Does Human Action Affect Your Organic Search Rankings?Find out how your site might be affected by this Google penalty (and if it's permanent).
Manual actions can have a profound effect on how your site looks on Google.It has the ability to demote a website's content in search results and completely remove content from the search index.
Does this make manual actions a ranking factor?
No, not exactly.
Ranking factors are signals that Google uses to evaluate where and how a page ranks in search results.These signals are picked up by Google's periodic scraping of the web.
Manual action doesn't fit that definition because it's implemented by Google itself.It's fair to say that manual action overrides all other ranking factors, as it instantly removes the site from Google's face.
Google's algorithm automatically filters out content that may cause problems in search results. Every now and then, Google encounters a problem that it has to manually step in and take urgent action.
Learn more about manual actions and their impact on search rankings below.
Disclaimer: Manual action is a ranking factor
Manual actions fall under the category of ranking factors because they refer to adjusting a site's visibility in search results.
More specifically, the action involves demoting or removing a website or specific page from Google Search.Calling manual action a "ranking factor" is misleading because it creates the impression that it's part of, or at least considered by, the algorithm, which it definitely isn't.
In fact, this is the toughest penalty Google can issue to a website.
The next section goes into more detail about the types of violations that lead to manual action by Google, which can help you avoid taking action yourself.
Manual action is a penalty, not a ranking factor
Google provides clear documentation on what a manual action is, how to know if your site is affected by a manual action, and how to recover after publishing an action.
From the documentation:
"When Google's human reviewers determine that a page on a site does not meet Google's webmaster quality guidelines, Google issues a manual action for the site.Most manual actions address attempts to manipulate our search index.
In addition to manipulating SEO tactics against websites, Google reserves the right to remove content if required by law.
It's all explained in detail in a video with former Google employee Matt Cutts, which is as relevant today as it was when it was first released in 2012.
Type of manual operation
The violations that result in manual action by the Google app are listed below.
- third-party spam: The site contains a lot of spam generated by third parties.
- User Generated Spam: The site contains spam submitted by visitors.
- Structured data: The site uses structured data in a manipulative way.
- Unnatural inbound links: There is a pattern of artificially placed links to a site.
- unnatural external links: There is a pattern of artificially placed links that point externally from a website.
- Condensed content: The site contains low-quality pages with little added value.
- Covert and sneaky redirects: The site presents the user with a different page than the one presented to Google, or redirects the user to a different page than what Google sees.
- pure spam: The site uses aggressive spam techniques and/or other repeated or severe violations of Google's Quality Guidelines.
- Hide picture: Some websites' images may appear differently in Google search results than when viewed on the website.
- Hidden text and keyword stuffing: Some sites may have pages that contain hidden text or keyword stuffing, techniques not permitted by Google's Webmaster Guidelines.
- AMP content mismatch: There are differences in content between the AMP version and its canonical pages.
- sneaky mobile redirect: Some pages on the site redirect mobile users to content that is not available to search engine crawlers.
- "News and Discovery" policy: The site violates Google News and/or Discovery's content policies.
How to know if your site is affected by manual actions
Instead of making adjustments to search rankings through algorithms, Google provides clear communication to sites when they encounter manual actions.
You may be notified before manual actions are implemented, as Google sometimes offers an opportunity to correct the problem before issuing a fine.All of this communication happens through Google Search Console, making it an essential SEO tool.
If a site is affected by manual action, Google will send a direct message through Search Console.The message will include information on why the action was taken, which pages were affected to what extent, and how to regain Google's good graces.
You can find more information about any manual actions on your site in the Search Console Manual Actions report.
How to recover from manual action
You can recover from all manual actions as long as the necessary steps are taken.
Google will never permanently de-index a site from its search results.Some penalties may be harder to recover than others, but it can always be done.
To recover from manual action, all issues found by Google on all offending pages need to be resolved.Once the issue is resolved, the site owner must submit a reconsideration request.
A reconsideration request is exactly what it sounds like - asking Google to reconsider the penalties it issues to sites. Google will review the request and undo manual action if the issue is found to be resolved.
Note that a site's ranking may not immediately go back to where it was, but there's nothing stopping the site from boosting the SERPs again.
See the section on reconsideration requests for details on this process.
Manual Actions as Ranking Factors: Our Verdict
While manual action can cause a page or site to rank lower or be ignored in search results, it's not technically a ranking factor.Manual action is Google's penalty, the most severe, and should be avoided at all costs.