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Google: It’s Only A Penalty If It’s Manual Action

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Historically, the word “penalty” has been thrown around pretty loosely for sites who suffer in Google rankings. However, just because you got hit by an algorithm update, it doesn’t mean you’ve been penalized, as far as Google is concerned.

Google defines penalty as “A punishment imposed for breaking a law, rule or contract.”

Google Penalty

So, technically speaking, if you got hit by Penguin (legitimately), you’re being penalized for breaking the rules (Google’s quality guidelines). That’s what Penguin is designed to do. However, Google views penalties as manual action, as opposed to algorithmic action.

Google’s Matt Cutts spoke with Danny Sullivan in a keynote discussion at SMX last night. Danny asked if Penguin is a penalty, to which Cutts responded (according to Search Engine Land’s liveblog), “We look at it [as] something designed to tackle low-quality content. It started out with Panda, and then we noticed that there was still a lot of spam and Penguin was designed to tackle that. It’s an algorithmic change, but when we use a word like ‘penalty,’ we’re talking about a manual action taken by the web spam team — it wasn’t that. We don’t think of it as a penalty. We think of it as, ‘We have over 200 signals, and this is one of the signals.’”

According to the live blog, Danny asked, “So from now, does ‘penalty’ mean it’s a human thing?”

To which Cutts responded, “That’s pretty much how we look at it. In fact, we don’t use the word ‘penalty’ much, we refer to things as a ‘manual action.’ Part of the reason why we do that breakdown is, how transparent can we be? We do monthly updates where we talk about changes, and in the past year, we’ve been more transparent about times when we take manual action. We send out alerts via Google Webmaster Tools.”

Search Engine Land editor Barry Schwartz, who also liveblogged the discussion, writes, “Google’s Matt Cutts made it crystal clear last night. If you get those Google Webmaster Tools notifications or messages, that means you have been hit by a manual penalty done by a person at Google after reviewing your site by hand. Got that?”

On a side note, Cutts indicated that only about 1-2% of 700,000 Webmaster Tools warnings were about links, and the rest were clear violations.

Google: It’s Only A Penalty If It’s Manual Action
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  • http://www.LAokay.com Steve G

    There are still algorithmic penalties issued out, don’t be swayed with word play by Google employees. Just because you don’t get some manual notice doesn’t mean if you remove some bad SEO either off your site or get some site to remove links to yours on that other site, don’t expect Google to immediately take off the algorithmic penalty right away. Depending on how severe the penalty is the longer it stays active against your rankings. Manual penalties that get past Google’s algorithms, but not a manual review typically are removed immediately if Google sees you’ve cleaned up the onsite or offsite SEO that caused the manual penalties and you’ve submitted a reconsideration request. If and when Google allows us publishers to tell Google to not consider certain links on sites I still don’t expect Google to remove those penalties immediately as sites could also be using that as a tool to game Google’s index when they notice their rankings are dropping instead of rising.

  • http://www.bungdidont.com Ayahnieda

    i one of victim of penguin, almost one month i have no visitor from SE on April, i losse 90% visitor. but now everything its going normal