Google Removes Your Manual Penalty But Your Rankings Won't Improve

Oct 28, 2013 • 8:58 am | comments (55) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Google PenaltyI see threads like this Google Webmaster Help thread all the time. In summary they say, my manual penalty was revoked by Google after I spent the time cleaning up my mistakes but days, months, and even years later, my rankings, traffic and thus sales have not improved at all.

Often, I'll see people get all excited after Google removes a manual action within Google Webmaster Tools, only to see that as false hope.

In early September, I talked about this in a poll I ran asking Does A Manual Action Removal Impact Google Rankings? We have almost two-hundred responses and the sad results are in.

53% said their rankings never improved, even after a year. 12% said they saw a ranking improvement within days, 14% said within a month, 8% said within 3 months, 7% within 6 months and 7% within a year. But 53% said never.

I didn't ask if they saw a full recovery. If I did, I suspect that 53% number to jump to 90% or higher.

Google Manual Penalty Removal Poll

Often, when it is a link penalty, the removal of the penalty doesn't help much. Why? Because those links that once counted, no longer do and thus the rankings will not return until you garner new, quality links.

But with content or other spam issues, why no recovery?

Have you seen the same? Do you agree with this poll?

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help & WebmasterWorld.

Previous story: SEOs Get Ready For 15% Reduction In Google Rich Snippets


Marie Haynes

10/28/2013 01:28 pm

With link related penalties, if you have a partial action penalty that is lifted then most sites do not see an immediate jump in rankings. However, I have worked with several who saw improvement the next time the Penguin algorithm refreshed. Doing the work to clear a manual penalty will often help to clean up Penguin issues as well. If you have a sitewide penalty then clearing the manual action almost always results in an improvement in rankings. Usually these sites stop ranking for their brand name and other key terms and in my experience, once the penalty is lifted, usually within days, those rankings are back. I can't speak personally to non-link related manual actions as I primarily deal with link issues. But, I have seen cases in Webmaster Forums where sites do recover after removing their manual action.


10/28/2013 01:52 pm

Were Interflora available for comment? :D

Andrew Smith

10/28/2013 02:14 pm

I am agree with you. For one of our client they had manual penalty side wide and after Google revoked manual penalty they were back on first page with most of the keywords. They were coming on 8th page with there brand name now they are back on 1st page after manual penalty revoked. But for another site they had partial action for specific links. We removed partial penalty just before 2 weeks of penguin. And after 1 week their ranking came back on 1st page. But in penguin update it went back to 7th page. And all pages are changed and are coming with blogs. We haven't done any link building after Google removed partial penalty. SO may be in partial penalty it will take time. But manual penalty is easy to recove than algorithmic penalty.

Shrish Pandey

10/28/2013 02:47 pm

Hey Marie/Barry, What about other 200+ factors after receiving manual penalty notice? will Google bring down us despite working good in other 200+ factors and if so why not Google brings us up after removal of manual penalty. Because link building is only one factor in ranking in Search engine and other factors are also given value by Google . If due to our link building or poor link building we get manual penalty what about other 200+ factors? how do these factors work after anyone gets manual penalty.

Marie Haynes

10/28/2013 03:02 pm

Many of the sites that I have worked on have more than one issue. It's not uncommon for a site with a manual unnatural links penalty to also have a Panda issue that is not related to links at all. But, I wouldn't say that the manual penalty made them any more susceptible to Panda though.

Shrish Pandey

10/28/2013 03:30 pm

Actually my question was : We got partial manual penalty for Link spam. Do other important SEO factors also stop to help us in ranking. If yes then, when penalty removed will we get ranking again with the help of those other factors.

Marie Haynes

10/28/2013 03:50 pm

I see what you're asking now. It's hard to say whether removing your penalty would help without digging in to your site. You may want to look at your organic search traffic and see if you can see a drop that coincides with a known Panda refresh date ( or Penguin refresh date ( If so, then you know you've got other issues to deal with. Many sites that have partial manual action for link spam also have Penguin issues. Sometimes, cleaning up the link issues so that you can get the manual penalty removed will help with Penguin as well. But, the only sites that I have seen recover from Penguin are ones that also have a good base of truly naturally earned links.


