Are Manual Actions A Google Ranking Factor?
Manual action can have a profound effect on the appearance of a website in Google.
It is able to demote website content in search results and remove content from search index completely.
Does this make manual procedures a ranking factor?
No, not exactly.
Ranking factor is a signal that Google uses to evaluate where and how a web page ranks in search results.
These signals are picked up by Google’s regular web crawling.
Manual action does not fit this definition, as it is something Google implements on its own.
It would be fair to say that the manual action overrides all other ranking factors, as it can knock a website off the Google interface in an instant.
Google’s algorithms automatically filter potentially problematic content in search results.
Every now and then, Google runs into a problem where it has to manually step in and take urgent action.
Here’s more about manual actions and how they affect your search rankings.
Claim: Manual actions are the ranking factor
Manual actions are grouped into the ranking factors category because the action refers to adjusting the appearance of a website in search results.
To be more specific, the action involves demoting or removing a particular site or pages from Google search.
Calling the manual action a “ranking factor” is misleading because it creates the impression that it is part of the algorithm or at least considered by it, which is not the case at all.
In fact, it is the most severe penalty that Google can issue to websites.
The next section contains more details about the types of offenses that may prompt Google to take action manually, which can help you avoid getting one of your own.
Manual actions are a penalty, not an ordering factor
Google has Clear documents About what the manual actions are, how to tell if your site has been affected by one, and how to recover it after it’s released.
From the document:
“Google issues a manual action against a site when a human reviewer at Google determines that pages on the site do not comply with Google’s webmaster quality guidelines. Most manual actions attempt to address attempts to manipulate the search index.”
In addition to taking action against sites for manipulative SEO tactics, Google reserves the right to remove content if required by law.
All this is explained in detail in Video with former Google employee Matt Cutts Which is as relevant today as it was when it was first published in 2012.
Types of manual actions
Below is a list of violations that will result in Google applying a manual action.
- Unwanted third party: The site contains a significant amount of spam generated by third parties.
- User generated spam: The site contains spam sent by visitors.
- structured data: The site uses structured data fraudulently.
- Abnormal inbound linksThere is a pattern of artificially placed links pointing to a site.
- Abnormal external links: A pattern of artificially placed links pointing outward from a site.
- Poor contentThe site contains low-quality pages with little or no added value.
- Anonymization and sneaky redirects: The site shows users different pages than those shown on Google, or redirects users to a different page than the one seen by Google.
- Pure spamThe site uses strict spam techniques and/or other repeated or flagrant violations of Google’s quality guidelines.
- hidden pictures: Some site images may display differently in Google search results than they appear on the site.
- Hidden text and keyword stuffing: Some pages of the site may contain hidden text or keyword stuffing, techniques not permitted by Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
- AMP content does not match: There is a difference in content between the AMP version and its canonical web page.
- Scam mobile redirect: Some pages on a site redirect mobile users to content that is not available to search engine crawlers.
- News and discovery policies: The site violates the content policies of Google News and/or Discover.
How do you know if your site has been affected by a manual action?
Unlike adjustments to search rankings that happen algorithmically, Google provides a clear connection to websites when subjected to a manual procedure.
You may be notified in advance of the manual action being performed, as sometimes Google will offer an opportunity to correct the problem before issuing a penalty.
All of these communications happen through Google Search Console, which makes it an essential SEO tool.
If a site is affected by a manual action, Google will send a direct message via Search Console.
The message will contain information about why the action was taken, which pages have been affected to what extent, and how to get back into the good graces of Google.
You can find more information about any manual actions against your site in the Manual action report in Search Console.
How to recover from a manual procedure
It is possible to recover from all manual actions, as long as necessary steps are taken.
Google will never permanently de-index a site from its search results. It may be more difficult to recover from some punishments than others, but it can always be done.
Recovering from a manual procedure requires fixing all issues identified by Google on all offending pages. When the issues are fixed, the site owners have to file a reconsideration request.
A reconsideration request is exactly what it sounds like – a request to Google to reconsider the penalty it has issued against a site.
Google will review the request and reverse the manual procedure if it finds that the issues have been resolved.
Note that a site’s rankings may not immediately return to what they were, but nothing prevents a site from moving up again in the SERPs.
For more information about this process, see the chapter on Reconsideration Requests.
Manual procedures as a ranking factor: our judgment
Although the manual action causes pages or sites to rank lower or be removed from the search results, it is not technically a ranking factor.
Manual action is a penalty on Google’s part, the most severe one, and should be avoided at all costs.
Featured Image: Paolo Bobita/Search Engine Magazine