Pure spam penalty guide.

Pure spam penalties

 

Have you received a Pure Spam manual action from Google? I have found that Google’s documentation on these penalties is not terribly actionable. Recently, there has been an increase in the number of people who have been reaching out to me for help in understanding and removing a pure spam manual action.

 

My point in writing this article is twofold. The first goal is to share with you what I know about these penalties. The second is to offer a review of your website if you are trying to remove a pure spam manual action. If you are interested in this, you can scroll to the bottom of the article or click here for more info.

 

My experience with pure spam manual actions

Google has documentation on Pure Spam actions but I find that most people who get one of these penalties are not sure why they got it.  I have reviewed quite a few sites and have made a list of factors that seem to be connected to these notifications. I’ll explain in this article factors that we know for certain can contribute to pure spam and also factors that I feel could also be important to look at. I’ll also share with you what kind of reconsideration request you should write.

 

My first recommendation is to watch Matt Cutts’ video:

 

 

 

In this video, Matt explains some possible reasons for pure spam actions. He also says that webmasters rarely apply for reconsideration to get these penalties removed, but in my experience this is not true. In some cases you can recover from a pure spam penalty provided you can convince Google that your site is worthy of including in their index.

 

How to know if you have a pure spam penalty

You will receive a message in Google Search Console (Webmaster Tools) that may look like this:

pure spam message

What if you don’t have Google Search Console set up? If you verify your site and add it to Google Search Console you won’t be able to see messages that were previously sent to the account. But, you will be able to find the action in the Manual Actions section found at Search Traffic → Manual Actions. You’ll see something that looks like this:

pure spam manual action

 

In most cases you’ll find that the site has been completely deindexed from Google. You can search for this by doing a site: query like this:

pure spam site search

Possible reasons for pure spam

Many people who email me asking for help have no clue why they have been removed from Google’s index. Here is a list of possible reasons why your site could have been perceived as pure spam:

 

1) Previously used for spam

Did you just buy this domain name? You can look at what it was used for previously by looking up the site on archive.org. It’s possible that the domain had a pure spam action on it when you bought it. If this is the case, file for reconsideration and explain that you recently purchased the domain and that the content on the site has completely changed. Please note though, that in order to have the penalty revoked, you actually have to have content on the site. You won’t get the action lifted if the site is still blank or mostly in development.

 

Also, don’t try to fool Google into thinking that you’ve purchased a new domain, when really you haven’t. I’ve seen a couple of people who have tried to change ownership of a domain in the hopes of removing a pure spam penalty. If the content hasn’t changed dramatically, this tactic will not work.

 

2) Automatically generated content

Google’s wording is confusing because they say, “automatically generated gibberish”. Now, if you have a site that consists primarily of autogenerated text that makes no sense, it is obvious why Google may consider that pure spam. However, some sites can get a pure spam penalty if they’ve used an auto-translator. I personally believe that some sites that are low quality sites with broken English can be seen as gibberish as well.

 

Google also considers “stitching or combining content from different web pages without adding sufficient value” an example of automatically generated content as well. This type of content is very similar to what I’ll describe in my third example, scraped content.

 

3) Scraped Content

 

If you have received a pure spam penalty and your site consists mostly of information that can be found elsewhere, then there is a good chance that Google is seeing this content as scraped content, even if you are not using scraping tools to create your pages. Google gives the following examples when describing what they consider scraped content:

 

  • Sites that copy and republish content from other sites without adding any original content or value
  • Sites that copy content from other sites, modify it slightly (for example, by substituting synonyms or using automated techniques), and republish it
  • Sites that reproduce content feeds from other sites without providing some type of unique organization or benefit to the user
  • Sites dedicated to embedding content such as video, images, or other media from other sites without substantial added value to the user

 

A common type of site that I have seen receive a pure spam penalty lately is the kind that offers things like desktop wallpapers, free Excel templates or printable coloring pages for kids. These sites get content by gathering images from other sites on the web and organizing them into categories. Whether the images are scraped, or are curated by hand, this type of tactic can still contribute to a pure spam penalty.  In some cases the images have been modified slightly. In other cases, there was some unique content and then the majority of the images were taken from elsewhere.

 

I have successfully helped a couple of these sites remove their pure spam action. If you have a site that aggregates content from elsewhere on the web and you have been hit by pure spam, then the key to getting Google to remove the penalty is in convincing the webspam team that your site truly is unique and valuable.

 

Don’t do the following:

  • Argue that others are doing this, so it must be ok.
  • Argue that your site offers unique value because of the way you have organized the content.