10/28/2013 03:59 pm

Just to remind those, who will read posts, regarding this matter, by Marie Haynes - this lady earns cash, providing related service. Take her statements accordingly )

Shrish Pandey

10/28/2013 04:11 pm


Marie Haynes

10/28/2013 04:13 pm

:) Hi JustConsumer. It's no secret that I do penalty work for a living. And yes, I do get customers as a result of some of the comments that I leave here. Heck...I even advertise with Barry because I know that people with link related issues will often come here for advice. I'm usually pretty straightforward in letting people with partial action message that they may not see an improvement in rankings even if they do the work to get the warning lifted. Sometimes it can help with Penguin, but not always. I've turned down a good number of jobs because I didn't feel it was justified to spend money on removing a manual warning because the whole link profile was unnatural and there would be nothing left once we had finished. But if you find that I'm saying something misleading then please do jump in and comment.

Michael W

10/28/2013 04:33 pm

It's a fair point JC. However Marie did state that she was working with others in her original comment and her profile makes the context clear. I'm always glad to hear others who have worked with a good number of websites share their experiences. Typically I find that those who are working with someone good have a better chance of recovery because they are taking care of all the other things they didn't realize were affecting them. I truly believe people who say they haven't recovered - 100% - I'm just not always sure they know the full extent of what it is that they haven't recovered from.

Michael W

10/28/2013 04:37 pm

This makes sense. With a manual penalty they flip the switch and the manual throttle is gone. With an algorithmic penalty the "issue" is still there until it changes significantly. That can take a while and sometimes it might even be something on your own site you didn't realize. FWIW, I'm relieved that there finally is a manual actions status indicator to confirm with certainty whether you're in or out of the penalty box.


10/28/2013 04:37 pm

I commented a lot already. Nothing new to comment ) Same statements based on assumptions. "But, I have seen cases in Webmaster Forums where sites do recover after removing their manual action." This is misleading statement. I have seen a lot of articles, that the whole Internet is total BS. So ? I asked many times already : - how do you define "recover" ? - how do you know that possible increase in traffic, called by you "recover", was caused by certain actions, done by you or by the website owner and not by another algo change? "Doing the work to clear a manual penalty will often help to clean up Penguin issues as well." Any proof ? "I have worked with several who saw improvement the next time the Penguin algorithm refreshed." Can we see URLs ? "If you have a sitewide penalty then clearing the manual action almost always results in an improvement in rankings." Any proof ? omg )) I even don't want to waste my time ... Almost every of your statements has no hard proof. Your imagination, nothing else.

Travis Brown

10/28/2013 05:04 pm

By my calculation, 67% of the people polled don't have a clue what they're doing, but I guess it's easier for them to just blame Google. This might be the internet age version of "I'm tired of the MAN holding me down!". ;-) Once a penalty is removed, expecting that things will return immediately to exactly as they were before, or that things will even return on their unrealistic. The penalty removal simply means you can now move forward, but that means YOU do have to move forward, and continue on with good quality SEO. It has been my experience with the penalty, disavow, and reconsideration request processes over the past year, that Google has actually improved and become a bit more transparent. Before, it was literally a shot in the dark. Now, there is the new Manual Actions section, with specific penalties listed. If a person is tracking their keyword ranking in an efficient way, it should be fairly quick and easy to narrow down a partial penalty to specific keywords (unless it's a sitewide penalty). Now, submission of disavow files provides confirmation as well as statistics on links/domains submitted (no wondering if it was submitted or formatted properly). Now, submission of reconsideration requests, as well as responses from Google all show in your GWT message box. It has been my experience, in the past 2 quarters of 2013, that reconsideration request denials have sometimes resulted in Google providing roughly ~3 specific links per denial, as examples of bad links they've detected. This hasn't happened all the time for me, but at least several times. It's still a painful process, but it does appear to be continuing to improve. I personally think the real issue is in people living in the past, not keeping up with continued education, and not continuing to push themselves to innovate. Considering the speed at which search changes, it's understandable for them to feel overwhelmed, but that's not excuse. Keep up with what's going on, keep innovating, and keep pushing yourself, or else you are effectively lost in the proverbial SERP sauce.


10/28/2013 05:06 pm

To get a manual penalty removed these days you almost have to completely gut your entire link profile. Who can rank after this when Google still relies more on signals then actual content for ranking websites? Even if a recovery is obtained, now the top pages of the serps are dominated with corporate gorillas. Small businesses can't compete in such a market, especially when the whole reason some have lost their ranks is because of negative seo.

