Poll: Do You Prefer A Manual Or Algorithmic Penalty?

Aug 20, 2013 • 8:35 am | comments (29) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Google Penalty CardsA WebmasterWorld thread has SEOs and webmasters discussing what is better, a manual penalty or an algorithmic penalty? If you had to choose between Google giving you a penalty, which would you choose?

I'll place the poll later, but first let me share some of the pros and cons of each.

Manual Penalties

We know manual penalties expire. We also know Google gives you specific advice on why you are penalized. They also give you examples and ways to fix the issue. You can then even submit a reconsideration request. If the reconsideration request works, Google will tell you that the penalty has been revoked.

Manual penalties are often more transparent.

But from my experience, often I see even after a manual penalty is revoked, the traffic to the site does not improve much. Either because all those bad links no longer count or because the site also has an algorithmic penalty.

Algorithmic Penalties

They are typically very extreme. They will hit you when Google runs the algorithm. It can hit you hard, like 30% or more of a drop in traffic. It is often not always clear which algorithm hurt you. It is also not always clear how to come out of the penalty. If you do think you know the problem, fixing it is not always easy. You have to wait for Google to pick up that you fixed it (you cannot notify them) and then wait for the algorithm to run. Then you pray it worked.

But when it does work, you can see all your traffic restored or much of it.

Honestly, I am not sure which penalty I'd prefer. At least with the algorithmic fix, you recover in a major way.

Take my poll and leave your thoughts:

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

Update: Poll results at this post.

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Paweł Rabinek

08/20/2013 01:08 pm

Manual actions taken by SQT are usually easier to fix.


08/20/2013 02:07 pm

after 2012 google brain penalty, all webmasters living from penalty to penalty and don't know what expect next from gigantic zoo. Lot of peoples is bankrupt because of "most popular "something" search engine" and because of $$$GGG$$$ lack of quality, transparency and just common lie from mr cutts & co.


08/20/2013 02:08 pm

really.. who cares.. just avoid the penalty in the first place.


08/20/2013 02:30 pm

I would take a manual penalty any day, assuming an algorithmic penalty isn't also in place. At least you're dealing with a real person.

Emma North

08/20/2013 03:12 pm

I agree with klippers; manual penalties alone are much more clear cut; at least you know when you have one and when it's resolved. Algorithmic penalties (if you want to call them that) are more of a case of needing to outperform your competitors which can take even longer than getting a reconsideration request accepted. Of course I wouldn't assume that one would exist without the other any more.


08/20/2013 03:13 pm

what a brilliant and thoughtful insight, thank you


08/20/2013 03:23 pm

Emma, if I am reading your comment correctly, you made the point I was getting ready to make: "Of course I wouldn't assume that one would exist without the other any more." I am also under the impression that a good portion, but not all by any means, of those who receive a manual penalty are also experiencing an algorithmic penalty. This is only my assumption, but it would seem that if you received the attention of a manual penalty, that your site would have more issues that aren't being as obviously presented to you.

Emma North

08/20/2013 03:27 pm

I would definitely agree with that. The algorithm, what with its constant updates and Penguin, is getting better at doing the job the manual spam team do so one will not often exist without the other (a manual penalty and an algorithmic one that is). People often make the mistake of thinking that their problems are over when they get a reconsideration request accepted, only to find they still have rubbish rankings. That said, if you'r cleaning up after a manual penalty you should (theoretically speaking) be helping to improve the link profile as its seen by the algorithm too, so improvements *should* be mirrored.


08/20/2013 04:22 pm

How about this novel idea....hear me out will ya :) Instead of google giving a penalty, how about google just ignores the crap? The crap ain´t going away so why even consider it? Make it useless to link farm and link bait. Make links the last thought of the sane mind. That way, google gets to present the most "RELEVANT" results like it falsely gives the impression it does. Instead of hiding hundreds of thousands of "MOST RELEVANT" sites in their penalty bin away from the people that most want to find them. How about that for a novel idea google? You then get to clean up the crap you created yourself and at the same time the SERPS can work again like you intended them to in the first place.


08/20/2013 05:40 pm

The crap they created themselves? Did Google force all those webmasters and SEOs to spam wherever they could find an opportunity to do so? But my big question for your thought would be, how should Google determine what is most relevant if linking were entirely out of the factor? It is easy to throw out hypotheticals, but pretend you are in charge for a second...what factors do you use to build your new algorithm? Do you plan on penalizing those who abuse the new system and break the guidelines or do you just go to your second option; and your third; and your fourth...

