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Google’s Manual Actions and Search Ranking Penalties

Google’s Manual Actions and Search Ranking Penalties

In search engine optimisation (SEO), website owners strive for that coveted top spot on Google’s search results page (SERP). However, achieving and maintaining high rankings requires more than just keyword stuffing and backlinks. Google, the undisputed ruler of the search engine kingdom, employs a complex algorithm to determine which websites deserve the most prominent positions. But lurking beneath the algorithmic layer lies another crucial aspect of Google’s ranking system: manual actions.

Manual Actions: Human Judgment in a Digital Age

While algorithms tirelessly analyse websites based on a multitude of factors, Google also employs a team of human reviewers who act as the guardians of search quality. These reviewers scrutinise websites for violations of Google’s webmaster guidelines, specifically focusing on tactics that attempt to manipulate search rankings through deceptive or manipulative practices. When a website is found to be in breach of these guidelines, Google issues a “manual action,” essentially a penalty that can significantly impact a website’s ranking or even lead to complete removal from search results.

Why Manual Actions Exist: Maintaining Search Quality

Manual actions serve a critical purpose: to ensure that Google’s search results are trustworthy and relevant to user queries. Imagine searching for a reliable recipe and landing on a page filled with nonsensical content or spammy links. Not only would such a result be useless, but it would also erode user trust in Google’s ability to deliver quality information. Manual actions are Google’s way of weeding out these manipulative tactics and presenting users with the most relevant and trustworthy websites possible.

Types of Manual Actions: A Website Owner’s Nightmare

The world of manual actions is a vast and ever-changing landscape. However, some of the most common types of penalties include:

  • Thin content: Websites with minimal or low-quality content that offers little value to users can be penalised. Google prioritises informative, well-written content that genuinely addresses user needs.
  • Keyword stuffing: Keyword stuffing involves overloading a webpage with keywords in an attempt to improve search ranking. This practice creates a negative user experience and is frowned upon by Google.
  • Link schemes: This involves artificially inflating a website’s backlink profile through buying links, participating in link exchanges, or using automated link-building tools. Google considers such practices deceptive and can penalise websites involved.
  • Cloaking: This tactic involves presenting different content to search engines and human visitors. Websites may show optimised content to search engines while displaying irrelevant content to users. Google can detect cloaking and penalise websites accordingly.
  • Scraped content: Websites that steal content from other sources without proper attribution can face penalties. Google values original content that provides unique value to users.

These are just a few examples, and Google continuously updates its guidelines and the types of manual actions it issues. Website owners must stay vigilant and ensure their websites adhere to the latest best practices.

The Impact of Manual Actions: A Digital Downfall

A website hit with a manual action can experience a devastating drop in search ranking, leading to a significant decline in organic traffic. This can have serious consequences for businesses that rely on website traffic for leads, sales, and brand awareness. In the most severe cases, websites may be completely removed from search results, rendering them invisible to potential visitors.

Recovering from a Manual Action: The Road to Redemption

If your website receives a manual action notification from Google, don’t despair. Recovery is possible, but it requires a proactive approach. Here’s what you should do:

  • Identify the issue: The Google Search Console will provide details about the specific manual action applied to your website. Carefully analyse the information and pinpoint the problematic areas.
  • Fix the problem: This might involve removing low-quality content, disavowing unwanted backlinks, or restructuring your website’s architecture. Take the necessary steps to address the underlying issues flagged by Google.
  • Request a review: Once you’ve rectified the problems, you can submit a reconsideration request to Google through the Search Console. This request demonstrates your efforts to comply with Google’s guidelines.
  • Be patient: The review process can take weeks or even months. Remain patient and ensure your website remains compliant with Google’s standards.

Avoiding Manual Actions: A Proactive Approach

The best way to deal with manual actions is to avoid them altogether. Here are some proactive steps you can take to ensure your website stays in Google’s good graces:

  • Focus on high-quality content: Create informative, well-written, and valuable content that genuinely addresses user needs.
  • Build backlinks naturally: Earn backlinks organically through high-quality content and genuine outreach efforts. Avoid any link-building schemes.
  • Stay updated: Keep yourself informed about the latest Google webmaster guidelines and algorithm updates.
  • Use white-hat SEO: Focus on ethical and legitimate SEO practices that prioritise user experience and long-term website success.
  • Prioritise user experience: Design your website with the user in mind. Ensure clarity, mobile-friendliness, and fast loading times.
  • Be transparent: Clearly communicate your website’s purpose and ownership. Avoid misleading users or search engines.
  • Regularly audit your website: Proactively identify and address any potential issues that might violate Google’s guidelines.


While algorithms play a dominant role in Google’s search ranking process, the human element remains crucial. Manual actions highlight the importance of Google maintaining a team of reviewers to ensure fairness and prevent manipulative tactics from compromising search quality. By understanding manual actions and employing a proactive approach that prioritises high-quality content and user experience, website owners can navigate the ever-evolving SEO landscape and achieve sustainable success in Google’s search results. Remember, Google’s ultimate goal is to deliver the most relevant and trustworthy information to its users. By aligning your website with this objective, you can avoid manual actions and ensure your website thrives in the digital ecosystem.

For more information on Google’s Manual Actions contact Click Return.