Manual Actions as a Ranking Factor
A manual action can have a significant impact on a website’s visibility in the search results. It can demote a website’s content in the search results and remove it from the search index. As a result, some SEO experts think that manual actions are used for ranking Google SEO websites. However, Google SEO experts must first look into the difference between ranking factors and manual actions.
A ranking factor refers to the signals Google uses to determine a web page’s rankings in the search results. These signals are detected as Google regularly crawls the web.
A manual action does not fit that definition since Google implements it on its own. One can claim that a manual action overrules all other ranking criteria because it instantly removes a website from the search index as Google’s algorithms automatically exclude problematic content.
Every now and then, Google has to take immediate action manually, and this greatly affects a site’s search rankings.
SEOs Claim That Manual Actions are a Ranking Factor
Since manual actions involve adjusting a website’s visibility in search results, many SEOs consider it as a ranking factor. Specifically, manual actions demote or remove specific pages or the whole website from the search index.
Calling manual action a ranking factor might mislead others and create the impression that it is a part of Google’s algorithm, which isn’t. The truth of the matter is that manual actions are the most serious Google penalty issued to websites.
Manual Actions as a Google Penalty
Google has clearly defined what manual actions are in their documentation. The search engine company states that they issue a manual action against a website when one of Google’s human reviewers determine that the site’s pages do not comply with their webmaster quality guidelines. Most manual actions are done due to websites attempting to manipulate Google’s search index.
Aside from punishing websites that manipulate their search rankings, Google has the authority to remove content from its index if required by law. Former Googler Matt Cutts discussed this topic in a video back in 2012.
Different Types of Manual Actions
Here’s a rundown of penalties that Google may impose manually.
User-generated spam: a website that receives spam from its visitors
Thin content: the website contains low-quality content with little to no added value
Pure spam: the website uses aggressive spam tactics and repeatedly violates Google’s quality guidelines
Third-party spam: the website contains a huge amount of spam from third parties
Unnatural external links: Google notices a pattern of artificially placed links pointing outward from the website
Unnatural inbound links: Google notices a pattern of artificially placed links redirecting to a website
Structured data: the website uses structured data in a manipulative way
Cloaking and sneaky redirects: the website shows a different page to the visitor rather than shown to Google or redirects users to a different page than the one Google saw
AMP content mismatch: Google notices a difference in content between the canonical web page and its AMP version
Sneaky mobile redirect: the website has pages that redirect mobile device users to content that search engines cannot crawl
Cloaked images: the website shows a different image in the search results than when viewed on the website
Discover and News policies: the website violates content policies for Google Discover and News
Hidden text and keyword stuffing: the website’s page hides text or stuffs keywords, which both violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines
Determining if a Website is Affected by a Manual Action
When a website is hit by a manual action, Google communicates with the site regarding the matter. The site owner may be alerted before the manual action is put into place, and Google will occasionally offer them a chance to fix the problem before imposing the penalty.
Google notifies site owners about manual actions through the Search Console, making it a crucial Google SEO tool. If a manual action impacts a site, Google will notify them through a direct message within the tool.
The message will state why the manual action was carried out, which pages are affected and to what extent, and how to regain Google’s favour. In the Search Console Manual Action report, one can learn more about any manual actions their website has received.
Recovering from a Manual Action
Websites can recover from all types of manual actions provided that they take the necessary actions. Google will never completely delete a website from its search results. Some penalties might be more difficult to overcome than others, but it is always possible to recover from them.
To recover from a manual action, one must fix all the issues Google identified on all offending pages. Site owners must submit a reconsideration request after problems are addressed. A reconsideration request is simply a formal request from a site owner to Google to reconsider its penalty.
Google will then check if the issues have been fixed before reversing the manual action. The website might not recover its rankings right away, but nothing will prevent the search engine from ranking Google SEO pages again.
Manual Actions Are Not a Ranking Factor
A manual action can remove or demote pages or websites from the search results. However, that does not necessarily make them a ranking factor. Manual actions are a Google penalty – the most severe of punishments – and should be avoided at all costs.
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