Last updated on: January 4, 2024 at 4:40 pm

Google Penalties and Manual Actions: A Comprehensive Guide

Google Penalties

As website owners and digital marketers, aligning with Google’s guidelines is pivotal for online visibility. However, when actions on a website violate these guidelines, Google enforces penalties or manual actions, affecting the site’s rankings negatively.

This article serves as a thorough guide on Google penalties and manual actions, shedding light on their implications, the different types, and how to recover from them, all with the aim of better positioning your website within Google’s good graces.

What are Google Penalties?

Google penalties are punitive measures taken against websites that violate Google’s guidelines, known as Search Essentials. These measures could lead to either a downgrade in rankings or the complete removal of your site from Google’s search results.

The launch of the Penguin algorithm in April 2012 marked a significant stride in recognizing and penalizing web spam techniques.

  • What: It’s a punitive measure affecting a website’s ranking or visibility.
  • Why: Infractions against Google’s Search Essentials trigger these penalties.
  • When: Google imposes these penalties when it detects violations.
  • How: Adherence to Google’s Search Essentials can help you avoid or recover from these penalties.

How Do Google Algorithms Differ from Penalties?

Google Search Console provides notifications regarding a range of issues. It’s crucial to understand that algorithms and penalties are not the same.

  • Algorithms are automated calculations that affect all websites.
  • Penalties are punitive manual actions targeting specific websites.

Google Manual Action Penalties Explained

Manual actions are penalties imposed by human reviewers at Google when pages or entire websites are found to violate Google’s guidelines. Identifying such penalties can be challenging; however, account holders on Google Search Console can view them in the manual action report.

unnatural link penalty
Spam Penalty

John Mueller, a notable figure at Google, remarked that most manual actions have transitioned to being algorithmically handled, reducing the necessity for human intervention.

Implications of Receiving a Google Penalty

When a site incurs a manual action:

  • Its rankings in Google search results may plummet.
  • Rich results might no longer be displayed in SERP.
  • The site could be expunged from Google’s index, affecting the organic conversion rate and traffic negatively.
  • For sites listed on platforms like Google News, the traffic may cease altogether.
  • A sudden traffic drop may occur post-manual action, hence documenting the dates of manual action issuance and removal can aid in future analyses.

Duration of Manual Actions

Manual actions lack a specified duration; they could last days or extend to years. Promptly addressing the issues and sending reconsideration requests can hasten the removal process.

Types of Manual Actions (Google Penalties)

  1. Keyword Stuffing:
    • Overuse of keywords to manipulate Google Search results is a significant violation of Google’s guidelines.
    • Webmasters should avoid unnatural repetition of keywords and ensure content remains relevant and readable to avoid Google manual actions.
  2. Comment Spam:
    • Spammy comments can severely harm your site’s reputation in Google search results.
    • Implementing moderation tools or captchas can help manage and mitigate comment spam, enhancing the user experience.
  3. User-Generated Spam (UGS):
    • Unmoderated user interactions on forums, blogs, or comment sections can lead to spam, affecting your site’s standing in the search engine results page (SERP).
    • Regular moderation and setting guidelines for user-generated content can help maintain a spam-free environment.
  4. Automatically Generated Content:
    • Content produced through automated tools often lacks value and can attract manual penalties from Google.
    • Strive for original, high-quality content that provides value to your readers.
  5. Sneaky Redirects:
    • Deceptive redirects can lead users to different pages from what they expected based on search engine listings.
    • Ensure all redirects are clear, relevant, and serve a purpose for improved user experience.
  6. Affiliate Programs:
    • Pages created solely for affiliate linking without adding significant value can be deemed as violating Google’s guidelines.
    • Focus on providing substantial, unique content alongside affiliate links to avoid a manual action.
  7. Scraped Content:
    • Duplicating content from other sites without adding value can incur Google penalties.
    • Always aim for original content or ensure to add a unique angle or additional value when curating content from other sources.
  8. Doorway Pages:
    • Creating low-quality pages to rank for specific search queries goes against Google’s webmaster guidelines.
    • Focus on creating pages with real value and relevance to the user’s search intent to maintain a favorable ranking.
  9. Cloaking / Hidden Texts and Links:
    • Showing different content to search engines and users is deceptive and is frowned upon by Google.
    • Maintain transparency and consistency in what you present to both users and search engines to avoid penalties.
  10. Backlink Violations:
    • Engaging in link schemes or buying backlinks to manipulate page rank is a serious violation which can lead to a manual penalty.
    • Aim for earning natural links to your site through reputable SEO practices.
  11. Structured Data Spam:
    • Misrepresenting structured data to mislead or deceive is a violation.
    • Ensure accurate representation of structured data in line with Google’s guidelines.
  12. Content with Little Value (Thin Content):
    • Pages with little to no useful content can be a trigger for manual actions.
    • Strive for comprehensive, valuable content that meets the user’s needs.
  13. Pure Spam:
    • Engaging in aggressive spam techniques can lead to one of the most severe penalties by Google, termed as pure spam.
    • Stay away from deceptive or manipulative practices to avoid this severe penalty.
  14. Security Issues:
    • Sites with security issues like malware or phishing can receive a manual action from Google, although they differ from other manual actions.
    • Regular security audits and adherence to best security practices can help maintain a secure site.
  15. Google News & Discover Manual Actions:
    • Violations of Google News and Discover guidelines can lead to platform-specific manual actions.
    • Abide by platform-specific guidelines to maintain visibility and good standing on these platforms.

