Manual Penalties: Your Questions Answered

I’ve compiled a list of the most common questions I get asked about Manual Penalties, and tried to give some concise answers.

I’ve assumed that you already have a basic working knowledge of Google Manual Penalties.

Hopefully, I be able to shed some light on some confusing areas around Manual Actions.

Should I use Link Detox or a similar tool to audit my links?

Firstly, I should make it clear that I’ve not used one of these link auditing / risk assessment tools before, although I believe I have a fairly good understanding of how they work.

My opinion is that the best way to get a sense of how to deal with your penalty, is by doing the leg work yourself, and reviewing your backlinks with as little automation as possible. Don’t forget that a manual penalty has been imposed by a human, and not by an algorithm, so you probably can’t rely on an algorithm to generate you a list of links that you should keep / monitor / remove.

Where should I get my link data? Majestic SEO, WMT, Moz, Ahrefs or somewhere else?

Having as much link data as possible is the best way to prove you’re serious about dealing with the penalty. I’ve always used at least Majestic SEO, Google Webmaster Tools and Opensite Explorer (Moz) to get as greater coverage of inbound links into a site as possible.

Which of Majestic Index should I be looking at?

If you really want to be comprehensive – look at both the Historic and the Fresh index. Google might have links flagged that have long since expired naturally, so even if you find yourself looking at pages of deleted links, this information might prove valuable during your reconsideration request, especially if Google’s data isn’t as current as Majestic’s.

Can I just “turn off” the affected pages?

You can! But first you need to assess what impact this might have on your business.

For instance, what share of your traffic to the affected landing page is direct (bookmarked) or referral traffic? You might have quite a bit of work to do to keep that traffic if you suddenly turn off a penalised page. Updating referring sites with a new link can be time consuming if you have to do it on bulk, and on a case-by-case basis.

Just remember not to redirect the old URL, because you can pass the penalty to the new page. Have the URL return a 410 (Gone) to “black hole” those links.

How long before my rankings / traffic comes back?

This depends on the extent of the penalty – and how many backlinks you might have to remove to get your manual action removed. We’ve seen site’s rankings return within hours of a re-inclusion message appearing in WMT, other times it’s taken days and a few fresh links to spur on re-indexation.

If you’ve removed a large enough portion of links, there might not be much left to keep your site afloat, and for this reason, your rankings might not return until you start to generate some great quality backlinks.

How can I avoid a penalty?

Aside from NOT building links that blatantly go against the spirit of Google’s guidelines, there are a few things I can recommend to help you keep on top of your backlinks.

Set up tracking reports within Majestic SEO in order to discover any sudden surges in backlink discovery, or drastic changes in your site’s Trust Flow.

Regularly audit your backlink profile and keep on top of mentions of your brand on external sites using a combination of link intelligence tools, and Google Alerts.

How badly could I be penalised?

Your site can either:

  • Experience a slight demotion in rankings on specific pages or across the site
  • Experience a complete drop in rankings for specific pages or across the entire site
  • Experience a penalty against its brand name and / or URL, so the site doesn’t appear for brand related searches.
  • See its Google+ Local page(s) fail to show in SERPs
  • Disappear from Google’s index completely

What’s the difference between Partial and Site-wide?

Partial match penalties apply to one or more URLs, but not all URLs. Site-wide affects ALL URLs.

What’s the difference between a manual and algorithmic penalty?

Algorithmic penalties don’t appear as a notice in your webmaster tools. You cannot submit a reconsideration request if you’re being penalised by Google’s algorithm.

Why am I being Penalised? Why aren’t my competitors?

Google give many reasons for penalising a site. Most of the time these days, it is for participation in link schemes.

Often, you check your competitors’ backlinks and wonder why they aren’t penalised too. Don’t be so quick to get yourself worked up, you can’t see the contents of their disavow file!

If you feel the need to report your competitors, you can do so here.

I’ve been penalised and I don’t know what to do now?

Don’t panic! Your penalty is nothing that can’t be fixed with a little time and effort. Audit your links, compare them to Google Guidelines and remove anything that shouldn’t be there.

If you’re still stuck or having trouble, drop me an email, or get in touch with me via the contact form in the sidebar. The link building team at Receptional have had a 100% success rate in revoking manual actions, and recovering lost traffic. 

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