Manual vs Algo Penalties: What’s the Worst?
Knowing what kind of a penalty your site receives from Google is the start of learning how to fix same – there I said it. That is so true that I’m always surprised when a new client comes along and they have no idea as to “which” type of a penalty they’ve been hit with. How does one tell and even more importantly, what can you do about same would be the import of todays post on Google penalties, eh!
Penalties come in two kinds of course – manual and algorithmic and yes there is a difference. A manual penalty from Google is when an actual human being at Google takes manual action against a website. One of the most recent (and attention grabbing) examples of Google taking manual action against a website and penalizing it was the J.C. Penney paid links scandal.
On the other hand an algorithmic penalty is when your site is whacked by an algorithm update is not suffering from a manual penalty; Google did not single your website out for gross violation of their Webmaster Guidelines. Penguin (and its predecessor Panda) was an algorithm update and a lot of sites got caught in its net.
One is done by a human, the other by the software algo. But both can hurt your site traffic big time and both are major forces to be reckoned with! They show up of course in Google Analytics like this chart below.
First the manual penalty can be handled but carefully, in depth with an eye to attention and yes, it takes time. Manual penalties are invoked by Google with an intent to make the SMB siteowner see that their SEO Campaingns up to that date are not following the best practices for same as laid out in the GWT Guidelines for Google. No news there really, as I’d say there’s hundreds of millions of folks who do not follow same….but few as a % every get caught via the imposition of a manual penalty. But some do. And they pay bigtime for same, eh!
And the recovery time for a manual penalty is not a finite number – it’s based on much research you need to do to find out why such a penalty was imposed; what you need to do to find the causes for same; what then needs to be done to counter-act those issues; and then letting Google know via a reconsideration request that “yup” you’ve looked after same could they take another look/see and lift the manual penalty. From reasearch I’ve done in the past few weeks on a “timeline” for this, it appears that knowledgeable SEO firms/SMB owners all have one common thread…they don’t know how long this will take. Some seem to get almost instant reconsideration and revoking of the penalty while others take months and months. There appears to be NO definitive timeline on this, and all I can add is that you must really do your homework on the “how-to’s” for manual penalty issue removals before event thinking about asking for a reconsideration request. A simple Google image search for “analytics showing penalties” reveals thousands of sites that have posted their Analytics graphs showing major cuts to website traffic too – here’s a quick sample of same…
Algo penalties on the other hand are differnt, aren’t they. They happen about 500 times annually and they can reward some sites or penalize others. Search for the SEO terms “Panda” or “Penguin” or “Hummingbird” to learn more and yes there are some horrendous stories too out there on the impact of such algo penalties on all kinds and sizes of SMB websites and major brands too.
In order for a site to recover from an algo update, SMB site owners need to remove the spam tactics (i.e. keyword stuffing, link exchanges, cloaking, etc) that the algorithm update went after. Once Google recrawls and processes the site and pages, if you did everything right, your site should bump back up in the search results to where it was before the algorithm went live.
And why is it important to know the diff tween these two penalties? Well first off, when your site is impacted by an algorithm update you shouldn’t submit a reconsideration request, even after you fix the deeper issues on your site. If you do, chances are you will get a message in your Webmaster Tools account that looks something like this -
“We reviewed your site and found no manual actions by the webspam team that might affect your site’s ranking in Google. There’s no need to file a reconsideration request for your site, because any ranking issues you may be experiencing are not related to a manual action taken by the webspam team. Of course, there may be other issues with your site that affect your site’s ranking. Google’s computers determine the order of our search results using a series of formulas known as algorithms. We make hundreds of changes to our search algorithms each year, and we employ more than 200 different signals when ranking pages. As our algorithms change and as the web (including your site) changes, some fluctuation in ranking can happen as we make updates to present the best results to our users…”
And as you can see, really it all comes down to the speed at which Google updates it’s algo – you sure do have to work to fix those penalty issues…but there is NO reconsideration request to be made. You’re caught by the algo, so you await the next updates to same…could happen today. Could happen next week or month….or longer. No way to know either from what I’ve learned…all you can do is to wait.
So, back to the title of this post…which is worst?
IMHO, it’s the algo penalty because while both require issues to be fixed….but you don’t get to request a reconsideration….and that can be an ongoing irritant to your website traffic, eh!Google