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What’s a Manual Action Penalty & How to Deal With It

It emerged this weekend that Google issued a manual action penalty to a large number of webmasters. This is related to warnings from Google that bloggers must disclose whether or not a product they have reviewed on their blog was gifted to them free in turn for the review and creating links to the product.

What is a Manual Action Penalty?

A manual action penalty is issued following a warning from Google about low quality spammy links. The most common for receiving a manual penalty action, is the presence of  unnatural links the Google definition of which (from the quality guidelines) is:

“Creating links that weren’t editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner on a page, otherwise known as unnatural links, can be considered a violation of our guidelines.”

There are two types of manual penalty – site wide match or partial match. Partial match is applied to specific links (inbound or outbound), pages or sections of a site. These have a less severe impact and are therefore easier to recover. Site wide match is applied for more serious breaches of the guidelines, these aren’t pinpointed to small numbers of links pages or a section. This is hard to recover from and can result in removal from being indexed by google, thus meaning you wouldn’t even rank for your brand name.

Google Manual Action Penalty

Why Did Users Suffer With This Latest Penalty?

In previous weeks, Google had expressed to bloggers that they should “nofollow the link, if you decide to link to the company’s site, the company’s social media accounts, an online merchant’s page that sells the product, a review service’s page featuring reviews of the product or the company’s mobile app in an app store.”

Following this warning, Google sent out manual actions to anyone who didn’t take the appropriate action and comply with their new guidelines.

John Mueller of Google has been active on support forums on the issue, especially on a thread on the best practices for bloggers. His advice was as follows:

    “If a post was made because of a free product (or free service, or just paid, etc.), then any links placed there because of that need to have a rel=nofollow attached to them. This includes links to the product itself, any sales pages (such as on Amazon), affiliate links, social media profiles, etc. that are associated with that post. Additionally, I imagine your readers would also appreciate it if those posts were labelled appropriately. It’s fine to keep these kinds of posts up, sometimes there’s a lot of useful information in them! However, the links in those posts specifically need to be modified so that they don’t pass Page Rank (by using the rel=nofollow).


Once these links are cleaned up appropriately, feel free to submit a reconsideration request, so that the webspam team can double-check and remove the manual action.”

For most websites, this isn’t going to be too detrimental, however if you’re an avid blogger then it pays to follow the guidance of google, so that you don’t lose visibility and therefore the chance to gain more traffic and readers

How to Deal With a Manual Action Penalty

manual action penalty

The first step of recovering the situation is to know you have an issue. Making sure that you have search console set up for your website is a must, in order to keep ahead of any issues – whether these are Manual Action Penalties or whether they are other forms of technical problems with your site – 404 errors or server downtime for example. You find the manual penalty information under the search traffic tab.

When you find out what the issue is you can work to rectify this then submit a request for reconsideration which the webspam team will judge on a case by case basis.

If you’ve suffered a Manual Action Penalty and need help to remove this or are just in need of help and advice on best SEO practices to avoid running the risk of them, then contact Zelst today and speak to a professional team who can help your website.