These messages will vary depending on the type of penalty or Manual Action you have, and will generally include resources on how to remedy the actions placed against your website.
How Do I Remove A Manual Action?
While there is no clear cut, step-by-step way to remove a Manual Action, there are steps you can take based on the notification you receive and successes others have had in removing penalties. Additionally, Google will send you resources, backlinks, or examples of issues on your website so that you have more insights on how to fix them.
Removing A Content Or Spam-Related Manual Action
Depending on the type of content or spam Manual Action you receive, you should do the following:
Conduct a content audit and ask yourself these questions:
- What content is relevant?
- What content is irrelevant?
- Based on Google Analytics / WMT, what content gets the most visibility and traffic?
What content gets the most goal completions?
- Is my information architecture easy to use and correct?
- Can any content be updated, removed, or consolidated?
- Is any of my content spammy or off topic?
- Is any of this content copied from another site?
Being able to take an unbiased approach and wholeheartedly answer these questions will help you prioritize your next steps.
Removing A Link Related Manual Action
Backlink Data Collection
By far the most important aspect to your reconsideration request is your data collection and assessment of backlinks. What you’re going to do in this phase is collect your backlinks, research those backlinks by manually checking them, getting second opinions from tools, and placing those links into categories.
Those categories usually fall into: good, neutral, or bad. Bad of course being links you want to remove, good being those you want to keep, and neutral being middle ground that can either be left alone or inspected further.
Keep in mind that all vendors give different sets of links. No two sources give you the exact same list, so it’s important that you pull links from tools and vendors you trust. I personally pull links from the following tools:
- Google Webmaster Tools - These links are specific and direct from Google. Make sure you download these and research them - these are the links that Google sees and want you to be aware of. While they don’t give you the full list of links to remove, you can generally find patterns in the information they are giving you. If you focus on any tool, look into these the most. I would also note the anchor text that Google is finding the most in your backlink profile.
- Majestic - Majestic is a fantastic tool to assess backlinks within the last 30 days, as well as over the last five years. Majestic breaks down your backlinks topical relevance, as well as the metrics for the sites linking to you. Do they have a lot of spam backlinks themselves? Do they link
- LinkRisk - I love LinkRisk. Reason being, it gives me an individualized backlink profile scores, meaning it goes through my entire backlink profile, looks at all of the links that they can find, and scores those links based on their algorithm. From there, they give my website an overall backlink profile score. Beyond that, they categorize your backlinks by Good, Low Risk, Neutral, Suspect and Bad. You can read more about their system here.
What to Look For in Backlinks
There are multiple telltale signs that could potentially set off red flags. This quick assessment can tell you if links are immediately bad or look into. Here are some examples:
- Directory links (example)
- Usually these spam directories have the same template layout with
- Inspect URLs with blatant spam words
- Check for multiple domains and URLs on the same IPs
- This can usually be an indicator of link farms or spam
- Irrelevant links
- If you are receiving links from a shoe website and you’re a car dealership, it’s obviously not relevant
Outreach for link removals
The process for outreach on links you wish to remove takes time, patience, and detail. You have to stay on top of your outreach and take notes on both the process and outcome. This will be extremely important when setting up your reconsideration request.
- Obtain an email address for the source link (so rather than firstname.lastname@example.org, use email@example.com)
- Put together tabs in Google docs
- Toxic backlinks
- Links not removed
- Links removed
- Links requesting payment for removal
- Bounced requests
- Create link removal lists in Google docs
- Include the site, backlink location, email address, dates you sent requests, and outcome
- Set up a disavow file
- Links removed
- Links that were not removed
- Links that needed payment to remove
- Links you could not find contact information for
We recommend reaching out 3-4 times with a period of 5 days in between each attempt. Keep track of the dates you reached out and the outcomes in designated tabs and keep your communication professional and to-the-point.
What about links from my site to others?
If you received a Manual Action regarding links from your site pointing to other sites, do the following:
- Run a crawl of your site (I use ScreamingFrog)
- When the crawl is done, click ”Bulk Export” in the navigation
- Export this list and put into a Google docs spreadsheet
- Check the following items
- Anchor text
- Status codes
- Source pages
- This could tell you if you have blog comment spam
- What type of link it is
Check to find links that are broken, spam, or irrelevant to the content. By cleaning or “nofollow”ing outbound links, you show Google and search engines that you are taking the steps to keep your site clean, ultimately building the integrity of your website and who you link to.
Building Your Reconsideration Request
After you have done your outreach and took notes of the outcomes, it’s time to set up your reconsideration request. The key to a great reconsideration request is detail across multiple areas. Here is a quick outline to help guide you:
- Details of issues from Google
- Details of your tactics that caused these issues
- Details on location of issues
- Details of steps taken to clean up issues
- Details of outcomes from those steps taken
- We removed __% of toxic backlinks
- We refreshed __% of our content
- We removed __ pages from our site that were irrelevant
- Provide examples
- Details of your process moving forward to ensure issues do not happen again
What I personally like to do, is write a quick paragraph essentially saying:
“To the Google Search Quality Team,
We recently discovered a Manual Action was placed against _______.com for (Partial or Site-Wide) Matches. These actions were placed because of "(reason for the Manual Action)".
It has been our top priority to address these actions and have any and all issues resolved. We have provided you with the following information regarding our efforts to help clean up ________ (issues - content or backlinks). You can read more here:
(link to longer document with steps taken to resolve issues)
_____ is committed to meeting the Google Search Quality guidelines. If your team still finds our site does not meet the guidelines, please send examples as we are determined to immediately remove any and all issues that violate guidelines.
Please contact us if you have any questions or comments.
I put this information in the “Request a review” pop up that comes when I click “Request a Review” under the Manual Action page.