To google became a cultural practice. Every Internet user, in Austria about 80% of the population, googles – and most of the time on a daily basis. Dealing with the search engine is by now so obvious that we often forget that Google is a profit-driven company. In this respect, the Google search is the core of Google advertising, the main source of income of the Internet giant. It does not come as a surprise then that Google has strict guidelines for websites wishing to be found on Google search.
If the operator of a website does not adhere to these regulations, it will be warned, condemned and penalised. “Penalty” means that, in case of violation, the website will fall lower on the Google search results page. The deriving loss of traffic can lead to significant, or even life-threatening, damages on profit, particularly for web shops.
However, Google does not lead an arbitrary regime. The rules that website operators should follow are conceived in Google as “guidelines for webmaster” . Website operators should first of all have a look at the “quality guidelines”. Google explains exactly and extensively which measures are welcome on a website and which are not. Besides, the guidelines are a dynamic document. It is recommended to have a look at them regularly in order to stay up-to-date.
Should a website violate massively the Google guidelines, Google can apply the so-called “manual action”. “Manual” here should be understood in its literal sense. At Google, work the so-called “Search Quality Raters”. Their job is to examine manually potential violations of the guidelines. Should the suspicion be reinforced, this employee becomes justice and execution in one person: he/she states the conviction and executes the judgement by initiating “manual action”. The website operator finds out about this in Google webmaster tools under “search queries” and “manual action”. If the operator does not use the webmaster tools, he will never find out.
By far the most common cause of “manual action” are “unnatural links”. These are links that do not arise naturally, through organic growth, but instead through purchase, exchange or other nonsense.
Google penalises my website. What then?
What should be done when the website drops down on the Google search results page and, at the same time, the bad news is delivered in webmaster tools? The most important thing in this situation: stay cool! Rushed, impulsive actions are out of place. A structured and planned approach is required. But you need to act indeed. Simply waiting for the problem to solve itself is not an option.
The first step is to get an overview of the situation, i.e. identify the bad links. For this purpose, there are a number of tools. Your SEO specialist/agency has certainly the suitable resources. Tool support is certainly helpful, but also many other manual checks of suspicious links are required in order to be safe. And a great deal of experience is necessary to identify unnatural links.
Once the suspicious links have been identified, the next step is to remove them. The best way to do this is to set up a Google Doc sheet visible to the public and insert in it which webmaster you contacted and which links were removed. This document is the documentation that will help Google’s employee to understand your efforts. If it is not possible to delete the links, you can report them to Google using the Disavow file (more information on this topic can be found here). This is usually the most effective method.
When these steps are successfully completed, it becomes exciting: you can request from Google a new examination. Obviously, you can do this in Google webmaster tools.
In the request form, the following elements should be included:
- admit the violations;
- make a detailed list of which measures you adopted in order to eliminate the mistakes made;
- state clearly that you will never repeat the mistakes;
- request a new examination.
Does it sound like humiliation for you? Admittedly, it has a little something to do with it. But Google is leading the search engine market with a share of 90% and makes the rules. You, as website operator, can either comply with them or give up on valuable, and mostly competition-free, organic Google traffic. If you have already been penalised by Google, we, as SEO specialists, are happy to help you get out of it.