Google’s algorithm has changed a lot and what worked 5 years ago generally doesn’t work now.

The problem is that a large number of businesses and website owners have been caught in the cross-fire.

They have been sold into SEO services that use dodgy tactics to build links.

And others have been a victim of negative SEO (yes it is real)

They used to work and they used to work very well and while some people manage to use some of the same tactics and stay under the radar – that won’t last for long.

The problem is that these tactics can cause Google to penalise your website.


These penalties have a devastating effect on your rankings and ultimately your businesses visibility and turnover.

In this post I am going to share a number of action points that me and my team use to lift manual penalties. We have a 100% success rate for lifting manual penalties.

If you want that penalty to be revoked then keep reading…

Manual or algorithmic – what’s the difference?

In this post I am going to be talking specifically about removing manual penalties for “unnatural links” but first I want to talk a little about the difference between manual and algorithmic issues.

For algorithmic – you will notice a drop in traffic when Google’s algorithm updates or refreshes.

You can use something like the Panguin Tool to identify which update has affected your site.

In these occasions you won’t need to submit a reconsideration request, but chances are that even if you have fixed you will still need to wait until Google’s algorithm updates or refreshes to notice a change.

Manual penalties could be applied at any time and this is generally applied when someone at Google has looked over your site and identified that you are breaking Google’s quality guidelines.

What’s also worth noting is that manual spam actions do expire after some time but there is no way to know when. In general the time frame depends on the severity of the unnatural link building activity or any other actions that break Google’s quality guidelines.

If you don’t get the penalty lifted and you just wait for it to expire, chances are you will get another penalty if you continue with the activities that caused the first penalty. That one will probably take longer to expire.

It’s also possible to have both a manual penalty and for your site to get hit by Google’s algorithm updates too.

How do I know if I have a manual penalty?

Thankfully, Google made this part much easier than it was in the past.

You can find this easily within Google Webmaster Tools:


You should also have received a message from Google with specific information about the penalty so if you have a manual penalty you’re going to know about it!

If you rely on a single data source you’ll fail

The first major step for you to take is to go through your backlink profile and highlight links for removal.

I want to give you a word of warning here: don’t think for a second that just because you’ve used all of Google’s own data, from Webmaster Tools, that you will have all the link data that you need to get the job done.

Google WMT only provides a limited number of links.

Google has been known to decline a reconsideration request just based on 2-3 links, so using as many data sources for backlinks is the way to go.

The internet is huge so you will only get a more complete picture of your backlink profile when you combine data from multiple sources.

This does mean using paid tools, but if you’re going to do this then you need to do it right.

Use everything you can:

Once you have exported all of the backlinks you will need to combine the data, remove http://, https:// and http://www. Then filter in a spreadsheet and remove duplicates.

You can then order the list A-Z and get ready to sift through them.

Like Matt Cutts says, you really can’t go through with a fine-toothed comb to find the links that could be toxic and dangerous to your website.

While some links may be ok to keep now, chances are they won’t be when Google next rolls out its penguin algorithm update.

Ask yourself the question – “if Google didn’t exist, would I still want this link?”

You will need to ensure that any links that break Google’s guide on link schemes are targeted for removal. If you don’t do this, chances are you won’t get the penalty revoked.

Go in at a domain level, rather than looking at individual pages. And take no prisoners.

Think of this as future proofing your website from Google updates.


This is the most time consuming part.

You need to ask all of the webmasters to remove your links and document all of the contacts you are making.

Record copies of emails sent, times, dates, contact information, domain URL etc and whether you were successful or not.

There are tools on the market like RMoov that can help you get through this process much quicker.

The important thing is that later on when you put together your reconsideration request you can prove to Google that you have tried your best to remove the offending links.

You will most likely get a number of webmasters who charge for your link to be removed but you don’t need to. Just make a note that the webmaster tried to charge you.

Google isn’t going to throw out your reconsideration request for not paying them, remember you have to make it clear that you have “tried” to get as many nasty links removed as possible.

Besides, the webmaster could sell their domain and the new owner could try to re-build the site using the Wayback Machine.

Use the disavow tool the right way

Once you have your document where you have recorded contact information, notes and everything else you need to send to Google you will need to get the nasty links disavowed.

I find this works best breaking this up into links that were cleaned up and links that weren’t clean up. If you use RMoov then it will generate the report for you.

Here is a video where Matt Cutts discusses the disavow tool:

As Matt mentions above, don’t disavow a link if you’re unsure and only use this tool if you really have to.

There has already been a lot written about the disavow tool, but there are a number of key mistakes people often make, Matt Cutts addresses them here:

I get a number of people asking me whether you should add links that have been removed to the disavow document.

The answer is YES.

The unfortunate truth is that when someone agrees to remove a link, it can come back.

It may be years in the future when someone tries to resurrect a dropped domain using the Wayback Machine or the webmaster may add it back.

That’s right; some webmasters remove your links and just add them back later.

Compile your reconsideration request: be honest and don’t do it again

I won’t cover the reconsideration request in too much detail here because Lewis Sellers already wrote a very detailed guide that will walk you through it step by step.

There is one key piece of advice that I want to give you for this step and it’s important. It makes a huge difference to the success of your reconsideration request.

Your success here will rely on being completely honest and admitting to all of the tactics that you have been using on your website.

You will need to demonstrate that you have gone to sufficient lengths to try to get the links removed.

Above all else you need to agree to stop using these types of tactics in the future. It does work well if you include what you will be doing in the future, providing that it’s in line with Google’s guidelines.

Be polite and keep your reconsideration request on point.


While it’s never nice to receive a manual penalty, it is possible to get the penalty lifted.

Recovering your rankings will never be instant and will take time so you will need to be patient.

We have used these steps to ensure that we get each manual penalty lifted every time for our clients.

If you have been relying on Google for traffic then now is the time to look at incorporating additional tactics into the mix – you will be glad you did.

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Caphyon, its staff, or its partners.

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