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Google Algorithmic vs Manual Penalty: How to determine difference?

Google has been very active in improving their search results for recent years. Gone are the days where you can rank a website for its competitive keywords within just a month or two though spam tactics which violates Google’s search quality guidelines. In recent years, I had witnessed how Big G strives to clean up its search index by executing proper actions to those who manipulate their search rankings. Many websites have received Google site penalties and lost traction in terms of having decent rankings and sufficient amount of traffic. Most of them tanked on keywords which they normally rank for and experienced a huge decline in search traffic.

Types of Google Penalties

According to Matt Cutts, head of Google’s web spam team, there are two types of site penalties being imposed to Google guidelines violators. It is classified between “Algorithmic” or “Manual” penalty. The formula for ranking and traffic recovery are different for these two types of penalty, so it’s essential to understand which type has taken its toll against you.

Algorithmic Penalty

This is the type of penalty that is normally caused by Google algorithm updates. Two major examples of algorithm updates are Google Panda and Google Penguin. You will experience sudden decline in rankings and search traffic once the algorithm update didn’t go in favor of your side. This means that Google has made some algorithm adjustments and triggered some signals which are considered to be spam based on their standards.

For this type of penalty, there are tendencies that only minimal amount of keywords are affected and you still manage to rank on majority of your target keywords.

Algorithmic Penalty Detection

If you experience sudden drop in rankings and traffic, first thing you need to do is check reputable SEO news hubs if Google just rolled out a new algorithm update. There are SEO blogs that tracks every update and has kept the history of Google’s actions in years. Check out this page from for reference: Google Algorithm Change History.

In case there is no fresh algorithm update prior to the day you experienced instant lose in ranks and traffic, then there is a great chance that the other type of penalty has been taken against your website.

Reclaiming Ranks and Traffic after Algorithmic Penalty

After confirming that you’ve been hit by an algorithmic penalty, next thing you need to do is to study what the algorithm update is all about. You will then get an idea on what adjustments to make in order to cope with the algorithm changes and regain what’s lost.

It is also important to track the recent internal changes you made website. If you had edited some parts of your site prior to the day you have been negatively affected, then those changes might have triggered the algorithm to act upon your site. You can also check on the links you build recently since they might also be part of the new algorithm’s criteria. Once you have made the necessary changes in accordance to the recent algorithm update, your rankings and traffic will start to pick up gradually.

Manual Penalty

Manual penalty is an action executed by Google’s web spam team to penalise sites which violates Google’s search terms and conditions. The main targets of this penalty are those who use spam strategies to game the system and attain top rankings on Google’s search engine results page.

One of the most famous manual penalties sent by Google to penalised sites recently is called “Unnatural Links Penalty”. This is triggered by unusual amount of unnatural links pointed to a certain website. The type of unnatural links being filtered may come from sources like Splogs (spam blogs), forum profile links, low quality social bookmarks etc.

Manual Penalty Detection

Google Manual penalty is the type of penalty where you get notified and informed what have caused the said action to be taken against you. The manual penalty message is sent to your Google Webmaster Tool Account’s message section. Be sure to check your Google Webmaster Tool account right away whenever you noticed drastic decrease in ranks and traffic within a short span of time.

Reclaiming Ranks and Traffic after Manual Penalty

Regaining ranks and traffic is a tedious task especially when you were tagged with a Google manual penalty. If you have been hit by “Unnatural Links” penalty, it would require a huge amount of time, effort or even serious amount of money just to be able to bring back your site to norm.

An important key to recovering from this penalty is cleaning up your whole backlinks profile and letting Google know about all your efforts by means of submitting a reconsideration request. Below are helpful tips on how to recover from unnatural links penalty:

1)      Conduct an extensive audit on your website’s backlink profile – This can be done by using a link analysis tool such as Majestic SEO.

2)      Measure the amount of anchor texts linking to your website – Anchor texts links to your site should not exceed by 25%. Diversify your links to have a more natural looking backlink profile.

3)      Analyse bad links and create a list – This can also be done using Majestic SEO. Check high percentage rate anchor texts then scan bad links to be removed.

4)      Remove bad links to your site – Send link removal emails to low quality or spam website owners you listed through Majestic SEO.

5)      Use the Google Disavow Tool – This tool can be found inside your Google Webmaster Tool account and is used to devaluate spam links pointing to your website. Include all the links that you were not able to remove in your email link removal campaign.