What You Need to Know About Google Manual Actions and Security Issues

Travel enthusiasts navigate the digital landscape to share their experiences and insights, but they must also navigate Google’s complex search policies and algorithms. Let’s discuss what travel bloggers need to know about Google’s manual actions and security issues to ensure their content remains accessible and trustworthy.

What Are Google Manual Actions?

Google issues manual actions against websites when human reviewers detect pages that violate its spam policies. These actions aim to combat attempts to manipulate search rankings and ensure that users receive relevant and high-quality search results. Manual actions can result in pages or entire sites being ranked lower or omitted from search results (de-indexed).

Manual actions can have severe implications for your bloggers’ visibility and reach. Whether due to user-generated spam, thin content, or unnatural linking, any violation of Google’s policies can impact your ability to get organic search traffic.

Types of Google Manual Actions

  • Site Abused with Third-Party Spam: External spam content has infiltrated your site, compromising its integrity. This could mean spammy guest posts or comments that degrade your site’s quality and user trust.
  • User-Generated Spam: Spammy content that detracts from your site’s credibility and user experience. This might include irrelevant or spammy comments under blog posts.
  • Spam-Free Host: Your hosting provider is associated with spam activities, impacting the site’s reputation. If your travel blog is hosted on a platform known for harboring spammy sites, it may affect its perceived trustworthiness.
  • Structured Data Issue: Errors or discrepancies in structured data markup affect how your site appears in search results. For example, if your blog’s structured data incorrectly labels a destination, search snippets may be inaccurate.
  • Unnatural Links to Your Site: Inorganic links to a site can trigger penalties for manipulative link-building practices. For example, a travel blog receiving a large number of links from questionable sources could be affected.
  • Unnatural Links from Your Site: Outbound links are deemed unnatural or manipulative, potentially affecting search visibility. This could happen if your blog links to irrelevant or low-quality sites to manipulate SEO.
  • Thin Content with Little or No Added Value: This category includes superficial articles offering no unique insights or information. It lacks depth, relevance, or originality, providing little value to users.
  • Cloaking and/or Sneaky Redirects: Serving different content to search engines and users, often to manipulate rankings. If your blog shows one set of content to search engines and another to users, it’s a violation.
  • Pure Spam: Severe violations of Google’s guidelines, typically involving deceptive practices and low-quality content. Examples include copying content from other sites or using deceptive headlines.
  • Cloaked Images: Images hidden from users but visible to search engines, employed to manipulate search rankings. Using misleading images to improve search visibility.
  • Hidden Text and/or Keyword Stuffing: Keywords are unnaturally inserted into content or hidden from users, aiming to manipulate search rankings. A travel blogger might do this by using the same phrase too many times in a post, which may read unnaturally to others.
  • AMP Content Mismatch: Discrepancies between Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) versions and standard web pages. You must ensure consistency between its AMP and regular versions.
  • Sneaky Mobile Redirects: Redirecting mobile users to content different from desktop users, often for deceptive purposes. If your site redirects mobile users to unrelated pages, it’s a violation.
  • News and Discover Policy Violations: Breaches of Google’s policies regarding news and Discover content, such as misleading headlines or deceptive practices.
  • Site Reputation Abuse: Hosting third-party pages with minimal oversight to exploit the host site’s ranking signals isn’t allowed. You should avoid hosting guest content that doesn’t align with quality standards.

Identifying Google Manual Actions

GSC Manual Actions

You can access the Manual Actions report in Google Search Console to check for manual actions against their sites. This report provides insights into any manual actions issued against the site, including details on the specific issues detected and the affected pages.

If a manual action is identified, you should take immediate steps to address the underlying problems and request a reconsideration request from Google.

How to Address Google Manual Actions

To resolve manual actions, you must carefully review the issues identified in the Manual Actions report and take appropriate corrective measures. This may involve improving content quality, removing spammy links, or addressing structured data issues. It’s crucial to fix the problem on all affected pages and ensure that Google can access the content without restrictions.

Once the issues have been addressed, you can submit a reconsideration request to Google, providing detailed information on the fixes implemented. Reconsideration reviews can take time, but maintaining open communication with Google throughout the process is critical to effectively resolving manual actions.

Understanding Google Security Issues

Google security issues pertain to threats that can harm visitors or their devices. These issues may include indications of hacking, phishing attacks, or malware installation on a user’s computer or mobile device. Unlike manual actions, security issues can result in warnings being displayed in search results or browsers, alerting users to potential risks.

Here are examples of Google security issues:

  • Malware: If your site is compromised and starts injecting malware into visitors’ systems, Google may flag the site as harmful. Visitors would see warnings when trying to access the site through search results or their browsers.
  • Hacking: Should the site be hacked and its content altered, this could lead to the display of harmful or misleading information. For example, you might unknowingly display ads or content inserted by a hacker, which could be harmful or irrelevant.
  • Phishing Attacks: If your site is used for phishing, it might trick visitors into divulging sensitive information like login credentials. Google detects such security risks and warns users who try to access the affected pages.
  • Cross-Site Scripting (XSS): This security vulnerability allows attackers to inject malicious scripts into web pages viewed by other users. A blog with an XSS vulnerability could steal information from visitors or redirect them to malicious sites.
  • SQL Injection: If your blog’s database is vulnerable to SQL injection, attackers could access sensitive data, manipulate or delete content, or even gain administrative control over the website.
  • Unsecure Third-Party Plugins: Using outdated or vulnerable third-party plugins can introduce security risks. For example, a vulnerable booking system plugin could be exploited, giving hackers access to the site or its data.
  • DDoS Attacks: While not the website’s direct fault, Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks can make a site inaccessible. Google may temporarily remove or lower the ranking of a consistently unavailable site.
  • Spammy User-Generated Content: While not always directly harmful, excessive spam in comments or forums can sometimes include malicious links or content, which can pose a risk to users and affect the site’s integrity.

In each of these cases, Google might issue warnings in search results or through Google Search Console, which can impact your site’s traffic and trustworthiness until the issues are resolved.

Website Security Plugins I Recommend

I use a combination of Cloudflare and JetPack for my websites.

JetPack was created by WordPress and offers security features like brute force attack protection, downtime monitoring, and malware scanning (in paid plans). Cloudflare offers robust security features such as DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack protection, which helps to safeguard your website against malicious traffic and overload.

Google Manual Action and Security Issues

Navigating the intricacies of Google’s manual actions and security issues is essential for maintaining a credible online presence. By proactively monitoring for manual actions, promptly addressing violations, and prioritizing website security, bloggers can ensure their content remains accessible and trustworthy.

Photo Credit: [@chrisdorney/DepositPhotos]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexandrea Sumuel - Groves

Alexandrea Sumuel - Groves is a nationally syndicated travel writer and founder of the Wander With Alex travel blog. With 16 years of digital marketing and SEO experience, a business management and information technology degree, and a profitable travel blog, she can help you start a travel blog or accelerate your existing blog with one-on-one coaching.