Matt Cutts Tells Us How to Handle a Manual Penalty
Posted: April 30, 2013 by Alex Chan
According to Google, there are two types of penalties: a manual and an algorithmic one. Although it is unimaginable to believe that Google would manually check billions of websites, the truth is – They do.
The manual check-up is usually done on the first few pages that rank up top on the search engine result page (SERP). An algorithmic review is done by Google's regular crawlers. When an algorithmic penalty is issued, the ranking of the page is dropped. The algorithms reset the rankings and a certain amount of time needs to pass before the road to recovery can start. On the other hand, manual penalties are easier to deal with. Webmasters can fix the problem and send a reconsideration request to Google. In this request they state all the problems they have fixed on their website and wait for Google to take down the penalty. The response time is fairly quick and the penalty can be lifted on the spot.
Resolving manual penalties sounds fairly easy in theory, but it's very different in practice. Up until recently, Google has not been very transparent when it came to directing webmasters to the "actual" problem. Their warnings have been fairly vague and they leave it up to the webmaster to resolve the problem for themselves. Coming from someone that has worked their way through numerous penalities for all kinds of sites, this is incredibly frustrating.
According to Matt Cutts, Head of Webspam at Google, Google has tried to improve their transparency regarding the penalty message by making it more concrete and explicable. If webmasters are still unable to detect the problem on their websites, they should go to the Google Webmaster Central help forum and discuss their issues with people on the forum. By presenting the problem on the forum, webmasters will get help and advice from many volunteers. These volunteers usually guess what the problem might be, which can be helpful. Volunteers are helpful but they are not always right. In some cases, not even they can guess what the specific problem is. This is really where having a good webmaster on duty can save the day.
So, the question remains: "Even if webmasters find several issues on a website and fixes them, will they have fixed the one that Google penalized them for?
The answer to that question is anyone's guess. The good news is the webmaster forums can be very helpful. In some cases, if you genuinely can't figure out the issue, an actual Google engineer will look and hint at the problem. In Mozilla's case, Matt Cutts will step in and give you the answer himself.
Another good note, when a website gets a manual penalty, the entire site does not get penalized. The penalty is only for a particular page. If you can't find, or are unable to fix the problem, you can ask Google for help by sending the reconsideration request. Google has been known to respond with a more detailed reason for the penalty when a webmaster is genuinely trying to fix a problem. That being said, it's also about luck. So Good Luck if you've been hit, don't let it bog you down, there are thousands of webmasters willing to help you look at it.