 

Here are some of the things that I have done with this type of website to successfully get Google to reinclude them:

 

  • Give evidence that shows that the designs on the site originated with you. For example, you could show Google a particular design and mention the designer who created it and that this designer is employed by you. You could also have a statement from this designer explaining that he or she made it for your site. Obviously though, if you are using someone else’s content, then this is not going to work.
  • Add to the content in a way that truly adds value. It’s not enough to just write a unique description or modify the content slightly. You’d have to really find a way to add value. For example, let’s say that you have a website that offers free powerpoint templates and that you’ve gathered these templates from other sources on the web. One thing you could do is create some example powerpoint presentations using these templates. You could write a thorough article called, “5 tips for realtors using powerpoint templates”, and another called, “How to add animations to our free powerpoint templates”. The goal here is not to get unique words on a page, but to truly create a site that Google would be happy to show searchers.A couple of articles is not going to be enough though. You will likely need to completely revamp the site to prove to Google that the content is worthy of being indexed.

 

This sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? This is why Matt Cutts says that many people do not file for reconsideration when they have a pure spam penalty. If your business model is based on finding easy or quick ways to publish content, then in order for Google to index you, this must change.

 

4) Cloaking

Cloaking means that you are showing different content to users than you are to Google.  In many cases, cloaking is obvious. If you’re trying to trick Google by showing Googlebot one thing and users another, then remove the cloaking and file for reconsideration.

 

Recently I have seen a lot of sites get a pure spam penalty because they are using an anti-hotlinking plugin to stop people from stealing images on their site. These plugins can cause Google images to see a different image than users on your site do. In some cases, simply removing the hotlinking plugin can be enough to get the pure spam penalty removed. In other cases, removing the plugin caused Google to modify the manual action to be “thin content” rather than “pure spam”. When that happened to one particular site, the site got some of their pages reindexed, but not all. 

 

With this said, Google actually has a penalty specific to anti-hotlinking plugins, called the Image mismatch penalty. If this is the only issue Google has with your site, you’re more likely to get an image mismatch penalty than a pure spam penalty. My personal belief is that anti-hotlinking alone is not enough to cause a pure spam issue. Most of these sites likely have other issues as well. Still, if you have received a pure spam message and you’re using a plugin like this then it’s best to remove it.

 

5) Repeated or egregious violations of Google’s quality guidelines.

 

Egregious means “outstandingly bad” or “shocking”. I am fairly certain that sometimes Google will slap a pure spam penalty on a website that they simply do not want to have in their search results. What follows here is not taken from a Google publication, but rather, are my own ideas as to factors that could contribute to pure spam penalties:

 

Instructing users on how to manipulate Google. I have seen a couple of sites that received a pure spam message despite the fact that there was no autogenerated content, scraped content or cloaking.  I believe it was given because these sites repeatedly published articles describing how to game Google or do either blackhat SEO or harmful negative SEO. Why would Google want to include those sites in their index? Calling them pure spam is a way for Google to say that they would prefer not to show searchers this content.

Now, of course there are many many sites that speak against Google or offer advice on blackhat SEO. Google is not going to deindex every site that speaks against Google. But, I believe that if a webspam team member is reviewing a particular site that is repeatedly advising people on how to game Google, they may take action in deindexing it.

 

Owning many sites targeting the same topic. I have seen several cases where a site owner received a pure spam warning for several sites all at the same time. All of these sites were very similar. In most cases, these sites could be classified as thin affiliate sites. I wondered in several cases why Google didn’t simply give them a thin content penalty. What is the difference between a pure spam penalty and a thin content penalty? My opinion is that in some cases there is a fine line between the two. If you have a single site that contains nothing but affiliate feeds and adds no value to the search results then you could get a thin content penalty. But, if you have even more issues such as having several of these sites, having other issues such as cloaking, or possibly even having unnatural links pointing at the sites then you could be upgraded to pure spam. I think that in some cases, when it’s debatable whether the manual action should be pure spam or thin content, it simply comes down to the choice of the webspam team member who is reviewing your site.

 

If you have many sites in Google Search Console and a good number of them have received a pure spam penalty then most likely Google wants you to concentrate on having a single authoritative site.

 

Supremely frustrating users. I have seen a couple of sites who received a pure spam penalty because they used a plugin called “Exit Junction” or another one called “PlugRush”. These are plugins that cause ads to appear when someone presses the back button to leave your site. There have been a number of cases in Google’s webmaster forums where plugins like this have been implicated as a cause for the pure spam penalty.

 

What about unnatural links?

