If you find your website traffic suddenly dropping, a Google manual action may be to blame. Google’s algorithms can detect most kinds of spam, but Google still employs a team of human reviewers to manually flag pages they think may be violating Google’s webmaster quality guidelines. These are known as manual spam actions. A page that’s been flagged will be punished by Google – it will be lowered in Google search results, and possibly even removed!

When Google flags a website or a specific page, the owner of the website will be notified by email. If you’ve received one of these emails, you may be worried about the safety of your site. Don’t worry! The SEO analysts at Radd Interactive have compiled a list of common Google manual penalties, so that you can understand where your website might have gone wrong.

Hacked Website

If you receive this alert, it means that Google has detected malicious code in your website. This code has likely been uploaded by a third party; it will need to be removed as soon as possible.

User-Generated Spam

This applies to websites that have heavy outside user traffic – forums, blogs, and even websites that allow comments and reviews might be affected by users posting spammy content. If visitors are constantly posting spam on your website, it obviously won’t reflect well on you!

Spammy Freehosts

If your website is hosted on a server full of spam, you may be punished for it – even if your website contains no spammy content.

Spammy Structured Markup

Structured content can help Google get a better understanding of your website’s content, and use that content to clarify your page’s search engine results. Because this structured content can be so helpful, it’s vital that Google checks it isn’t spammy. Marking up content that’s invisible to users or irrelevant to your page – in other words, marking up web pages that don’t match your content – is cause for flagging from Google’s review team.

Unnatural Outbound Links

Excessive links, linking to sites that Google considers spammy, selling links, links that don’t pass PageRank – these are all considered “unnatural links” by Google’s reviewers. If they spot a pattern of these links on your website, your site is sure to be flagged.

Unnatural Inbound Links

This, on the other hand, is a pattern of unnatural links directed towards your website from other websites. These links may not be your fault, but you should look into them regardless – they may change Google’s opinion of the quality of your site.

Thin Content

Thin content” is content that provides little value, or is just lacking from your website. There are multiple kinds of thin content that Google might flag:

Automatically Generated Content

If content looks obviously artificial, it’s likely to be marked as spam.

Thin Affiliate Pages

If you are part of an affiliate network, but your content is too similar to other sites in that network, you could be punished for that. Pulling affiliate feeds for your own website is one thing that will likely lead to a manual action.

Content from Other Sources

Paying for content – especially content considered “low-quality” – is frowned-upon by Google’s team. Whenever possible, it’s best to generate your own content; if you’re taking content from free article websites, or copying and pasting descriptions from merchants, you’re likely to be punished for it.

Doorway Pages

Pages on your website that only exist to lead to other pages may help generate traffic, but they won’t help your Google ranking if you receive a manual action for them! It’s also good to be careful of pages that are overly similar – if your website serves multiple locations, for example, make sure the page for each location is distinct. Creating the same page multiple times and only changing out the name of the location is bad news from Google’s perspective.

Cloaking

Showing content to Google but hiding it from human visitors to your website is a sure way to get a manual action. Google also punishes sneaky redirects (pages that are indexed in Google, but redirect visitors to other pages) and cloaked images (images that display differently to Google than they do to visitors).

Hidden Text/Keyword Stuffing

Filling your website with keywords, instead of incorporating them naturally into your content, will get you a manual action from Google. This is especially true if the keywords are visible to Google but hidden from users!

Pure Spam

Automatically generated gibberish, cloaking, scraping content from other websites, and other violations of Google’s guidelines – these are all considered pure spam, and will be flagged by Google’s review team.

Now you know what not to do if you’re looking to avoid being flagged by Google’s review team. Keep an eye on the Radd Interactive website to learn what steps you should take if you have received that dreaded email from Google!