hide portions of links, but they can also hide text from visitors. Google’s style guidelines dictate that websites only use valid CSS where possible.
  • Check for paragraphs or lists of repeated words — Look for sentences that sound particularly unnatural, like when a keyword or phrase is used several times in only a few consecutive sentences.
  • Check title tags and alt tags — These can also contain strings of repeated words.


You can submit a reconsideration request once you believe you have updated your site to meet Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.


Manual Spam Action: unnatural links to site – impact links



If Google thinks that you overall have a good website but you have some bad links, it will notify you through a message on the Manual Actions page that the offending links are negatively impacting your search result ranking. Google’s Matt Cutts notes in the Webmaster YouTube video that less than 10 sites a day receive this message, so the problem represents one of the less common problems. Whereas there are certainly websites that are paying for or knowingly became involved with unnatural backlinks, these cases of impact links involve only a few troublesome links and are generally the result of certain scenarios that were beyond the webmaster’s control.

A few of the reasons why your site may be targeted include widget links, paid links or reputation management companies trying to get your pages to rank lower in an effort to bump up pages that serve their interests. Much like websites that have been penalized for knowingly taking part in having unnatural links directed at their sites, webmasters will need to evaluate the links to their sites in order determine which ones are violating Google’s guidelines.


Google recommends include:

  • Contact webmasters to have bad links removed — Make an effort to request that the webmaster take down the links, and be sure to document your attempts.
  • Use Google tools to block links — One request to a webmaster can be to add “nofollow” tags, but you can also ask Google not to take these links into account by using the search engine’s Disavow links tool. Google considers this to be a tool of last resort, so only use it after you have made multiple attempts to contact another webmaster.


Include evidence of your attempts in your reconsideration request.

Read More: Unnatural Links: Audit, Removal and Recovery


Manual Spam Action: spammy structured markup


If you have received this message, then some parts of your structured data / rich snippets are outside of Google’s guidelines.

This could be marking up content that is not visible to the user on page. Incorrectly marking up pages site-wide, when it should only be applicable to a specific page and marking up irrelevant or misleading content.


Google recommends include:

  • Check your markup: make sure that your markup is not violating rich snippet guidelines. Remove markup on pages that do not qualify and or correct the markup on pages.
  • Test test markup for inaccuracies using the structured data testing tool


Once you have completed the necessary changes, then submit a reconsideration request.


What’s Done is Done !


Don’t make any hasty moves. Analyse your site properly or have a competent SEO consultant audit your site for you, before undertaking any remedial steps.