Are unnatural links a part of a pure spam penalty? I think that they can be part of the picture. But, you don’t need to have unnatural links in order to get a pure spam penalty. I personally believe that in some cases when Google sees a number of issues on a site such as perhaps a site that has thin content and also autogenerated content and also unnatural links that they may simply say, “We don’t want to deal with this site” and slap a pure spam penalty on it rather than dishing out individual penalties for thin content, unnatural links and so on.

 

Reconsideration request tips

It is definitely possible to get a pure spam penalty removed. But, you have to be committed to significantly work to improve your website.

 

When writing your reconsideration request, here are some tips that I recommend:

 

 

  • Don’t be argumentative. I have reviewed hundreds of reconsideration requests and it is quite common for a site owner to simply list all of the reasons why they feel Google was wrong to give them a pure spam penalty. Unless you recently purchased a domain that was previously used for spam, you are not going to get your penalty lifted unless you make significant changes to your site.
  • Admit to the possible spam tactics. What I like to do is list all of the possible reasons for the site to be hit and then explain what we are doing to rectify this problem. For example, if you think you may have been given this penalty because your site contains mostly stitched together or scraped content, then mention this and explain what steps you have taken to add significant content to these pages so that they have their own unique value. Link to those pages in your request and point out what you have added.

 

What the webspam team wants to see is that you are honestly putting good effort into improving your site.

Have Marie Haynes review your pure spam site

 

If you have a site with a pure spam manual action, fill out the form below. The price for me to review your site is a flat rate of $499 USD.

 

For this review you will receive the following:

 

  • My thoughts on why Google has given this penalty.
  • My advice on what you can do to improve your site so that you can get the penalty lifted.
  • I will write your reconsideration request for you.
  • Should we fail at reconsideration I’ll continue to advise you provided you are willing to continue to work on improving your site.

 

Please note, however that I cannot guarantee that your site will be reindexed. In some cases it may not be possible to lift the penalty without completely revamping your entire business model. Please also note that my advice will be limited to what is necessary for this particular pure spam issue. If you would like consulting advice for other sites or issues, my regular hourly rate is $300.

Testimonials

Marie is professional, very knowledgeable and prompt in responses. My site was in a “Pure Spam Penalty”. She did take a look at it, found the issues and prescribed the right solution. The process was very fast and the delays mostly were because of me being busy …. My request was approved by Google and few days later, the rankings are improving and have already few keywords showing back up on page 1 again. I am very thankful to have found Marie and asked for her help. I highly recommend her service….

Thanks again Marie. Yes the rankings have improved and I have already a few KW’s on page 1! So we are going to the right direction.
Pure spam penalty removed message

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Your thoughts?

Have you successfully removed a pure spam penalty? Have any tips you would like to add? I’d love for you to leave a comment below.

 

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25 Comments
  1. What a well written article, and it will convert too! – bonus – Thanks Marie 🙂

  2. A good inside on clearly bad things you can do with you content/website. A pitty you don’t go into natural links.

  3. Excellent article, Marie! I wonder if phone number index/lookup sites get flagged for spam as often as other sites do? It seems every time I search for a phone number I end up seeing multiple websites with thin nearly identical content.

    As an example:
    http://postimg.org/image/bg070of3p/

    Again, nice write-up! 🙂

    Amanda

    • I am sure that some of these get dinged with pure spam, but you’re right…there sure seem to be a lot of these out there. I’m surprised Google hasn’t written something into the algorithm to fix this issue.

  4. Great information
    In my opinion the main problem is that Google guidelines are very general and therefore SEO and webmasters tend to do shortcuts.

  5. Very recently a client of mine got penalized for just 3 links from sub-par domains which of course were done by their “lovely” competitors with rich anchor texts.

    • This seems unusual. Was it an unnatural links penalty that the client got? It would be extremely unlikely that three links would invite a penalty.

  6. Absolutely Gem Information!!

  7. Can we remove the spam penalty?
    One of my friend got this for his site as he was using copy paste contents.

    • Hi Sagar,

      Having content that is almost completely taken from other sources is a common reason for a site to get a pure spam penalty. In cases like this you *can* get the penalty lifted but you have to make significant changes in order to convince Google that the site is unique enough and worthy enough to show users in the Google index.

  8. Hi Marie,

    I have all original and unique contents. I am wondering Google add spam penalty to all my websites which is on my web master tool. if one website doing spam they add spam penalty to all websites and blogs which is on same account???

    please tell me how I can remove the spam penalty? We have 100% unique contents.

