6 steps to get out of a Google Manual Action

4 minute read
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Many businesses have seen their Google search ranking drop dramatically in the aftermath of the Panda and
Penguin algorithm changes.  Many of the best SEO techniques that might
have worked 5 years ago are considered completely unethical to Google today.
 And businesses are learning the hard way that a cheap SEO company can be
much more costly than an expensive one. The long term repercussions of a Google
penalty can be devastating to a business, especially to those that rely on SEO
as their main source of traffic.

If you see a significant
decline in organic traffic, then you have probably been penalized by the search
engine giant.  But which penalty did you actually get hit with?

This will explain how to discover if you’ve been hit with a manual penalty and
six steps that you can take to get out of it.

Have you been slapped with a manual action
penalty?

A manual action is Google’s
method of combating spam and other unethical techniques that try to game
Google’s search engine rankings.  Google penalizes sites in question for
the keywords they are unethically optimizing. Every single manual action that
Google serves is reviewed and issued by an actual person at Google, rather than
Google’s algorithmic updates.

The easiest way to tell if your
site is in a manual action or not is to check Google Webmaster Tools. If you
would like to add your website to Webmaster Tools, Google has a quick guide
that you can follow.  If Google has served you a manual action, it will be
listed. If nothing is listed, your site is in the clear.

Simply put, you get out of the
manual action by removing spammy links. This will show Google that you are
making a conscious effort to clean up the web. There is no simple way to do
this, no magic wand or special potion.  

Here are six steps that you can
take to get out of a manual action penalty.

Step One: Find the low quality links

It’s important to remain
organized because this list will be quite large. In some instances, more than
one server, large. You can compile a master list of backlinks to your site
using services like Moz, Ahrefs, Majestic and
Google Webmaster Tools. I
recommend using more than one service to ensure that you’ve captured all of the
links.

Often times, spammy links are
disguised within great content. Here are some key things to look for when
identifying a spammy link:

  • Unnatural anchor text – If the anchor text is overly optimized for the keywords you are trying to target, Google will see it as unnatural
  • Low quality domain – Some domains blatantly sell links, have unreadable content, thin content, or are completely irrelevant to your website.

Step Two: Search the yellow pages

Now that you have a list of low
quality links, it’s time to remove them. This is no easy feat, often requiring
hundreds of hours of research and outreach. I recommend hiring contractors from
sites like oDesk or Freelancer that can help source contact
information for your spammy links. You should also set yourself up with a new
email address on Google that can track all of your outreach in one place.
 You will also be handing the email address over to Google when it comes
time to submit your reconsideration request.

Step Three: Get in touch

Your outreach email should be
clear and concise, with an explanation why you are requesting the webmaster
remove your link. Some people may be offended by your email but it’s important
to remain courteous. Remember that you are reaching out to people who have a
web presence and people with web presences are typically a vocal crowd. Use a
mail merge tool like Yet Another Mail
Merge
that can help you email a large list of people at one time.

One thing to note, if the
website that you are reaching out to only has a contact us form on their
website, you must to take a screenshot as proof of link removal request.
 Save the screenshot in an easily accessible Google Drive folder that can
later be shared with Google when you submit your reconsideration request.

Step Four: Disavow the links you can’t remove

Google knows you can’t possibly
get in touch with every single webmaster so they provide you with the option to
add the links you can’t remove to a disavow file. The disavow file is a list of
links that you tell Google not to use in a website’s backlink profile. Here is
a guide
from Google on how to properly create and submit a disavow file.

Step Five: Submit your reconsideration request

It’s finally time to submit
your reconsideration request, which will contain everything you’ve done to
clean up your link profile and why you deserve to get your penalty removed. In
your reconsideration request to Google, make sure to provide stats on how many
links you went through, removed, emails sent, links disavowed and anything else
that you think could be useful and relevant to your case. Make sure to provide
Google access to your disavow file, the email account you used to reach out,
and the Google folder where you saved screenshots of the contact form outreach.
Here is a great
sample
of a reconsideration request that you can follow.

Step Six: Rinse and repeat

It usually takes anywhere from
2 weeks to 2 months for Google review your request. If your penalty is removed,
then congratulations! However, it is common for your first reconsideration
request to get declined.

Don’t fret! Each time your
request gets declined, Google will provide guidance on what they are looking
for including a sample of additional links that they are not happy with. Look
for similarities in the links to help you identify those that need to be
removed. For example, some sample links have the same anchor text, author or
website network. Once the new set of links are removed or disavowed, update the
reconsideration request and submit it again. With a little patience, time, and
dedication, your site will be free from the penalty and business will be back
to normal again.

Chris Tam is SEO Manager at Virool and an expert at fixing organic traffic issues.