In the last few years, Google has introduced a number of major algorithm updates such as Caffeine, Penguin, Panda, and Hummingbird. All these are efforts by Google to improve the user experience.
In August 18, 2013, Google added another feature called “Manual Actions” under its “Search Traffic” section found at Google Webmaster Tools (GWT).
What is manual action?
Manual action refers to the penalties imposed against a website after real humans from Google web spam, review and find that the website violates the Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
If you have a penalty resulting from manual action, Google will reveal whether this penalty affects specific URLs (partial matches) or whether it affects the whole site (site-wide-matches).
How to know your site has been penalized
To find out whether your site has been slapped with this manual penalty, you should look out for the following:
- Drop in organic traffic
- A decrease in your site’s performance
- Your website doesn’t show in the search results
What to do next
Unless Google sends you a notice, the next step should be to head to your Webmaster Tools account and check through the Manual Action page just to confirm the penalty.
If you’ve a penalty, then Google will specify whether it affects certain URLs (partial matches) or whether it affects the entire website (site-wide matches).
How to identify and fix the penalties
If the manual action has been listed, you have an idea of where to check and start fixing your website. Here are common things you can look for:
- Use Fetch as Google tool from GMT to find out how Google sees your particular web pages.
- Compare the content fetched by Google and the one that human visitors can see to find out whether the two are different.
- If the two contents are different, then you should remove the part of your website that serves different content to bots and users. To do this, go to the server and look through the site’s code.
- Check whether the site has any URLs that direct visitors to a different place than where they expect
- Find out whether there’re any URLs that redirect users from specific locations or redirect users that come from Google SERPs.
- If your website has any of the two redirects, remove the site’s portion that uses these links. You may do this by changing the site’s code from your server.
After making these changes, you may send a reconsideration request to Google describing the specific changes you’ve made to solve the issue.
Promise not to repeat the same in future. Google will then confirm that all is good and revoke the penalty.