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If your website has fallen off Google’s radar, it could be suffering from a manual action. Google regularly demotes websites that participate in manipulative, black-hat search engine optimization (SEO). While most of these demotions occur automatically, others occur manually. Known as manual actions, they can result in little or no organic traffic from the world’s largest search engine. There are many misconceptions about manual actions, however, that you shouldn’t believe.

Doesn’t Affect Indexing

The truth: manual actions can affect indexing. If you violate Google’s SEO guidelines when building or promoting your website, Google may strike it down with manual action.

Manual actions typically have one of two effects: They can suppress your website’s rankings by forcing it to rank lower, or they can completely remove your website from Google’s index. If it’s removed from Google’s index, your website won’t rank at all until the manual action is lifted.

Triggered By Competitors Who Submit Spam Reports

The truth: You don’t have to worry about a competitor triggering a manual action by reporting your website for spam. Google, however, does have a spam reporting feature. Available at google.com/webmasters/tools/spamreportform, it allows users to report websites for spam. Users who discover websites participating in spam can report them to Google.

Fortunately, Google doesn’t impose manual actions based on spam reporting. In a Twitter conversation, Google Search Advocate John Mueller confirmed that competitors can’t trigger manual actions by reporting websites for spam. Google’s Quality Guidelines also state that spam reports are used to improve Google’s algorithm; they aren’t used to impose manual actions.

Tracking Isn’t Possible

The truth: There are no third-party SEO tools that can reveal whether your website is suffering from a Google-imposed manual action. Google doesn’t publicize this information. Some SEO tools may claim to offer insight into penalties, but they use rudimentary signals like changes in rankings. Your website’s search rankings will probably change regardless, so you can’t rely on signal to determine if it’s suffering from a manual action.

You can still track manual actions. Rather than using a third-party SEO tool, you’ll need to use Google’s signature SEO tool, Search Console. Search Console features a section for manual actions. In this section, you’ll see a list of all manual actions, if any, that Google has imposed on your website.

Only Affects Individual Pages

The truth: While some manual actions may only affect individual pages, others can affect your entire website. Site-wide manual actions usually involve severe violations. For minor violations, a manual action may only affect one or more individual pages.

To determine whether a manual action is affecting one or more individual pages, or if it’s affecting your entire website, click on the manual action in Search Console. Clicking a manual action will expand it. You’ll be able to see the reason for the manual action as well as the affected pages.

If you see “All” listed under the “Affects” column, the manual action is affecting your entire website. If there’s a directory path under this column, such as example.com/name-of-category/, all of the pages in that directory are affected.

Moving to a New Domain Will Resolve Them

Truth: Some webmasters wrongly believe that moving their website to a new domain will resolve manual actions. Domains represent websites. Therefore, moving a penalized website to a new domain will create the impression of a fresh, new site.

Manual actions will often follow websites to new domains. Manual actions will almost always carry over when an old domain is redirected to a new domain. According to Mueller, though, Google may carry over manual actions without redirects as well. If you copy your website’s content and move it to a new domain, the manual action will likely persist.

Always Caused By Spam

The truth: Manual actions aren’t always caused by spam. There are over a dozen types of manual actions. Most of them, however, are caused by spam. Spam-related manual actions include violations like unnatural backlinks, automated content scraping, keyword stuffing, and visitor comment spam.

Besides spam, other violations such as cloaking and misleading structured data can result in a manual action. Cloaking is the act of showing Google and visitors different versions of a given page. Google may see a page that’s loaded with unique, premium content, whereas visitors may see a page that consists entirely of a large ad.

Misleading structured data is false structured data. It doesn’t accurately describe the content on the page where it’s used. As the name suggests, misleading structured data misleads Google. Using structured data to describe a blog entry as a product, for example, is misleading. Only actual products should be marked up as products. If you’re going to use structured data, make sure it’s accurate to avoid manual actions.

The Effects Are Permanent

The truth: Your website isn’t destined to rank low in Google’s search results forever. Even if it’s suffering from a manual action, there are steps you can take to recover. The recovery process will vary depending on the type of manual action. To recover from a manual action caused by unnatural backlinks, you’ll need to get the spammy backlinks removed by asking webmasters to take them down, or you can disavow them.

Other types of manual actions will require a different recovery process. You can find instructions on how to recover from a manual action by clicking it in Search Console. After performing the steps recommended by Google, you can request a review. Requesting a review will notify Google that you’ve corrected your website.

After requesting a review, you’ll have to sit back and wait. It may take a few days to several months for Google to review your website. Manual actions are manually imposed, and they are manually lifted. As long as you’ve fixed your website by following the steps specified in Search Console, Google should remove the manual action.

Manual actions are frustrating. Unlike algorithmic penalties, you can’t resolve them simply by improving your website’s organic SEO. If your website is suffering from a manual action, you’ll have to fix the violation that caused it, followed by requesting a review. Google will only lift the manual action after reviewing your website and determining that it no longer violates its guidelines.

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Last Updated in 2022-04-29T09:03:21+00:00 by Lukasz Zelezny