AB #341 | How a Google Applied ‘Manual SPAM Action Penalty’ was Successfully Removed

In this edition of the Affiliate Buzz, host and Instructor of the Affiliate Marketers BootCamp, James Martell is joined by his wife Arlene Martell. In this episode, they talk about how a Google Manual SPAM Action penalty was removed from a student’s website.

Beginning the episode, James speaks to Arlene about the flexibility she enjoys from owning her own business. Arlene was recently able to fit her work around having a great morning making birthday cards with her grandchildren.

The Changing Rules of Google Algorithms

James recounts the recent changes Google has applied to its search ranking algorithms. These have included the Penguin and Panda updates which have now been amalgamated. For some people this has changed their site’s page rank for a variety of reasons, not always for the best.

Sometimes James and Arlene receive emails from their students asking for help and on one such occasion there was an email directly connected to this problem. The subject of the email was: Please Help Google Applied Manual Spam Action To My Site.

Re: Please Help. Google Applied Manual SPAM Action to My Site

Hi James, I need your help desperately. I received the attached email from Google and have not been able to figure out how to resolve this. I've posted it in the School's facebook page but got conflicting advice from what I've found through my own research. So out of frustration and fear that I may really mess things up, I decided to send you a quick message to get your advice.

Basically, Google has applied a manual spam action to my site. To be honest, I'm not even really sure what that means. My site has been built by the book. I've always followed your advice and done things right. I don't spam, I don't participate in link exchanging, I don't list my site on any link farm type sights. No games at all.

First, I was advised to go back and add nofollow tags to all of my affiliate links on my site. This way the spiders will not follow my affiliate links off to my merchants and will not flag my site as an artificial or unnaturally linked site.

Second, I was advised to replace all of the affiliate links of my landing pages with a link to a secondary page that contains more "detail" of the product, and have that page contain my affiliate links. The thinking is that Google will see visitors clicking through to another page on my site before leaving vs landing on my site and clicking through to my merchant.

Do either of these sound like a good way to resolve this?

When Google applies the Manual Spam Action, they’re essentially removing the site from their index. This can be a scary prospect for the website owner.

James and Arlene have had this happen twice. Once was in 2001 and the other was in 2004. James says he always worries when it comes to December 27 as both cases happened on this date.

However, unlike in the old days, receiving this notice is not a death sentence for the website. Previously a manual spam action meant the only solution would be to start over. This is why some affiliate marketers would give up.

James thinks Google’s change in policy allowing website owners to adjust their sites to have these penalties removed is a positive step forward. After all we all make mistakes and sometimes their webmaster guidelines can be vague. For instance the exact definition of a link sharing scheme is not concrete. Google has also caught some web owners out with a change in their rules.

A Student With A Problem

Continuing on with this student’s predicament; James and Arlene discuss the email he received. In it Google informed the student that his site was to have a penalty imposed. Google specifically stated they had found artificial or unnatural outbound links on his website.

Re: Unnatural outbound links Google has detected a pattern of artificial or unnatural links on this site. Selling links or participating in link schemes in order to manipulate PageRank is a violation of Google's Webmaster Guidelines. As a result of unnatural links from your site, Google has applied a manual spam action to wine-rack-depot.com/. There may be other actions on your site or parts of your site. Recommended action

  • Identify paid or otherwise inorganic links by using rel="nofollow" or redirecting to an intermediate page that is blocked by robots.txt.
  • Remove any problematic links from your site.
  • When you're satisfied that your site follows Google's Webmaster Guidelines, submit a reconsideration request.
  • For an updated list of manual actions currently applied to your site, visit the Manual Actions page. If no manual actions are listed, there is no longer a need to file a reconsideration request.

If we determine your site is no longer in violation of our guidelines, we'll revoke the manual action. If you have any questions about how to resolve this issue, please visit the Webmaster Help Forum.

James discusses the arguments the student put forward as to why this statement was not correct for his site and he describes the student’s nature as being proactive in solving the problem.

During the podcast, the student’s mail is read out which confirms:

  • Which black-hat techniques he realizes are bad for site ranking and confirmation he did not use them.
  • The initial advice he was given to remove the Manual Spam Action penalty from his site?
  • What other advice was offered?

James states that with the help of Google Webmaster Tools, web owners can correct the errors made and therefore get their sites listed again. Google Webmaster Tools are available to anyone and can be activated in a person’s Google Account.

The student, who had participated in online Q&A session to help solve this problem, had plenty of support available. James even took the time to try to find solutions to get him re-listed.

Two months and a lot of work later, the student was happy to report back to James that the penalty had been revoked. During the podcast James will also reveal the answers to the following questions:

  • What were the four steps the student took to have his site’s Manual Spam Action penalty revoked?
  • How might a link sharing scheme be hiding on your website and harming your reputation with Google?
  • What common content generation method is now considered part of link sharing?
  • What actions James is going to undertake to comply with what he learnt from the student’s experience?

In the end the situation turned out well. However, as James states, many affiliate marketers do give up on their sites.

Upcoming Events

James ends this episode by talking about some of the upcoming events. The first will be the Affiliate Summit East in New York. This is being held at the Marriott Marquis from August 10 to August 12. James and Arlene state they may not attend this year’s event but will likely see everyone at Affiliate Summit West in Las Vegas.

One event they will be attending is the ShareASale’s Think Tank 2014. This will be held at the Ballantyne in Charlotte, North Carolina. James and Arlene have previously spoken about the fun they have at these events –one of the reasons why they both attend, as well as the chance to learn more about the industry and to network with their fellow affiliate marketers.


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