Danny Sullivan’s Q&A With Matt Cutts — How To Handle A Manual Penalty

When Danny Sullivan talks about anything related to SEO, you just have to pay attention. However, whenever he talks about what Matt Cutts says, you need to pay very close attention. So it was one of those days: Google had sent Mozilla a “manual” penalty warning and BBC (Yes, that’s NOT a typo) had received an “unnatural” link warning.

As everyone would expect, it caused a lot of confusion as people wondered what that really means for those sites. Thankfully, though, we’ve learned that penalties such as these are only applied against the offending page and NOT site-wide. Danny Sullivan did a Q&A with Google’s Matt Cutts and here’s a summary of what we’ve gleaned from it…

1. Google leaves you in NO doubt that you have suffered a manual penalty because they generally inform you about it. So if you know what you have done wrong and ensure you’ve fixed it, you can ask for reconsideration.

That’s good and well but what if you don’t know what you have done wrong or which of your pages have “violated” Google’s terms?

While Matt Cutts advises you to head over to Google’s Webmaster Central help forum, Danny points out that you might still NOT get to the root of why you were penalized as the responses you get are usually from volunteers who are NOT Google employees.

Yes, they’ll make educated guesses that would help improve your site if implemented, however, unless you are able to get to the reason for which you got the manual penalty, it won’t be lifted.

2. Google has chosen to remain vague on why they manually penalize pages. Danny believes that if Google is bent on sending out as many notices as they have done in the recent past then it makes sense for them to add some details to help webmasters address the violations faster.

It is important to note that manual penalties suggest that an employee has actually taken a look at a page or pages and then decided that such a penalty is in order. At least, it doesn’t cost Google anything more to include the reason for the penalty in their notices.

3. But while Danny admits that Google’s current approach is totally unsatisfactory, he advises every webmaster to make do with what they’ve offered: Use the webmaster’s forum, see what suggestions are given and take a close look at whichever is the best answer. Implement the suggestions and then file a reconsideration request.

While filing this reconsideration request, don’t forget to indicate to Google that you may need more help in resolving the matter.

Danny believes that such an act of good faith should either get the penalty lifted or get you more clarification.

Do you agree with Danny Sullivan on Matt Cutt’s position? Do you think that Google should include the offending pages (along with the offences) in their notices if they are truly committed to improving the web and NOT just out to bully webmasters?

What’s your position on this matter? Share with us. Leave a comment.

Previous post:

Next post: