Google issues a manual action (penalty) against a website when a human reviewer at Google has determined that a page or pages on a website are not compliant with Google’s webmaster quality guidelines. Google claims that most manual actions address attempts to manipulate their search index.

Over the years, Google has come under fire from the search engine optimization community for putting too much stock in both their human graders and algorithms abilities to decipher the difference between a negative SEO attack or a legitimate attempt to manipulate search engine rankings.

Regardless of your site has been hit with a manual action from your own efforts or from a negative SEO attack – you’re going to need to file a reconsideration request with Google.

Google Manual Action Example

Manual actions can happen for a variety of reasons. Earlier in the year we had a client get a manual action for allowing user generated spam through their website’s search function. Simply disallowing the search queries to create a static URL in the robots.txt file fixed the issue and the manual action was dropped within a few short weeks.

Three months ago a prospect came to us after receiving the manual action above:

“Google has detected a pattern of unnatural artificial, deceptive, or manipulative links pointing to pages on this site. These may be the result of buying links that pass PageRank or participating in link schemes…”

– Google

While the first example was pretty straight forward, the second scenario was much more complicated due to a lengthy, and aggressive negative SEO attack. Negative SEO attacks are something Google touts their ability to identify and claim SEOs shouldn’t have to worry about them.

When the Negative SEO case was referred to us we immediately went into action. During our review we found everything from money, branded, random and adult themed anchors to the tune of nearly a million links rolled out over a two year period.

After several weeks of review, we reached out to as many websites as we could to have the links removed, many had already found and removed the links. For the additional links we were unable to review we added to a very lengthy disavow and submitted our reconsideration request on August 17, 2020 which was 98 days ago.

Granted, our first disavow was pretty simple to solve and pre-COVID. The second manual action happened during COVID so we’re assuming Google might be behind from this.

On Tuesday, October 20, 2020, the Justice Department filed suite against Google for violating antitrust laws.

“Today, millions of Americans rely on the Internet and online platforms for their daily lives.  Competition in this industry is vitally important, which is why today’s challenge against Google — the gatekeeper of the Internet — for violating antitrust laws is a monumental case both for the Department of Justice and for the American people,” said Attorney General William Barr. “Since my confirmation, I have prioritized the Department’s review of online market-leading platforms to ensure that our technology industries remain competitive.  This lawsuit strikes at the heart of Google’s grip over the internet for millions of American consumers, advertisers, small businesses and entrepreneurs beholden to an unlawful monopolist.”

Attorney General William Barr

Search Engine Optimizers globally have praised the recent action brought forth by the Department of Justice and use cases like the one above as an example of how Google can ‘turn the lights off’ for a small business almost instantly for any reason at all.