View manual webspam actions in Webmaster Tools

Webmaster level: All

We strive to keep spam out of our users’ search results. This includes both improving our webspam algorithms as well as taking manual action for violations of our quality guidelines. Many webmasters want to see if their sites are affected by a manual webspam action, so today we’re introducing a new feature that should help. The manual action viewer in Webmaster Tools shows information about actions taken by the manual webspam team that directly affect that site’s ranking in Google’s web search results. To try it out, go to Webmaster Tools and click on the “Manual Actions” link under “Search Traffic."

You’ll probably see a message that says, “No manual webspam actions found.” A recent analysis of our index showed that well under 2% of domains we've seen are manually removed for webspam. If you see this message, then your site doesn't have a manual removal or direct demotion for webspam reasons.

If your site is in the very small fraction that do have a manual spam action, chances are we’ve already notified you in Webmaster Tools. We’ll keep sending those notifications, but now you can also do a live check against our internal webspam systems. Here’s what it would look like if Google had taken manual action on a specific section of a site for "User-generated spam":

Partial match. User-generated spam affects

In this hypothetical example, there isn’t a site-wide match, but there is a “partial match." A partial match means the action applies only to a specific section of a site. In this case, the webmaster has a problem with other people leaving spam on By fixing this common issue, the webmaster can not only help restore his forum's rankings on Google, but also improve the experience for his users. Clicking the "Learn more" link will offer new resources for troubleshooting.

Once you’ve corrected any violations of Google’s quality guidelines, the next step is to request reconsideration. With this new feature, you'll find a simpler and more streamlined reconsideration request process. Now, when you visit the reconsideration request page, you’ll be able to check your site for manual actions, and then request reconsideration only if there’s a manual action applied to your site. If you do have a webspam issue to address, you can do so directly from the Manual Actions page by clicking "Request a review."

The manual action viewer delivers on a popular feature request. We hope it reassures the vast majority of webmasters who have nothing to worry about. For the small number of people who have real webspam issues to address, we hope this new information helps speed up the troubleshooting. If you have questions, come find us in the Webmaster Help Forum or stop by our Office Hours.

Update (12:50pm PT, August 9th): Unfortunately we've hit a snag during our feature deployment, so it will be another couple days before the feature is available to everyone. We will post another update once the feature is fully rolled out.

Update (10:30am PT, August 12th): The feature is now fully rolled out.

A reminder about manipulative or deceptive behavior

Webmaster level: All

Our quality guidelines prohibit manipulative or deceptive behavior, and this stance has remained unchanged since the guidelines were first published over a decade ago. Recently, we’ve seen some user complaints about a deceptive technique which inserts new pages into users’ browsing histories. When users click the "back" button on their browser, they land on a new page that they've never visited before. Users coming from a search results page may think that they’re going back to their search results. Instead, they’re taken to a page that looks similar, but is actually entirely advertisements:

list of advertisements

To protect our users, we may take action on, including removal of, sites which violate our quality guidelines, including for inserting deceptive or manipulative pages into a user's browser history. As always, if you believe your site has been impacted by a manual spam action and is no longer violating our guidelines, you can let us know by requesting reconsideration.

Backlinks and reconsideration requests

Webmaster level: advanced

When talking to site owners on Google Webmaster Forums we come across questions on reconsideration requests and how to handle backlink-related issues. Here are some common questions, along with our recommendations.

When should I file a reconsideration request?

If your site violates our Google Quality Guidelines or did in the past, a manual spam action may be applied to your site to prevent spam in our search results. You may learn about this violation from a notification in Google Webmaster Tools, or perhaps from someone else such as a previous owner or SEO of the site. To get this manual action revoked, first make sure that your site no longer violates the quality guidelines. After you've done that, it's time to file a reconsideration request.

Should I file a reconsideration request if I think my site is affected by an algorithmic change?

Reconsideration requests are intended for sites with manual spam actions. If your site’s visibility has been solely affected by an algorithmic change, there's no manual action to be revoked, and therefore no need to file a reconsideration request. If you're unsure if it's an algorithmic change or a manual action, and have found issues that you have resolved, then submitting a reconsideration request is fine.

How can I assess the quality of a site’s backlinks?

The links to your site section of Google Webmaster Tools is a great starting point for an investigation as it shows a significant amount of your site’s inbound links. If you know that you ran an SEO campaign during a particular period of time, downloading the latest links can come handy in slicing links created at that time. Using the links found in Google Webmaster Tools, we recommend looking for patterns that point to general issues that are worth resolving. For example, spammy blog comments, auto generated forum posts or text advertisements with links that pass PageRank are likely to be seen as unnatural links and would violate Google’s quality guidelines. For individual examples and hands-on advice we recommend getting help of peers and expert webmasters on the Google Webmaster Forum.

How do I clean a bad backlink profile?

Make sure to identify poor links first, then make a strong effort to get them either removed or nofollowed. Then use the Disavow Links Tool to deal with remaining unnatural backlinks. We recommend using domain-wide operator for sites with a complicated URL structure, very obvious spam sites, such as gibberish content sites or low quality sites with content that shows no editorial value. See our video on common mistakes when using the disavow tool for more information.

How much information do I need to provide?

Detailed documentation submitted along with a reconsideration request can contribute to its success, as it demonstrates the efforts made by the webmaster and helps Googlers with their investigation. If you are including a link to a shared document, make sure that it’s accessible to anyone with the link.

How long does it take to process reconsideration requests?

Reconsideration requests for sites affected by a manual spam action are investigated by a Googler. We strive to respond in a timely manner, normally within just a few days. However, the volume of incoming reconsideration requests can vary considerably, hence we don't provide a guaranteed turnaround time.

What are the possible outcomes of a reconsideration request?

Upon submitting a reconsideration request, you will first receive an automated confirmation in Google Webmaster Tools. After your request is processed, we'll send you another message to let you know the outcome of the request. In most cases, this message will either inform you that the manual action has been revoked or that your site still violates our quality guidelines.

Where can I get more guidance?

For more information on reconsideration requests, please visit our Help Center. And as always, the Google Webmaster Forum is a great place for further discussions as well as seeking more advice from experienced webmasters and Google guides.

A reminder about selling links that pass PageRank

Webmaster level: all

Google has said for years that selling links that pass PageRank violates our quality guidelines. We continue to reiterate that guidance periodically to help remind site owners and webmasters of that policy.

Please be wary if someone approaches you and wants to pay you for links or "advertorial" pages on your site that pass PageRank. Selling links (or entire advertorial pages with embedded links) that pass PageRank violates our quality guidelines, and Google does take action on such violations. The consequences for a linkselling site start with losing trust in Google's search results, as well as reduction of the site's visible PageRank in the Google Toolbar. The consequences can also include lower rankings for that site in Google's search results.

If you receive a warning for selling links that pass PageRank in Google's Webmaster Tools, you'll see a notification message to look for "possibly artificial or unnatural links on your site pointing to other sites that could be intended to manipulate PageRank." That's an indication that your site has lost trust in Google's index.

To address the issue, make sure that any paid links on your site don't pass PageRank. You can remove any paid links or advertorial pages, or make sure that any paid hyperlinks have the rel="nofollow" attribute. After ensuring that no paid links on your site pass PageRank, you can submit a reconsideration request and if you had a manual webspam action on your site, someone at Google will review the request. After the request has been reviewed, you'll get a notification back about whether the reconsideration request was granted or not.

We do take this issue very seriously, so we recommend you avoid selling (and buying) links that pass PageRank in order to prevent loss of trust, lower PageRank in the Google Toolbar, lower rankings, or in an extreme case, removal from Google's search results.

Building link-based popularity

Late in November we were at SES in Paris, where we had the opportunity to meet some of the most prominent figures in the French SEO and SEM market. One of the issues that came up in sessions and in conversations was a certain confusion about how to most effectively increase the link-based popularity of a website. As a result we thought it might be helpful to clarify how search engines treat link spamming to increase a site´s popularity.

This confusion lies in the common belief that there are two ways for optimizing the link-based popularity of your website: Either the meritocratic and long-term option of developing natural links or the risky and short-term option of non-earned backlinks via link spamming tactics such as buying links. We've always taken a clear stance with respect to manipulating the PageRank algorithm in our Quality Guidelines. Despite these policies, the strategy of participating in link schemes might have previously paid off. But more recently, Google has tremendously refined its link-weighting algorithms. We have more people working on Google's link-weighting for quality control and to correct issues we find. So nowadays, undermining the PageRank algorithm is likely to result in the loss of the ability of link-selling sites to pass on reputation via links to other sites.

Discounting non-earned links by search engines opened a new and wide field of tactics to build link-based popularity: Classically this involves optimizing your content so that thematically-related or trusted websites link to you by choice. A more recent method is link baiting, which typically takes advantage of Web 2.0 social content websites. One example of this new way of generating links is to submit a handcrafted article to a service such as Another example is to earn a reputation in a certain field by building an authority through services such as Our general advice is: Always focus on the users and not on search engines when developing your optimization strategy. Ask yourself what creates value for your users. Investing in the quality of your content and thereby earning natural backlinks benefits both the users and drives more qualified traffic to your site.

To sum up, even though improved algorithms have promoted a transition away from paid or exchanged links towards earned organic links, there still seems to be some confusion within the market about what the most effective link strategy is. So when taking advice from your SEO consultant, keep in mind that nowadays search engines reward sweat-of-the-brow work on content that bait natural links given by choice.

In French / en Francais

Liens et popularité.
[Translated by] Eric et Adrien, l’équipe de qualité de recherche.

Les 28 et 29 Novembre dernier, nous étions à Paris pour assister à SES. Nous avons eu la chance de rencontrer les acteurs du référencement et du Web marketing en France. L’un des principaux points qui a été abordé au cours de cette conférence, et sur lequel il règne toujours une certaine confusion, concerne l’utilisation des liens dans le but d’augmenter la popularité d’un site. Nous avons pensé qu’il serait utile de clarifier le traitement réservé aux liens spam par les moteurs de recherche.

Cette confusion vient du fait qu’un grand nombre de personnes pensent qu’il existe deux manières d’utiliser les liens pour augmenter la popularité de leurs sites. D’une part, l’option à long terme, basée sur le mérite, qui consiste à développer des liens de manière naturelle. D’autre part, l’option à court terme, plus risquée, qui consiste à obtenir des liens spam, tel les liens achetés. Nous avons toujours eu une position claire concernant les techniques visant à manipuler l’algorithme PageRank dans nos conseils aux webmasters.

Il est vrai que certaines de ces techniques ont pu fonctionner par le passé. Cependant, Google a récemment affiné les algorithmes qui mesurent l’importance des liens. Un plus grand nombre de personnes évaluent aujourd’hui la pertinence de ces liens et corrigent les problèmes éventuels. Désormais, les sites qui tentent de manipuler le Page Rank en vendant des liens peuvent voir leur habilité à transmettre leur popularité diminuer.

Du fait que les moteurs de recherche ne prennent désormais en compte que les liens pertinents, de nouvelles techniques se sont développées pour augmenter la popularité d’un site Web. Il y a d’une part la manière classique, et légitime, qui consiste à optimiser son contenu pour obtenir des liens naturels de la part de sites aux thématiques similaires ou faisant autorité. Une technique plus récente, la pêche aux liens, (en Anglais « link baiting »), consiste à utiliser à son profit certains sites Web 2.0 dont les contenus sont générés par les utilisateurs. Un exemple classique étant de soumettre un article soigneusement prépare à un site comme Un autre exemple consiste à acquérir un statut d’expert concernant un sujet précis, sur un site comme Notre conseil est simple : lorsque vous développez votre stratégie d’optimisation, pensez en premier lieu à vos utilisateurs plutôt qu’aux moteurs de recherche. Demandez-vous quelle est la valeur ajoutée de votre contenu pour vos utilisateurs. De cette manière, tout le monde y gagne : investir dans la qualité de votre contenu bénéficie à vos utilisateurs, cela vous permet aussi d’augmenter le nombre et la qualité des liens naturels qui pointent vers votre site, et donc, de mieux cibler vos visiteurs.

En conclusion, bien que les algorithmes récents aient mis un frein aux techniques d’échanges et d’achats de liens au profit des liens naturels, il semble toujours régner une certaine confusion sur la stratégie à adopter. Gardez donc à l’esprit, lorsque vous demandez conseil à votre expert en référencement, que les moteurs de recherche récompensent aujourd’hui le travail apporté au contenu qui attire des liens naturels.

Update to our webmaster guidelines

As the web continues to change and evolve, our algorithms change right along with it. Recently, as a result of one of those algorithmic changes, we've modified our webmaster guidelines. Previously, these stated:

Don't use "&id=" as a parameter in your URLs, as we don't include these pages in our index.

However, we've recently removed that technical guideline, and now index URLs that contain that parameter. So if your site uses a dynamic structure that generates it, don't worry about rewriting it -- we'll accept it just fine as is. Keep in mind, however, that dynamic URLs with a large number of parameters may be problematic for search engine crawlers in general, so rewriting dynamic URLs into user-friendly versions is always a good practice when that option is available to you. If you can, keeping the number of URL parameters to one or two may make it more likely that search engines will crawl your dynamic urls.