Google’s Manual Action message

Monday, August 19th, 2013 by Emily Mace

A few weeks ago, Google launched a new section in Webmaster Tools that allows website owners to see if they have a manual action on their site, thereby better helping webmasters to improve their offering.

Google has introduced this as a new section in its Webmaster Tools to try and help site owners work out what is going on with their website and how they can resolve any issues.

The Manual Actions page can be found under the Search Traffic menu.

There are two types of Manual Actions reported in this screen: whole site issues and partial site issues – called Matches by Google.

  • Whole site Matches are when Google finds an issue which affects the whole site and not just a specific section.
  • Partial site Matches are where Google finds an issue which doesn’t affect the whole site, just an individual part.

These messages can cover a number of topics including:

  • Unnatural links – these can be links from other places to your site or links from your site which look like they are bought, manipulative or just there to create rankings for a keyword
  • Hacked site – letting you know if Google thinks your site has been hacked
  • User-generated spam – such as cloaking or hidden text and keyword stuffing
  • Spammy Free Hosts – action taken if a site is hosted on what looks like a low quality services (such as bet hosts which have multiple low quality sites on them, or are link farms and the like)

Here’s a bit more detail about this three:

Unnatural links

Google PenguinThis relates to the unnatural links warnings about which webmasters have been receiving emails for some time. This will tell you, as the messages do, if there are links on or pointing to your site which Google considers to be spammy or low quality.

These kinds of issues (which could relate to a Penguin algorithm update issue) can be resolved with the Disavow tool and performing a full link review.  If you have unnatural links on your site you are likely to have had drops to your rankings as well.

Hacked site

This lets you know if Google believes your site has been hacked.  Again, this can be communicated as a message from Google, as well as in the message centre and by email like the Unnatural Links warnings on the site.  This is useful if your site has been hacked but also if some changes you’ve made to the site make it appear to Google that your site has been hacked.

Google does not rank hacked sites, so if you have been hacked it’s wise to perform a review and undertake any repairs as soon as possible. This should help the site recover from these issues and gain previous rankings more quickly.

User Generated Spam

This is the type of on-page issue which can result in a Panda Algorithm update penalty and can also result in lost rankings for your site.

User-generated spam includes things like sneaky redirects or cloaking. It also concerns things like keyword stuffing and hidden text – all of these things are against Google’s webmaster guidelines.

Remember that, when working on your site, you should be focussed on making it visible and useful for visitors – not trying to get rankings by presenting content full of keywords. This is also true for blocks of content which only the search engines can read, including hidden text aligned to the side of the page so it’s not visible to visitors and things like commented out content, which only people viewing the code on your site can read.

Spammy Free Hosts

Google states on its website that it tries to be as specific as possible with manual spam reports and actions. However, when it comes across whole web services which host a large percentage of sites that fall fowl of their spam rules and have manual actions against them, it might issue a Service wide manual action as opposed to ones on specific sites on that service.

If your site is on a service which is hit by this, it might be worthwhile trying to discuss the issue with your hosting company and asking them about the actions they are taking to resolve the problem. However, moving your site to another host might also be an idea.

What to do when you have an issue

If you see a manual spam action on your site in Google Webmaster Tools, you will need to spend some time working out why this has happened and what is causing the issues. Then, begin resolving these things which I’ve briefly covered in the above sections.  Once you believe you have addressed the issue you can follow the link from the Manual Actions page to submit a reconsideration request for your site.

Hopefully this gives you a good overview of this new section in Google Webmaster Tools!

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About the author

Emily Mace

Emily Mace

Emily joined Vertical Leap in 2008 and is now the Senior SEO Campaign Delivery Manager. Emily previously worked in training, IT Support, Website development as well as SEO and worked for local Government departments and Tourism South East. Emily gained Google Analytics Individual Qualification in 2011, and regularly blogs on the technical aspects of SEO, sharing her expertise with our readers. Follow on Google+