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What is a Manual Penalty, and How Can it be Removed?

• What is a manual penalty, and how can it be removed?

When it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), website owners and digital marketers strive to improve their rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs). However, sometimes websites may face a setback in their rankings due to a manual penalty imposed by search engines. In this article, we will explore what a manual penalty is, how it can be removed, and provide valuable insights to help you navigate through this challenging situation.

Understanding Manual Penalties

A manual penalty is a punitive action taken by search engines, such as Google, when a website violates their guidelines. Unlike algorithmic penalties, which are automatically imposed based on certain criteria, manual penalties are issued by human reviewers who manually assess websites for violations.

Manual penalties are typically the result of engaging in manipulative or spammy practices that aim to deceive search engines and manipulate rankings. Some common reasons for manual penalties include:

  • Unnatural links: Building low-quality or spammy backlinks to manipulate rankings.
  • Keyword stuffing: Overusing keywords in an unnatural manner to manipulate rankings.
  • Cloaking: Presenting different content to search engines and users to deceive search engines.
  • Thin content: Having low-quality or shallow content that provides little value to users.
  • User-generated spam: Allowing users to post spammy or irrelevant content on your website.

Identifying a Manual Penalty

It is crucial to identify whether your website has been hit by a manual penalty. Search engines typically notify website owners through their webmaster tools or via email. These notifications provide details about the penalty and the specific violations that led to it.

Additionally, a significant drop in organic traffic and rankings can also indicate a manual penalty. Monitoring your website’s performance regularly and analyzing any sudden drops in traffic or rankings can help you identify a potential penalty.

Removing a Manual Penalty

Removing a manual penalty requires a systematic approach and adherence to search engine guidelines. Here are the steps you can take to recover from a manual penalty:

1. Identify the Violations

Thoroughly review the notification from the search engine to understand the specific violations that led to the penalty. This will help you address the issues effectively.

2. Fix the Issues

Once you have identified the violations, take immediate action to rectify them. This may involve removing unnatural links, reducing keyword stuffing, improving content quality, or implementing stricter user-generated content moderation.

3. Submit a Reconsideration Request

After fixing the issues, submit a reconsideration request to the search engine. This request should include a detailed explanation of the actions you have taken to rectify the violations and ensure compliance with their guidelines. Be transparent and provide evidence of the changes made.

4. Be Patient

Recovering from a manual penalty takes time. Search engines receive numerous reconsideration requests, and their review process can be lengthy. Be patient and continue to monitor your website’s performance while waiting for a response.

Case Study: Example of Manual Penalty Removal

Let’s consider a case study of a website that was hit by a manual penalty due to unnatural links. The website owner identified the penalty through a notification from Google and took the following steps to remove it:

  • Conducted a thorough backlink audit to identify the unnatural links.
  • Reached out to webmasters of the linking websites and requested the removal of the unnatural links.
  • Disavowed the remaining unnatural links that couldn’t be removed.
  • Documented the entire process and included it in the reconsideration request.

After a few weeks, the website owner received a positive response from Google, stating that the manual penalty had been lifted. The website’s rankings and organic traffic gradually improved, showcasing the effectiveness of the penalty removal process.


Manual penalties can significantly impact a website’s visibility and rankings on search engine results pages. Understanding what a manual penalty is, identifying it, and taking the necessary steps to remove it is crucial for website owners and digital marketers. By following the guidelines provided by search engines, rectifying the violations, and submitting a reconsideration request, you can recover from a manual penalty and regain your website’s visibility and organic traffic.

Remember, prevention is always better than cure. It is essential to adhere to search engine guidelines and engage in ethical SEO practices to avoid manual penalties altogether. Stay informed, stay compliant, and stay ahead in the digital landscape.

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