Who Should Pay the Price?
A business’ worst SEO nightmare is getting slapped by a manual penalty. Several months ago we landed a new client because their old agency used Grey Hat techniques. The client didn’t understand that their agency was cheating (going against Google’s quality guidelines). It begs the question about fairness.
What Is a Manual Penalty?
A manual penalty refers to a message sent by Google to a business via Webmaster Tools. It looks like this:
Google has detected a pattern of artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site. Buying links or participating in link schemes in order to manipulate PageRank are violations of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
As a result, Google has applied a manual spam action to [insert website url here]. There may be other actions on your site or part of your site.
If you manage a website, this is a message you absolutely don’t want to see. Ever.
Who Is Responsible?
Online marketing requires deep knowledge of many areas, including managing the technical aspects of a website (e.g., meta data, codes interpreted by search engine crawlers), studying related search terms and mapping to a site’s sales funnel, and ultimately generating original content to build SEO equity. Is it reasonable to require a business owner or marketing manager to understand all these components in order to market online? For many businesses, outsourcing to a subject matter expert is a logical and smart decision. Yet, if you choose the wrong agency… you potentially risk a manual penalty.
Should the agency, not the client, bear the brunt of the manual penalty? Or should they share equally?
In the case of our client, they are a legitimate business adding to California’s economy. They employ dedicated workers, passionate and committed to their business’ mission. The manual penalty has throttled back their organic visibility… greatly impacting their sales. In this case, is it fair that their old agency wasn’t slapped as well?
Cleaning Up the Aftermath
After three years of Grey Hat work, there’s a lot clean up for this client. As a Google Partner, we have access to the best and brightest in online marketing via a private forum. We posted a question about fixing this manual penalty. Here are what our buddies shared with us:
- There are no shortcuts. Recovering from a manual penalty is a tedious and painstaking process.
- Disavow any shady link schemes off the site and explain the situation via the reconsideration request (basically follow the process outlined by Google).
- Google looks poorly on excuses. They expect companies to understand what’s going on with their contractors and make sure they are properly vetted.
Avoid Problems Before They Happen
There’s a wide selection of online marketing agencies out there. It pays to do your homework and ask questions… lots of them. Choose an agency that reflects your values, as you don’t want to gamble with your online reputation. Lastly, manage your contractors so you understand what they are doing on your behalf.
Do you think SEO agencies should share responsibility (e.g., also receive a manual penalty) for webspam?
How can we help?
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We are the spectrum group, and we offer strategic and tactical consulting so you can monetize your online presence. Call us for a complimentary 30-minute consultation to discuss how to leverage customer testimonials.