Strategies for Effective Recovery

Recovering from a Google penalty is often a stressful and complicated process that involves more than just identifying the problem. Effective recovery requires a coordinated approach that combines technical solutions with meaningful content revisions. Here’s how to go about it:

Conduct a Full Site Audit

The first step in recovering from a penalty is understanding the scope of the issue. Utilize tools like Google Search Console, site crawlers, and third-party audit tools to pinpoint exactly where the problem lies.

  • What: Identify affected pages, broken links, content issues, and other relevant factors.
  • Why: A comprehensive audit lays the groundwork for a focused recovery plan.
  • How: Use available online tools, or consider hiring an SEO specialist for a more in-depth audit.

Develop a Corrective Action Plan

Once you have a complete picture of the problem areas, create an action plan that outlines the steps needed to address each issue.

  • What: A detailed list of tasks that need to be accomplished.
  • Why: Without a well-structured plan, the recovery process could become chaotic.
  • How: Prioritize tasks based on their impact and feasibility, allocating resources efficiently.

Execute the Action Plan

After developing your plan, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. This phase involves both technical and content-related changes.

  • What: Correcting errors, updating content, and revising links, among other tasks.
  • Why: Actual execution is where the rubber meets the road, leading to recovery.
  • How: Depending on the scope, you might need to involve different departments or even external agencies to execute the plan effectively.

Document Your Efforts

Google expects to see evidence of your recovery efforts when you submit a reconsideration request. Therefore, documentation is crucial.

  • What: Detailed logs and screenshots of the changes made.
  • Why: To substantiate your case during the reconsideration process.
  • How: Maintain a log file and take before-and-after screenshots. Be meticulous in your documentation.

Submit a Reconsideration Request

After you’ve executed the action plan and documented your efforts, the final step is to submit a reconsideration request to Google.

  • What: A formal request to Google for reevaluation of your site.
  • Why: This is the ultimate goal — to have the penalty lifted and regain your lost standing.
  • How: Through Google Search Console, compile all your supporting documents and clearly state the actions taken for recovery.

Monitor and Adjust

Even after submitting the reconsideration request, your work is not done. Continue to monitor your site’s performance and be ready to make further adjustments if needed.

  • What: Ongoing oversight of site metrics and performance.
  • Why: Recovery is often a continuous process that may require further tweaks.
  • How: Use analytics tools to keep track of performance metrics and make adjustments as needed.

Concluding Thoughts

Understanding and steering clear of actions that could result in Google penalties or manual actions is fundamental for maintaining a healthy online presence. This comprehensive guide aims to provide a robust foundation for recognizing, addressing, and recovering from manual actions, ensuring a smoother journey in the digital arena.

Key Points to Remember

  • Adherence to Google’s guidelines is essential for preventing penalties.
  • Recognizing the signs and knowing the recovery methods are crucial for website maintenance.
  • Regular oversight and adjustments can prevent loss of ranking and visibility.

By reading this guide, you’re equipping yourself with the knowledge to protect your website from falling into the abyss of Google penalties. Keep this guide handy, and may your site always find itself on the favorable side of Google’s ledger.


jay kang

An entrepreneur and SEO expert, is the driving force behind innovative platforms like, and more. Committed to empowering marketers, Jay continues to make a positive impact in the digital marketing space.

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