Travis Brown

10/28/2013 05:19 pm

In my own limited experience, I would say that negative SEO, while I'm sure it does exist, is likely extremely rare. I have a wide range of clients, including a few in some of the most competitive markets around (performance supplements, insurance), and have still never seen a proven example of negative SEO. As far as getting a manual penalty removed, it is tough. It takes some effort, and it's not a fun process. Best recommendation I have for that is to start with the TLD list, download that, and use some automated programs to pull metrics on the TLDs. Start high level like that, and if necessary or if a reconsideration is denied, then move on to the GWT entire backlink list and do the same. As far as small businesses go, I understand the pain there. I'm a small business owner, and I'm lucky that I'm also an SEO. Most small businesses either don't have the marketing spend to afford to pay quality people to do their SEM work, and/or they don't have the time and resources to learn how to do it on their own. For a lot of small businesses, if they even approach SEM themselves, it's often an exercise in futility as they don't know where they are, precisely where they are going, or even what's changing along the way. The best thing I can recommend would be for them to, at a minimum, try to find a competent and good quality SEM/SEO to do some sort of audit for them, based on whatever goals or aspects of business they are trying to improve. To get anywhere effectively, you need to know where you are, where you want to go, the distance between the two, what it will take to achieve, and a way to monitor the progress along the way. Basically, have a plan, work your plan, as the saying goes. This may be a substantial expense for most small businesses, with various types of audits ranging from $1-2k+, but it's money well spent. You need a plan, and once you have that, then all you have to do is put your head down and get to work.

Marie Haynes

10/28/2013 07:09 pm

I can understand your frustration, but remember this is just a comment section of a blog. I don't think I'm obligated to show proof for every comment I leave. It would be a different story if this was an article I was writing. When I do that I include as much proof as I can without breaking NDAs. Here's an example of a site recovering from a non-links related manual action in Webmaster Forums:!topic/webmasters/9TkGvp8-EI8%5B126-150-false%5D As far as giving out my clients' URLS, that would not be wise.


10/28/2013 07:28 pm

Sure, "comment section of a blog" is good enough to promote yourself, but not good enough to show proof of your promotional statements. So typical for SEOs ) You provided URL of the Google forum. But I asked for the URL of the actual website. See the difference. Furthermore, I still can't understand what do you mean by "site recovering", because you (same as other SEOs) constantly refuse to reply these two simple questions : - how do you define "recover" ? - how do you know that possible increase in traffic, called by you "recover", was caused by certain actions, done by you or by the website owner and not by another algo change? You want to sell your service, but I want to know truth.


10/28/2013 08:01 pm

whole SEO is one giant bull*******g gorilla based on assumptions. It is not exact science by any means and I always wondered why would people pay thousands of dollars for something non-exact as SEO. Most probably people are frustrated as hell and don't know what to do.

Marie Haynes

10/28/2013 08:08 pm

"Recover" could have different meanings. For some sites, like the one referenced in the Webmaster Forum link above (the url is in the discussion btw), recovery meant that the site went from not being in the index at all to returning to original rankings. This was a site that had been given a pure spam message. For other sites, recovery could be partial. For example, perhaps the site escaped the Penguin algorithm, although we'll never know if it fully escaped Penguin or whether it could have done better. Here's a site that we worked on that saw a significant improvement with the release of Penguin 2.1 on October 4. (I'm not used to posting images on disqus so hopefully you can see it.) It's definitely not a full recovery but there's an obvious uptick there. I take this to mean that the site now looks much better to Google in the eyes of Penguin and in that sense I would call it a partial recovery. You would never expect a return to original rankings after a Penguin refresh because those previous rankings were based on the power of unnatural links that are forever lost. But, now this site can hope to see an improvement as they gain natural links now that they don't have Penguin as an anchor weighing them down. Did my work cause this partial recovery? Was it something else? Well we worked for a couple of months to remove bad links so I'd say we had something to do with it, but I suppose you're right that you can never say for sure. For other sites, recovery could mean an improvement to even greater rankings than before. I'll share some analytics data here, but unfortunately I don't have analytics from when the site was hit with Panda. Lots of changes were implemented and who knows whether the recovery was a result of my help or the webmaster's ongoing hard work or a combo of both, but the improvement was significant.

Marie Haynes

10/28/2013 08:08 pm

It looks like the pictures got reversed when I posted them. The first is the Panda site and the second is the Penguin site.