    • Hi. I’ve seen a number of situations where someone has had a bunch of sites all given a Pure Spam penalty. The most common reason for this is that they have a multitude of sites all trying to target the same audience. It’s hard to say though without seeing the sites.

      If your content is truly unique and adds value then you can try applying for reconsideration and giving Google a few examples of pages on your site that are truly helpful to users.

      One other tip. I did have a quick look at your site and unfortunately the English is very broken. Having broken English will not cause a pure spam penalty, but it can make the site look like many others that are created quickly just for ad revenue.

  9. Well explained article thank you. personal experience .

    I recently purchase a 5 year old domain and the niche is wallpaper. Was happy 😛 but when i publish content on my brand new script , i saw that there is no indexing in google. I wonder and then i verified my domain and got to know that . It have pure spam issue.

    So how i can know that when this manual action hit my this 5 year old domain purchase from somewhere??

    is there any time limit to apply for re-consideration ?

    Regards
    Amit

    • Hi Amit,

      I’ve found that Google is quite quick to label wallpaper sites as pure spam. It’s certainly possible that the penalty was on the domain because of something that happened before you purchased it. As such, applying for reconsideration now and saying that you just bought the domain may possibly get the penalty lifted.

      However, it might be hard to get the penalty lifted unless you can convince Google that your site has unique and valuable content. This is hard for wallpaper sites because they’re usually using content that is taken from other sources. You might argue that others are getting away with it, but in my experience, unless you can convince the webspam team that you have unique and helpful content that users can’t find elsewhere, you’re going to be stuck unfortunately.

  10. Thanks for the info. My website get pure spam manual action. And then traffic down fron one million to thousands in a month. And right after two days, media.net suspend my account due to traffic drop. And they reject my apeal. I have not submitee request to google yet. My site use YouTube API to display videos from YT. Can I get remove that manual action? If I convert my website into a self hosted video platform.
    Thanks

    • Unfortunately it will likely be quite difficult to remove a manual action if your site consists mostly of youtube videos. You would need to convince Google that your site offers a huge amount of value to a searcher whereby they would prefer to land on your site rather than youtube.

  11. Hello Marie can you please tell me how much normally time it take after i sent reconsideration request sent please let me know i sent my reconsideration request yesterday

    • It can take anywhere from a few hours to even 6 weeks to get a reply back from Google. In my experience, most sites will hear back within a week on average. Good luck!

  12. Manual Actions for googel webmaster

    This site may not perform as well in Google results because it appears to be in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
    Site-wide matches Some manual actions apply to entire site

    Reason

    Affects

    Thin content with little or no added value
    This site appears to contain a significant percentage of low-quality or shallow pages which do not provide users with much added value (such as thin affiliate pages, cookie-cutter sites, doorway pages, automatically generated content, or copied content).

    pelase help me remove for manual action

    • Hi Tarun,

      I had a quick look at your site and I fear that it will be quite difficult to get this penalty removed. Do you have content on your site that is unique and original? It looks like it is a collection of other people’s content. In order to get the pure spam manual action removed, you’ll likely need to find a way to prove to Google that you offer significant value to people that they can’t find elsewhere.

      If you would like to hire me to help, you can contact me. But, this looks like it may be a difficult penalty to lift.

  13. I had a manual action penalty for my negligence of posting some scrapped content by an author two years back and I got my Google Adsense account disabled at the same time. Now I worked on my site and got the Manual Action revoked but my Adsense account is still disabled. I am confused as some are saying one should forget Adsense once disabled but when the root cause is taken care of and WMT revoked the penalty, why Adsense will not? Any idea or Suggestion?

    Regards,
    Saikat

    • Although I use Adsense on some of my sites, I don’t really know much about how to get Adsense reinstated. Sorry, I can’t help you out here.

  14. I purchased an expired domain two weeks ago, then later discovered it has been flagged as “pure spam” by the actions of the previous user

    I applied for reconsideration and the domain was revoked last week Tuesday, it actually took 4 days from the date I applied for reconsideration.

    But my issue is that my current posts are yet to be indexed it is actually getting MRE worried.

    How long does it take for new post to get indexed?

    • It can take several weeks sometimes for a site that has had a pure spam penalty to return to proper indexing…even up to 6 weeks in some cases.

      If you haven’t done this already, one thing that may help is to submit a new sitemap and also to run a fetch and render and then submit to the index.

      As you write new posts, you can submit these one by one to the index either via Google Search Console or by Googling “submit url to Google”.

      Good luck!

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Marie Haynes is the founder of HIS Web Marketing, formerly at www.HISWebMarketing.com. In 2015, she rebranded the company to Marie Haynes Consulting Inc.
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