In the past three years the art of off-site SEO has changed. Google’s answer to those trying to manipulate their Page Rank and ranking algorithm was Penguin and its updates that followed in succession. Many SEOs in the past opined that Google could not enact spam penalties due to negative SEO. That antiquated thinking is a far cry from today’s search results shaped by Google manual spam actions. Alas, the Google manual spam actions have done little to thwart spammers as anyone with a blog can provide evidence, but as a website owner with legitimate SEO techniques, you, too, may fall victim to a Google manual spam action. In this post, I’ll cover what you as a website owner or webmaster may experience from Google manual spam actions and I’ll also cover how to get the Google manual spam action revoked.
What are the Google Manual Spam Actions
A Google manual spam action per Google means that “Google has detected a pattern of unnatural artificial, deceptive, or manipulative links pointing to your site.” The point of this article is not to avoid a Google manual spam action, but rather recover from one, but “manipulative” techniques Google can identify in an automated fashion include, over-optimized anchor text, blog networks identified via IP or WhoIs information, link farms, low-quality directories, link presence on domains flagged by Google or other users as being low quality or even paid advertisements and buying links. Google is far from perfect, so legitimate purchasing of advertisement placement on domains without proper paid placement treatment can result in a penalty.
Google manual spam actions come in two flavors: partial-match penalty and site-wide penalty. Partial-match penalty may not be detrimental to your SEO efforts as Google is devaluing what it interprets as manipulative links to your site. A site-wide Google manual spam action will have huge repercussions on your Google rankings. You can judge the severity of which by searching your brand term or URL and seeing if you’ve fallen in rankings. Whatever your specific Google manual spam action or what you perceive as the effect, we recommend cleaning it up.
How do I know if I’ve Received a Google Manual Spam Action?
Fortunately, Google has improved communication over the Google manual spam actions and there is little chance you’ll be in the dark if your site’s been hit with a Google manual spam action. You need to make sure your website is verified to Google Webmaster Tools to receive Google communications. If you receive a Google manual spam action you will receive an “unnatural link” warning in your site messages. You can also see more details within Google Webmaster Tools under Search Traffic > Manual Actions. This will tell you site-wide, partial-match or no manual webspam:
Google Unnatural Inbound Links:
How To Get Google Manual Spam Action Revoked
To get the Google manual spam action revoked you will need to work through several steps and be very diligent in documenting your efforts for transparency:
- Backlink audit to identify which links may be causing the Google manual spam action
- Find contact information for these websites identified
- Make three attempts to reach the website owners for link removal and document efforts
- Document all efforts and results in a Google Doc for this documentation to share with Google
- Disavow links for which you failed to get removed or could not find contact information
- Submit your reconsideration request pointing to your disavow request as well as your Google doc with your documented outreach efforts
At the end of this, I suggest you have a single Google Doc with a column for “All Identified Bad Domains,” “Contact info/page for bad domains,” “Outreach One Date,” “Outreach Two Date,” “Outreach Three Date,” “Result of Outreach” and “Links to Disavow.”
1. Backlink audit to identify which links may be causing the Google manual spam action. You may choose to review Google’s resource on link schemes to understand which links may be causing harm. If you built these yourself, you have an idea. Either way, you will have your work cut out for you. First, you need to pull as comprehensive a list of backlinks as possible.
Free backlink tools:
Google Webmaster Tools. Search Traffic > Links to Your Site > Who Links to You the Most > Download this Table
Paid backlink tools (this list is long, but my two favorites):
Now we have our total backlinks we need to identify bad ones. You can try Link Detox if you want an automated attempt at this, but I recommend a manual approach as you need these efforts to be exhaustive. Depending on how many backlinks your site has, this can be hugely time consuming. Export all the backlinks you can to CSV and de-duplicate your backlink list in Google Drive or Excel. You can use one resource if you feel it’s comprehensive. A tool that contains anchor text, IP address and nofollow/dofollow will help streamline your analysis. If you’re solely using GWT report, don’t worry, you can grab bulk IP addresses for domains here.
There is some subjectivity that comes with recommending what to remove. In general, I recommend being aggressive and removing questionable links. In most cases, it’s okay to concentrate just on the domain and not the exact link; this will greatly help reduce effort and will likely not have any collateral damage of removing good links. What to look out for:
- Any sort of spam, comments etc.
- Over-optimized non-brand anchor text – check these links as many will likely be poor quality
- Irrelevant domains
- Wrong language
- Article directories
- Low-quality directories
- Low-quality search engines
- Low-quality bookmarking website
- Low-quality press release
- Temp errors
- Inactive blogs
- Blog networks identified by IP addresses (matching C blocks: a.b.c.d)
- Run-of-site links
2. Find contact information for these websites identified. This is simple enough; visit the site and look for a contact page or a page containing a contact form. It may help to do a Google search for “site: domain.com inurl:contact” where “domain” is the actual domain. Note the contact email, contact page or “no contact available” in your Google Doc.
3. Make three attempts to reach the website owners for link removal and document efforts. Use that previously acquired contact information for outreach. We recommend having an email with the extension for the domain you’re outreaching on behalf for better results. Reach out three times and monitor for response. Document the date of outreach in the applicable column and wait a week in between each outreach.
4. Document all efforts and results in a Google Doc for this documentation to share with Google. I’ve explained specifics above applicable to each effort. Column headers may reflect the below:
**make sure that this Google doc is available to anyone with a link in the privacy settings.
5. Disavow links for which you failed to get removed or could not find contact information. Google’s disavow tool has been covered in full. You will need to disavow links to get the Google manual spam action revoked. In short, since we’re concentrating on disavowing at the domain level, you will take all of your domains from your domain column and place them in a plain-text document in a format reflective of the below:
#domain disavow file date
#failed outreach / bad links
#failed outreach / bad domains
The “#” lets you comment notes to Google for record. The “domain: ” will disavow the entire domain including sub-directories. Note that you will need to disavow subdomains individually. You can also remove individual links by adding the full page URL without “domain: ”
6. Submit your reconsideration request pointing to your disavow request as well as your Google doc with your documented outreach efforts. Be thorough and mention that you believe the site is now compliant with Google Search quality guidelines. Mention that you have reviewed these guidelines numerous times. Be clear and state fully your efforts to get the links removed. Point to the Google doc as evidence. Mention your disavow file and name the file specifically. Quantify your efforts with numbers. “X number of links identified and X number of links disavowed.” Request that the Google rep point to outstanding examples of bad links if they refuse your reconsideration request.
How Will I Know if My Google Manual Spam Action Was Revoked?
Fortunately, Google has gotten better about communication, so after roughly a month you will hopefully see the below message in your GWT account:
Impact of Google Manual Spam Action Being Revoked
The impact will vary depending on your circumstance, but the below client we got the Google manual spam penalty revoked in August saw the below organic traffic gains:
That’s how to get Google manual spam action revoked. There are many moving parts and we have tools that help us accomplish this in an efficient and incredibly successful fashion. If you’d like us to run with this or just need some questions answered contact Verticle Leap today.