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Understanding Google Manual Penalties

Hearing the words “Google” and “penalty” together in the same sentence can cause a person to cringe. I understand this as it always sounds so bad. While a Google penalty is nothing to throw a party about, neither does it need to signal complete doom.

Manual penalties are a special breed of penalty because they are not solely algorithmic. In these cases, an actual, real, live human being has assigned your site this case. Let’s take a closer look at the penalties themselves.

What Causes a Manual Penalty?

There are actually 11 different types of manual penalties but two of them account for roughly 90% of all penalties assigned. Both of these related to the quality of inbound links.

In one case, Google may see a few links that they deem unnatural or not relevant to you. If the number of these links is small enough, you will receive a notice of an “Unnatural links to your site—impacts links” penalty. This means that your penalty only impacts the links, not your entire site. Essentially Google has given you the benefit of the doubt that these unnatural links are not really your fault. A partial penalty like this does not necessarily even impact your rank. While fixing the problem can still be important, do not therefore expect to see a boost in your rank after you do so.

In another case, if Google sees a more significant problem with bad links throughout your site, your notice will reference “Unnatural links to your site” only. This means that your penalty impacts your entire site. Every single part of it. And, yes, that means your rank will be negatively affected. This happens when Google believes you have been actively involved in old-school slimey SEO tactics to garner as many links as possible without care for their quality or relevance.

If your penalty is not related to link, it is most likely due to poor content quality. This can involve many things such as duplicate or automated content or content that really says nothing or does not help visitors. A preponderance of doorway pages can also lead to this type of penalty.

What Now?

Ok, so you’ve got your penalty notice. Now what do you do? The first step is to decide if you are going to do anything at all. That’s right. If you receive a partial penalty, it may not be worth going through the steps of removing it. Site-wide penalties should always be addressed.

For link-related penalties, you will need to run a full link analysis. This will require multiple tools as there is no one tool that can capture every link. Once you have done this, prepare yourself for the hard work next. Removing bad links can be done but it is not done overnight. It will take time. A lot of time. And it will require patience and commitment on your part to stick with it.

The Payoff is Worth It

Rushing through the process of fixing a penalty generally only backfires. The human attached to your case knows how much time it should take you to fix it. When you magically complete the work in a fraction of the time, more flags are raised and the likelihood of getting that penalty removed goes down.

On the flip side, when you do what you need to and file your reconsideration request, you will be pleased with the results.