In a recent Webmaster Hangout a publisher affected by a link based penalty said the manual action put a strain on his business. He asked Google’s John Mueller if it were possible to give a warning before imposing a penalty that dries up all search traffic.
Publisher Asks if Google Can Send a Warning Before a Penalty
The publisher mentioned that he employed twelve people but that the penalty has caused a disruption in his business. An advanced warning would have given him a chance to avoid that disruption.
The Difficulty of Sending a Penalty Warning
Mueller gave a thoughtful answer explaining that there are considerations beyond the publisher.
Mueller offered this answer:
“Okay, now with regards to sending a warning, that’s something we do discuss from time to time. I don’t know if that’s something that will change.
The primary reason why we tend not send a warning is that when we run into this kind of situation where the web spam team notices that there’s a problem, then usually that’s something that’s affecting the normal search results already.
So that’s something where users are seeing bad results and we know users are seeing bad results, then that’s something where we want to take action as quickly as possible and to resolve that.
So for the most part, that’s always kind of tricky to say we would send a warning when we know it’s currently in a bad state.”
Request for a Warning Predicated on a Shaky Assumption
This is something I was thinking and was glad to see Mueller address it. Every publisher affected by a manual action penalty needs to know this.
Mueller offered this insight:
“One other thing, especially with regards to linking reconsideration requests… one of the tricky parts there is that sometimes the site’s rankings is partially due to some of these link schemes that they were doing.
So by fixing those link schemes and removing them or disavowing them, then you’re removing some of that… artificial support that was for that website as well.
So it won’t necessarily be the case that when the manual action is resolved that it’ll pop back up right at the same place as it was before.
Just because you’ve… removed that artificial aspect and like well you’re in the natural place again which might be a little bit lower than before.
It depends a little bit on how the algorithms looked at that in the past.”
The question about receiving a warning before a penalty assumes that given the opportunity to fix the bad links the publisher will automatically return to the top of the search results. And that’s rarely the case.
What happens is that the site will begin ranking where they are supposed to rank. They have to start from this lower position and work their way back up the ranks.
I’ve seen this many times where a business removes links after receiving a manual action, fully expecting to return to the search results and is disappointed to see their site ranking lower.
In my opinion, getting out of the manual penalty is just the first step of rehabilitating a site. The next step is to get moving on creating a sustainable link building strategy that will not violate Google’s guidelines. When it comes to rankings you’re either working or falling behind.
Will Google Offer Warnings Before a Penalty?
Considering what John Mueller said, it doesn’t look like Google is going to offer warnings before issuing penalties in the situation where the spam activity is working. Google’s first priority is to fixing the search results so that they are not showing artificially boosted web pages.
Watch the Google Webmaster Hangout: