Google Manual Action: SEMRush Reveals Top Penalty Triggering Factors

May 22, 2020
Google is up against the web spammers by penalizing their websites for deliberately flouting the prescribed best practices.

Now, the popular SEO Tool SEMRush has come up with insightful research that says guest posts/press releases, PBNs, and sponsored links amount to top reasons why Google may penalize a website. 

Google has its spam detection team that frequently tweaks the algorithm to detect websites that try to find short cuts to ranking higher on Google. 

Semrush Research

The impact of these tweaks can either impact a website in the form of Algorithmic Penalty or the most dangerous Manual Penalty. 

SEMRush, which is a popular tool among SEOs, have a dedicated feature that tells users about the Toxic level of the backlinks pointing to their site. 

The higher the number of toxic links, the more chance of Google Penalizing the site. However, the new research conducted by SEMRush aimed at finding specific answers to a few questions that have been troubling search engine optimization consultants like us. 

  1. Find the factors the lead to Google penalty and measure how different permutations and combinations of the so-called black hat practices will trigger penalties.
  2. To understand how much is so much and how long Google will continue to tolerate websites involving in corrupt practices of search engine optimization. 
  3. To test the accuracy of the toxic link detection tool of SEMRush to provide users better information about their linking profile.
  4. Find ways to warn the users before Google slams them with a penalty, which otherwise will take a lot of time and effort to recover. 
  5. And finally, to create best practices that users can rely on while building backlinks to their profile. 

According to the SEMRush analysis, which is based on data collected from over 850+ linking profiles, the paid linking practice remains the villain with almost 53% websites that got penalized, relying on this blackhat SEO practice. 

Google has been quite vocal about how it hates paid links. Recently, the search engine giant rolled out a new rel attribute rel=” sponsored”, so that the webmasters can mark the purchased links as sponsors to avoid the penalty. 

However, many SEO agencies are still following the old practices that are now spammy and are ruining the future of oblivious clients who are asked to pay lump sum for these spammy links. 

The second and the most admonishing data the SEMRush provides through their research is that 45% of the websites out of the 850 odd ones selected for the study, who engaged in guest posts, were slapped with a penalty. 

How it looks when a website is hit by a manual action. The recovery is a tedious process and may require multiple reconsideration requests.

There are SEO agencies out there that have found safe heaven in offering guest Post services. However, this is more often paid links that are packed as guest posts. 

Guest posts in 2020 have lost its sanctity with websites that survive only on Guest posts. The sole aim of such sites is to add the content provided by these SEO agencies with the link to their client. They charge heftily for the link placement, and agencies are fo after such sites due to their Domain Authority. 

However, a little organic research of these sites using SEMRush will open up a different story. 

Most of these sites are either expired domains purchased for the sole purpose of link building or websites that did a great job in the early days but decided to kill it by accepting paid guest posts. 

The only signal that is required to know whether the website is spammy is the current organic traffic. Even if the site has a DA or DR of over 50+, if it is not receiving organic traffic from Google despite publishing hundreds of articles a month, it signals something fishy. 

So, website owners who go with guest post links have to be extra conscious while selecting with domains. With SEMRush data showing the gravity of how Guest Post links can hamper a website’s organic growth, I think Google will soon crack down on more of such sites, and it’s always good to anticipate such changes. 

The third most Google Penalty prone links are PBNs and Link Networks. With 27% of websites resorting to such link building practicing being affected, it is evident that the age-old practice that Google disavowed back in 2013 during the Penguin update is still prevalent. 

There is a drop in the number of PBNs because of the agencies concentrating more on Guest posts. However, there are still agencies out their that trick the users with PBNs labeled as Guest posts. 

However, that discussion is about who is a bigger sinner because both these practices are spammy when we go through the guidelines provided by Google. 

Thanks to the sensitization of the SEO industry, there is very few people using other spammy link building methods in 2020. 

According to the SEMRush research, Google has penalized fewer sites that engaged in user-generated spam, hidden links, web directories, affiliate links bookmarking, etc. 

This could be an indication that the industry is slowly moving away for these practices. The reason for this is Google mending the loopholes that helped websites that used these practices to rank better. 

The SEMRush research, published by Elena Terenteva, also says that most of the cases related to link penalty were triggered when two or more spammy practices were involved. 

In addition to this, she also says that Google may penalize websites if it finds that the irrelevant and non-contextual links are built from a high-quality site, which is synonymous with paid links.

There is a caution that the research gives to the webmasters as they have found that on average, it takes two to three reconsideration requests before Google releases the clamp from the penalized website. 

The research also demystifies the belief that outbound links and old inbound links are safe. The key takeaway section of the report says, if sites fail to toe the Google guidelines, it can result in a manual action. 




<a href="" target="_self">Nivedita Nagpal</a>

Nivedita Nagpal

It has been a long winding and exciting 27 years journey full of success trails achieved through constant learning and adaptation. I have been able to diversify into several genres of writing, and currently, I’m exploring the vast horizon of SEO. Writing for websites and enabling them to rank higher on Google search makes me a proud writer. However, to know that my content is helping businesses bridge the gap between their target audience makes strive for excellence. I feel this is the most exciting thing I have experienced in the last two decades.


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