Michael W

10/28/2013 08:14 pm

Yes and no. Unfortunately I think that these days you need to have someone who knows SEO to tread water. It's not rocket science. But thanks to the increased sophistication of the spammers, the rules keep changing often and you need someone who can make sure your site is planned and managed properly. Unfortunately the SEO industry is rife with charlatans taking advantage of the situation and promising windfall results and miraculous recoveries, money up front.


10/28/2013 08:46 pm

i not understand why peoples looking to remove manual penalties. It easy to understand what this circus was created by google to get more time.


10/28/2013 08:48 pm

negative seo is very popular at this days. check forums and you will see LOT of cry. Manual penalties removal - it circus for medium business to get more time before legal things will start happens.


10/28/2013 08:49 pm

people need to blame google, because it wrong, greedy and evil!


10/28/2013 08:51 pm

"(the url is in the discussion btw)" - excuse me, but I don't want to waste my time digging the forum, where top contributors are the gal from Cisco and the guy, used to be Google spammer. I assume you read appropriate topic on SER. Furthermore, you don't want me to prove my statements by dropping links to Google search, do you ? ) Anyway .... I consider this as a key to our conversation : "Did my work cause this partial recovery? Was it something else? Well we worked for a couple of months to remove bad links so I'd say we had something to do with it, but I suppose you're right that you can never say for sure." Any other statements, trying to tie increase of the traffic with certain action done, are misleading. It's like to say, that Food Supplement XYZ will help to loose the weight and heal the liver. I suppose in US such advertising is same prohibited by the law as in EU. Unfortunately, ALL of the SEOs make such unproved statements and then you are surprised why people consider your services with huge skeptical attitude. I can tell you why ) People wasted huge amount of money, paying for XYZ, but they are still fat ) Make your statements more responsible. Probably you'll make less money, but for sure you'll be more reputable.


10/28/2013 08:59 pm

"Most probably people are frustrated as hell and don't know what to do." Exactly. The core is the same as in the religion. People are uneducated, they don't understand how the things work, they are scared, they don't know what to expect. But there always will be the guy with the solution in exchange for the free donation ) Just pay me a bit and I'll remove your bad karma ..... ups, sorry, I'll make your website recover. Familiar ? )


10/28/2013 09:13 pm

If you want to succeed with your website, then your website must be unique. There can't be universal rules to "make sure your site is planned and managed properly". If you hire one person to develop your website, then this person is not SEO. S/He is doing unique job with your unique website and is responsible accordingly. If you pay SEO company to watch your website, then it can't make your website unique. Means it can't succeed anyway, because there are thousands of the same websites.


10/28/2013 10:21 pm

One of our clients got a negative SEO hit and then manual penalty. It was a relatively strong domain (DA55) and they "bombed" with more than two thousand root domains. Unfortunately it triggered the alarm and resulted in a manual penalty.

Jim Stewart

10/28/2013 11:03 pm

We've only worked on 4 manual penalty sites and all have had ranking improvements after it was removed. The reason some people won't see ranking improvements is that they have spent too much time researching dodgy backlink techniques and not enough on good SEO.


10/29/2013 12:41 am

I suppose there is no reason to ask where to search for the "good SEO" specialist )

tim wong

10/29/2013 02:54 am

Wow haven't been on your site (Barry) for a while and surprised people are still talking bout the Manual Penalty. We got on in the first Penguin over 2 years ago or so, I don't even remember. Then we got it removed over a year later.... Guys hate to say it but don't try to save the site, Manual Penalty = Death to Site - Game Over. Get a new site if you want but you will find SEO is dead and truly has changed. Small business, manual penalty, revoked year later, never recovered, lost A LOT of money in the process (our story). GOOGLE IS HEARTLESS!!!

Paul Martin

10/29/2013 06:55 am

I fear those stats are dangerously misleading as they may lead people to the false conclusion that they need to start afresh on a new domain. Unless the work required to lift the penalty outweighs the loss of revenue you'd face in starting a new site, you don't really want to be changing domains! I say that as rankings most certainly can (and do) improve after getting a penalty lifted. All this data shows is that of the people polled, over half haven't done it right (or there are other issues with the site)! As an agency, we've removed loads of penalties, personally I've removed 3, and all have recovered to equal or better than they were performing at prior to penalisation.

