Surviving the Google bots is nerve-racking enough for most website owners  but a manual review is an entirely different animal. Reviews have also been a point of stress for people because it’s the perfect time to point out your faults (and successes, but who thinks about that before a review?). A Google manual review is no different. In fact, many businesses don’t even realize what a Google manual review is; let alone how to prepare for it.

If you fall into this category and are scratching your head wondering what you’ve been missing, don’t sweat it. Getting prepared for a Google manual review is easy once you know what to expect, and you will survive.

What Is a Google Manual Review?

A Google manual is exactly how it sounds—someone manually reviewing your website and deciding that it needs to be penalized and moved down on their search engine results page (SERP). Your site is usually manually reviewed because it showed up in a certain type of spam report; however it is possible that you were just part of a routine check that Google’s team conducts every so often. You can usually tell right away if you’ve been hit with a manual update or an algorithm update if your site drops in rankings quickly. More about how to determine which type of review occurred in the next section.

The factors that are taken into account when you are manually reviewed are the same factors that the Google bots take into account when you are hit with an algorithmic penalty—duplicate content, poor or broken links, poor website navigation, etc. The only difference here is the idea that an actual person from the manual web spam team at Google is reviewing your site. Of course, there are also differences when it comes to recovering from a review versus an update to the algorithm.

How To Recover From a Manual Review and Come Out on Top

As most probably know, when it comes to Google’s algorithm updates—Panda, Penguin, Top Heavy, etc.—you have to wait for the next update to see all of your recovery efforts go into affect. However, this is quite different when it comes to a manual review. There are a few steps you should follow in order to help you survive the devastating loss in rankings:

  1. Determine the problem. The very first step is determining whether or not you were hit with a manual review or an algorithmic review. The easiest way to do this is to simply check the different SEO blogs (including Higher Visibility!) and see if an update occurred recently. If not, you’re probably hit with a manual review and need to get into manual-review-recovery mode.
  2. Try to correct the problem. You should then try to correct the problem on your own before talking with Google. You can usually tell why your site was penalized by using the Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) alerts if your site is verified through GWT. If your It’s also a good idea to get started with the Disavow Links tool to determine the quality of links pointing back to your site. Once you have an idea about what it is you need to fix, do your best to go around and fix your links and your navigation.
  3. Submit a reconsideration request. Filing a reconsideration request alerts Google that you have tried to solve the problems with your site. This gets your site reviewed once again and hopefully back to ranking well on a Google SERP.

In general, these are the three steps that you should take if you have been hit with a manual review. Fortunately, this process has become easier than ever because Google has made some changes to their manual review procedure.

Why Google Manual Reviews Just Got Less Stressful

While the steps to recover from your manual review have remained largely the same, Google has made it easier for Webmaster to determine if they have been hit. In fact, Cutts explained at this week’s Pubcon conference that Google is alerting nearly 100 percent of Webmasters if their site has been manually reviewed and therefore dropped in rankings. In his exact words:

“We’ve actually started to send messages for pretty much every manual action that we do that will directly impact the ranking of your site.”

In the end, having your site manually reviewed shouldn’t be a stressful process. Being alerted that something is wrong with your site is actually desirable over being alerted through an algorithm update because you’re getting personalized assistance and a chance to change your site before things get worse.