Is Your Site Under Manual Action? Find Out In New Google Feature

by Alex Graves
Bronco - Digital Marketing Agency

With the threat of website penalisation becoming more of a reality for many website owners, there have been countless calls for Google to offer more clarity towards penalisations that they take against a site in order to allow site owners to rectify the issues and plead their case to Google with the hope of reconsideration back into their organic search rankings.

Although calls for a more transparent approach have seemingly gone unheard over recent years, the introduction of algorithmic penalties by the search engine giants seems to have forced them into a corner, meaning that finally we are being given the valuable insight into what could be causing a website potential rankings problems.

In a big step forward, Google announced their new ‘Manual Actions' review tool which has been created within the Google Webmaster Tools platform that allows site owners to quickly and easily establish whether their site has been placed under manual penalisation for something that Google believe to be out of line with their webmaster quality guidelines.

In their announcement that brought the tool to the limelight, Google issued their strong anti-spam message starting their Google Webmaster Central post with "We strive to keep spam out of our users' search results" going on to say that the number of algorithmic updates that they roll out has sparked a number of website owners wanting to “see if their sites are affected by manual webspam action, so today we're introducing a new feature that should help.”


The new Manual Actions feature is a massive boost to website owners who believe that they are affected by actions being taken on their site, however it is important to remember that although Google are willing to inform you that your site is currently under manual penalisation, the tool will not include any information related to either Google Panda or Penguin updates, meaning that you will still have to explore the possibility that your site could still be under algorithmic penalisation which is not classified as being manually placed.


With the blogpost announcing the tool pointing “that well under 2% of domains” have been placed under manual action however Google were quick to highlight that they will be looking to offer as much information as possible to those that have been affected, offering examples of links that they deem to be unnatural in some instances and breaking the actions taken down into ‘Partial’ or ‘Sitewide’ messages.

So What Does This Tool Really Offer?

Although the introduction of the new feature means that Google have made their manual penalisation process more transparent than ever before, it still doesn't mean that the recovery of a website is going to be any quicker than it was previously due to the tool not offering you a walk through guide to recovery, instead you are simply presented with a small amount of information that should be able to steer you towards what you need to rectify in your clean up.

Manual actions are considered to be the hardest hitting penalisation that Google have to offer but the threat of organic ranking drops is not specifically related to manual intervention alone, automatic penalisation is still one of the widest spread issues within the online community at the moment and this new tool doesn't address those issues, meaning that the monitoring of your link profile and on-page elements is still as important as it has been since the birth of the Panda and Penguin updates.

Aside from the fact that algorithmic action is not addressed within the tool, the feature does offer some time saving grace from the recovery process that so many website owners have been experiencing over recent years, eliminating the need to immediately issue a reconsideration request to establish whether in fact your site has seen manual action being taken against it, a practise that helped to see whether sites were in fact carrying penalties due to the automated response feature that Google have within their reconsideration request system.

Will This Tool Eliminate The Need For Extensive Link Profile and Site Clean Up?

The short answer to this is NO.

Google have continued to hold website owners responsible for their website, including the less controllable traits such as the anchor text percentages of links into your site and they have not altered that view, as far as they are concerned you should be keeping a close eye on the actions of your web property.

The fact that actions are considered to be more frequent on algorithmic updates means that you still need to maintain your house keeping of your site and backlink profile, so don't think that you can ignore the painstaking process that comes with having to clean and polish your site from top to bottom as getting into that mindset will be sure to give you plenty of work in the longer term.

I Haven't Had A Links Warning Message So Does This Affect Me?

Interestingly we were able to see an instance this morning of a website that had not been previously informed of manual action being taken against their site, however on checking through the various sites that the owner had they realised that one of their sites had a message present although he had never had a Webmaster Tools message to tell him that action was present.

This means that not only is the new tool allowing people to establish that sites that they operate have manual action against them when they were previously unaware but it also means that he now knows that he needs to conduct a full clean-up of his site in order to regain his search engine rankings.

Previously he believed that the action against the site was algorithmic.

What To Take Away From This Release?

  • Google Penguin and Panda updates are still a very real threat and based on the percentage that Google mention of domains affected by manual action, are still the biggest threat to your website.
  • Don't think that you can ignore your site maintenance and general house keeping – Doing so will prove costly when the algorithmic updates catch up with you.
  • Backlink cleans ups still need to be conducted to a strict standard, the links mentioned (if any) on your message are simply a drop in the ocean of your backlink profile that Google believe to be violating their guidelines.

After Thought

I don't usually stray off from the articles that I cover but in this instance we have been talking about the way that SEO is set to change over upcoming weeks, months and years and realise that with the introduction of algorithmic penalties, the Google Disavow tool and now this manual actions reviewer, the industry is going to have to change or die trying.

What has seemed to be regular practise of backlink analysis, competitor insight and other comparisons to sites being worked into almost every campaign that we have ever worked on, we see that knowing what others are doing positively is going to be a massive challenge in the present day and moving forward.

How will you handle the changes that the industry has been forced into or will you be one of the unlucky ones that fails to change with the times and maintains their standardised methods that could prove fatal to clients or indeed your own site?

Update – Google Video

So with the new tool active and already being checked by website owners all over the globe, we have just come across this Google Webmaster Help video that seems to fit in perfectly with the post, telling you what action you need to take if you are one of the unlucky ones to receive manual action against your site:

According to Matt Cutts and Alex from Google the process that you need to undertake should be manually conducted in the most part, allowing you to make decisions that automated systems wouldn’t be able to however the ultimate aim that you need to achieve is to prove to Google that your attempts to clean up the infringement that they have seen warrant Google to trust you and your site again.

The video reveals that the reconsideration process should see you undertaking a link clean up, trying to remove as much of the low quality linkage (and unnatural links) as you possibly can and that the reality is that they are looking for a prolonged approach to be demonstrated if required.

The two Googlers pointed out that when issuing your request for review, look to provide the reviewer with as much detail surrounding your efforts as possible.

The video is definitely worth a watch, affected or not!

Bronco - Digital Marketing Agency
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