Manual Penalty recovery vs. Algorithmic: Bridging the gap

Within the SEO industry, there is still a bit of mix-up regarding the implementation and release from Google penalties. Most specifically, many webmasters don’t quite grasp the difference between a manual penalty and an algorithmic penalty. Fortunately, an official chat enacted via Google hangouts has shed some light on this issue (the original statement is available in this video,at the 10:55 minute mark).

The short explanation is: manual penalties are processed separately from algorithmic penalties (even though there could be a causal overlap). This means that recovering from a manual penalty won’t clear a website from any algorithmic penalties which are in place – in that case, the webmaster will just have to wait until the algorithms are refreshed to clear any automatic penalties, which is essentially a matter of time.

The good news is that algorithms keep getting faster at re-evaluating websites and clearing penalties, as Google strives to keep search results fresher and more dynamic.

Understanding how manual penalties work

A manual penalty is applied by a human reviewer that happens to notice any infringements or irregularities in your website’s internal structure or backlink profile. In a way, manual penalties are actually easier to deal with – since you’ll often get a specific statement in your Webmaster Tools inbox, pointing out the infringement that brought on to the penalty. This means you can often engage in organised, clear actions to clear the penalty and ask for a prompt re-evaluation when you’re website conforms to Google’s guidelines.

Understanding algorithmic penalties

By contrast, algorithmic penalties do not involve the intervention of human reviewers. These penalties are set by computer programs that routinely police the Google database in search of infringing websites and pages. If an algorithm detects faulty parameters with your website, flags will be raised automatically and penalties could be set, but you will not receive any notification apart from the sudden drop in incoming search traffic. Dealing with algorithmic penalties takes time, patience and a willingness to plunge ahead in the dark.

Further actions you can take to speed up resolution

If you’ve managed to clear a manual penalty and are now waiting to be cleared from algorithmic penalties, the reasoning should be similar: you should stay on the lookout for possible irregularities in your website and work consistently to meet Google’s webmaster guidelines. This can be a really stressful struggle since there are often no indicators of progress until the penalties are lifted.

For any webmaster caught up in this kind of struggle, the best possible course of action is to focus on the long term: carefully avoid practices and techniques that may conflict with Google’s webmaster guidelines, and focus on building a website that puts the best interests your visitors above all else – since that’s essentially the prerogative from which Google operates. By working from the same mind-set, you will be much less likely to stumble into subsequent penalties and your pages will tend to climb the search rankings.

You should shift your focus entirely to improving your website and ensure pages are worthy of ranking for the search terms you’re competing for, and dealing with penalties (manual or algorithmic) will no longer be a concern in the future.


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