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Have you been hit by a manual penalty?

Have you been hit by a manual penalty?

It sometimes feels a little too easy to associate any loss of positioning within Google with the idea that a site has been hit by a penalty. Although this is probably the actual cause in many cases, it’s often easy to place blame in the wrong area.

If you’ve been busily submitting reconsideration requests and not getting much joy, then you need to think about your approach. What can a reconsideration request be used for and why might it not be working for you?

Automated versus manual penalties

The first thing to say is that there’s has been some suspicion that you should always be aware of a penalty, since there will be a notice within your Google Webmaster Tools account. Unfortunately, this simply isn’t always the case. Recent changes do ensure that you will receive notifications of manual penalties, but that means that you may still be unaware of any automated demotions.

Indeed, the term penalty can, in some instances, be rather unhelpful. Those who have lost positioning as a result of the Penguin updates, for example, may feel that they’ve been hit by a penalty. Looking at the outcomes, however, it may be more accurate to suggest that algorithm updates have simply led to a loss of positioning. That’s significant, but it’s also a subtle difference.

Why does any of this matter? Most people aren’t really interested in the semantics here, but there is a clear interest in understanding why a loss of positioning has occurred. Without that information, it’s almost impossible to see how a recovery can be achieved.

If you really have been hit by a manual penalty, then the recovery process may seem rather obvious. In fact, it’s likely that you were already aware of the actions that caused the problems.

It’s the automated penalties and the losses of positioning as a result of algorithm problems that can be more difficult to escape from.

Over-optimisation penalties

If you have been hit by an over-optimisation penalty (including as a result of Panda updates) then that may be obvious to you. You’ll frequently find that a site drops from page one down to a position where it has no chance of attracting visitors.

You may even discover that you can’t find the relevant page within the first 10 or 20 pages of search engine results.


Manual penalties are relatively rare. In most cases, it’s more likely that you will have been hit by an automated penalty or demotion of some sort.

This can be seen as being something of a shame, largely because those automated issues are far more difficult to escape from.

Before assuming that you are on the receiving end of a manual penalty, it’s important that you should carry out all relevant checks. Is that really the case? Could it be that you are actually facing another issues?

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