Surprise Solutions

10/29/2013 06:59 am

I will definitely have implement some of these 41 tips to grow my list to 10,000+

Rob jH

10/29/2013 11:27 am

Looks like its best to just ignore the penalty then and carry on trying to build higher quality links


10/29/2013 11:34 am

Most people dont understand the difference between a regular 'algorithmic' penalty and 'Manual' penalty. Just because you get a manual penalty lifted doesn't mean your website is penalty free. We have probably revoked close to 300 penalties since April 2012 and one thing i can say for certain, is a Disavow file can fix a manual penalty, but they do nothing for an over optimised anchor text portfolio.

Patti Paz

10/29/2013 11:42 am

Where are these "good SEO' guys? We have tried the little guys, the big guys, and those in between, but NONE get results. I think they are squirming around just as we website owners are, no knowing where to go . . . . .

Patti Paz

10/29/2013 11:48 am

Here, HERE!!!!!!! Jolly for you for pointing out the obvious.


10/29/2013 12:53 pm

Best to not build links at all. Instead do the removal if you've got a manual penalty (I am fairly sure the automated penalty can't hurt your site, just devalue the dodgy links) and work on your site content/structure.


10/29/2013 12:54 pm

Thats a good idea if you want to get your site banned. Oh wait, you where just doing a spammy promotion of your site!


10/29/2013 12:58 pm

Sorry, I can't hear you clearly, could you speak when you aren't sitting down so it isn't so muffled.

Rob jH

10/29/2013 01:24 pm

Link building is still the best way to rank a site when done right, and comes after building the content and structure. i.e sharing your content on social sites is technically link building. I disagree with playing the Google game with both running around trying to fix manual penalties or the Disavow tool as I haven't seen it working. If the site has a small manual for some links or certain parts ignore it, if the whole site is penalised I would say bin it and get a new domain, it would take less time to build a new domain up than try and fix something that can never really be fixed.

Derr Inessa

10/29/2013 03:28 pm

Did you remove manual penalties? How things could be better than before if you removed a good bunch of backlinks? Or may be you have another way of removing the penalty without touching the links?


10/29/2013 03:47 pm

Get your head lower and listen with attention )

Skyler Malley

10/29/2013 03:54 pm

The links you were being penalized for were most likely the same reason you were ranking in the first place. So if you remove the "paid links" your rankings are going to drop.

Gracious Store

10/30/2013 04:42 am

I suppose you are correct, if you cleaned up your site by removing falsely acquired links, that once helped you to rank high, when those links are gone your site ranks where it would otherwise would have, and I am not sure if Google will be too generous to go out of their simply to re-visit the ranking of those sites that were once penalized

Matt Wilson

10/30/2013 10:23 am

The idea of ranking recovery is a misnomer in my opinion. If you built 1000 spam links to your site with exact match anchor text then had to remove them when the manual action hit, then the reason you don't rank for that keyword anymore is exactly because all the anchor text that made it rank previously has gone. The sites that see recovery have remaining quality links and not relying solely on the spam links.


10/30/2013 10:47 am

If you know all the Google guidelines, then you will surely recover from penalty. Here is what i wrote about getting recovery from google penguin 2.1 and hummingbird :


10/30/2013 03:02 pm

Not if the links have nofollow on as most social sites do, then its not actually link building but instead simply marketing your website which is fine. Its splitting hairs a bit I know but in the world of SEO there is a big difference, link building actually means getting links which give you credit with the search engines where as marketing doesn't. There is nothing wrong with marketing so long as you aren't trying to use it to influence Google.

Rob jH

10/30/2013 07:09 pm

There are still many social sites that are do follow and no follow links is still link building, you would not want to build entirely do follow as it would look very unnatural. Google from wikipedia defines link building as: "link building describes actions aimed at increasing the number and quality of inbound links to a page."


10/31/2013 04:07 pm

If you have a manual penalty removed rankings will not improve. Once it is removed you need to start building credible backlinks with good quality content.


11/28/2013 05:49 pm

google penalty on my this blogger every 15 days....and download all top post..

M Tahir

11/28/2013 05:50 pm

google penalty on my this blogger every 15 days ....

Ahmad Wali

03/03/2014 12:11 pm

Barry, very frustrating post because I managed to get the penalty revoked. Now the second thing in my mind is to build credible links. Very tough situation!

Krishna Moorthi

05/20/2014 09:32 pm

My web site was penalized, pr 3 I to pr0 fell and internal pag 40 pr 2 pr0 this was a moment to another without being near a major upgrade. I hope to recover and find out which was the penalty

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