Fede Einhorn

08/20/2013 08:10 pm

Well, at least now you can see algorithmic penalties (penguin-wise) trough your Webmasters Tools console, even if you didn't get any manual action email. At least in my case, never received any message, and since they released the tool I can see a partial match "impacting links", an algorithmic penalty.

Mr Breakfast

08/20/2013 08:27 pm

Barry - I'd love to see you do an article on the top Google cop-outs. I'd suggest: #1) Site-Wide Penalties - It's a real excuse for Google not to try and find quality content among pages that aren't as strong. It's like saying all children in a family are going to be failures because they have so many goofy aunts and uncles. #2) Disavow Backlinks and Rel="Nofollow"- We're all running around like chickens trying to get a handle on what are bad backlinks and why we might get penalized for linking to a friend. Meanwhile, I guarantee, the small town doctor with the first seed of the idea that will cure cancer does not have time for this nonsense when he updates his blog. It's almost as if Google threw up it's hands and said, "Uggh… determining the value of backlinks is hard. Let's just have webmasters do it and let's get a drink." Thanks Barry. I love the SE Roundtable. I check it every day.


08/20/2013 08:56 pm

I'd prefer neither. Like everyone else.


08/20/2013 10:09 pm

I did reply to this but Barrys piece of crap comments system wasted 10 minutes of my life. Cheers Barry!!!!!!

Barry Schwartz

08/20/2013 10:10 pm

Disqus you mean.

Emma North

08/21/2013 08:06 am

Yeah I'm liking that new section too and that they've released a video to explain each and every message you might see there. Long overdue though.

Fede Einhorn

08/21/2013 08:12 am

They did? I haven't seen anything about that "Impacting some links" message that I've received.

Emma North

08/21/2013 08:13 am

http://searchengineland.com/google-releases-six-videos-on-typical-manual-spam-actions-169226 Enjoy!


08/21/2013 08:13 am

Stupid question. Who like to be penalized?

Fede Einhorn

08/21/2013 08:34 am

Thanks @emmanorth:disqus I've gone over the video and already did all those suggested steps. I sent the reconsideration request yesterday, hopefully we would get an answer or the penalty removed (although, what I get from it, it's not a penalty on the site, but on specific search terms).

Emma North

08/21/2013 08:37 am

That's right; it's targeted action based on as few as one link to as few as one page of your site. It generally means it isn't having a major effect on your rankings or site on the whole (unless perhaps it's your most important page, etc.) but should be easier to spot, especially if you don't have a great many pages on your site. That said, it can take many reconsideration requests before the notice is lifted. Good luck!


08/21/2013 12:49 pm

If i had to choose i would go with a manual one :)


08/21/2013 05:03 pm

I prefer bing!


08/21/2013 10:58 pm

Actually, Google did create the crap. They did it through their lucrative ad program. If not for $$$$ people wouldn't have taken time to abuse, to spam and to rip off....Google; actually the people who advertise through Google. I don't believe sites should be ranked according to links. Just opens the door for more spam tactics. It should be on content. Surely Google has the intelligence to execute search through content. After all, ads used to be based on content. Now anymore; I'm seeing off-putting funeral ads on websites featuring photograph content. Good grief! If Google used to base their ads on content, they can do it again and they can also rank on content. One thing I'd add to the algo is the age of the website. Another, limit the amount of websites that one individual can have AdSense on. No more than three sounds about right. There are too many people going ape, putting up scads of websites, all with Google ads on them. It's cannibalizing the market. Next, require the website to have x-amount of pages before they can use AdSense. Have a 'real live person' review the website before they allow AdSense. Don't allow any ads on inactive sites or parked sites. They need to be tougher on the Adwords program too. Some of these ads are horrible. Absolutely horrible.

Dave Fowler

08/22/2013 07:50 am

This is like asking "do you prefer being punched in the face or punched in the stomach?" :-)

Martin Oxby

08/23/2013 02:33 pm

Tough call, but if I had to choose at least you can get *some* information from a manual penalty. With an algo-slap you have to dig deep on all possible causes, at least a manual penalty you can focus your work better.

Gracious Store

08/23/2013 10:16 pm

The two penalties are tough ones, I think the best thing is to avoid being penalized at all, just take your time to do what is right. But if in any event that I am penalized for what I am sure why, I prefer the manual penalty in that way I can get to talk to someone to know what the problem is and also have suggestion on how to fix the problem

Spook SEO

01/22/2014 04:41 pm

Barry it is hard to choose anyone but choosing any penalty, we need to be more careful in doing our work and always try to avoid all that things penalize you. Always do natural link building with best suitable content that is helpful for your users to search you out from the search engine results.

Jon Hogg

04/28/2014 12:32 pm

Think you misunderstood the question

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