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Manual actions found + Penguin

 2:44 pm on Aug 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

I have just found this in WMT

User-generated spam
Pages from this site appear to contain spammy user-generated content. The problematic content may appear on forum pages, guestbook pages, or user profiles.

None of the said URLs exist. We have 4 million posts and work tirelessly to remove spam. No spam exists on our system for more than a couple of hours max, and that's only if the entire team is in bed. How badly could this manual action have effected us? Unfortunately it doesn't have a date on it so I cannot check against traffic.

On another note, the day Penguin hit, the website traffic went from 80k visitors a day to 40k. Not a single link was ever built to the website, not one and yet it has tons of awesome links from national/international press etc. I found around 1,000 very questionable links, negative SEO?

I actually manually emailed over 1,000 websites and did so 3 times over the course of about 3 months. Then I submitted a disavow file, which I resented doing with a passion. Despite exhaustive efforts to remove junk links, we have been unable to recover.

This website is the authority in the niche and so these idiot spammers, in the same way they link to Wikipedia, link to us. Our domain name is single word, 4 letters and the biggest keyword in the niche and they ALWAYS use this #*$! term when linking to us, because its our domain name. Now we don't rank for it. Despite a 10 year reign at number 1 and rightfully so.

Today I emailed Google, with a rather passionate plea but I am not hopeful. I am not sure what else I can do with this but it's driving me to distraction.



 5:09 pm on Aug 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

This is a good reminder that link optimization is not always concentrating anchor text but for some sites it is about diffusing anchor text to avoid triggering a false positive.

I know you and your team are constantly monitoring your site. Just to be safe have you run a scan of your entire site to identify all outbound links? Mistakes do happen, so maybe some spam pages slipped through without your team noticing. Worst case your site was hacked and this content was added. Either way, regularly running a scan on your site will help to spot innocent mistakes and malicious hacks.


 6:12 pm on Aug 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

Definitely run a scan on your domain to see if there is a possible issue with your site/service being hacked and content added without your knowledge. You might also consider doing a google site:domain search with a few keywords (#*$!, viagra, cialis, sex, etc..) to see if it turns up any unexpected results.

On the bright side, it doesn't say you have an unnatural links penalty, so maybe your earlier efforts paid off!


 6:19 pm on Aug 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

This is a good reminder that link optimization is not always concentrating anchor text but for some sites it is about diffusing anchor text to avoid triggering a false positive.

Hey Goodroi, funnily, I've had this conversation many times but we all collectively decided in the end not to get involved with any kind of link building and remain au natural. But it's a very good point, one that keeps going over and over in my mind. I just hate link building especially when it's to diffuse anchor text we had no part in creating.

The pages that Google flagged, looked like every day spam posts but all were already gone when I checked. We have run scans and not found anything malicious looking. I wish we had have, because its nice to find something and feel hope once in a while.

I am feeling strangely optimistic about my reconsideration request. I cannot see any reason why it would be deemed appropriate to apply a penalty of any kind.

@Jake I was responding as you posted, thanks also for your advice. I will ask our programmers to run some more scans, I guess we can never be too certain.


 9:44 pm on Aug 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

It's the user profiles that I find you have to watch out for (since users can modify them anytime). Also I have had clients who have had their site hacked and the hack just changes content for the google bot. You may want to check those urls when mimicking the google bot on your site.

Frankly your example is why I think Google is broken now. No real link building on my part either and I have a lot of nice links but I also have a ton of spammy links built by bots from who knows who.


 10:56 pm on Aug 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

Interesting. Just found some spam on the user blogs. Working my way through it and removing. But that said, I think the bigger issue is the anchor text largely being this 4 letter term that matches our domain. However, it's obviously good to keep things as clean as possible.


 1:19 am on Aug 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

We had a problem in the past with a forum. It was a couple of weeks before I found the problem - there were a couple of posts that my staff had missed several months previously where the poster had a link in their signature that led to a #*$! site.

Robert Charlton

 1:56 am on Aug 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

realmaverick - In the scans you've run, have you tried crawling with a user-agent-switcher? Many of the hacks I've seen only show up when you view as Googlebot.


 6:01 am on Aug 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

As Robert Charlton said above, there are some rather nasty injection hacks that only appear if you use a non-standard user agent. The site might appear to be clean otherwise. Do a Google search for your site (site:) with common drugs/pron/warez keywords to see if this is the problem. These hacks tend to occur at a control panel level or because of an outdated Joomla/Wordpress plugin issue.

One of the major problems in the last year has been that Wordpress plugin compromise that allowed spam links to be injected. Google, in its finite wisdom, still hasn't managed to deal with this problem as it applies to compromised sites and many compromised sites are still in its index.

The other issue is that domains drop and they are sometimes picked up for their link characteristics. If your site has been going for a few years then there is a high probability that some links that were previously good have gone bad or are pointing to PPC parked webpages. What you may have is an accumulation of dropped/reregistered domains.



 7:18 am on Aug 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

Many of the hacks I've seen only show up when you view as Googlebot.

+1'd. Randomly running a few pages through Fetch as Google in WMT will tell you if your site looks the same way to Google as it does to people.


 1:35 pm on Aug 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

Hi guys, I've tried with using the Google user agent and haven't found any issues. It appears the issues we did have, were regular spam from user blogs. I've cleaned up all of the questionable posts I found.

When Google gives a manual notice like this, is it usually a page(s) that's penalised, a section, or the entire website? This is the first manual action notice I've ever seen.


 2:34 pm on Aug 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

Interesting. Just found some spam on the user blogs.

It is indeed interesting that you found spam on the user blogs and I'm glad that you found it. There may be spam elsewhere on the site. You may want to recall some of the anchor text commonly used by spammers on your site and run a site:search with quotation marks with those phrases and partial versions of those phrases. You might find more spam.

Forum spammers drop links wherever a link is allowed, including in profiles. Sometimes they don't post links, just fluff. The link is either in their profile.

Sometimes there is no link, not anywhere. I think they're building inventory to sell to a client, the link is added later. So even if you catch the realtime link drops, you may not catch the links dropped weeks or months later.

Do your mods know to look out for spoofed IP addys? Spam doesn't always drop a link. If you see a fluffy post (translated/garbled English, "great post!" or "Thanks for posting this!") and the IP addy is spoofed, deactivate the account, even if no link is posted anywhere.

[edited by: martinibuster at 2:39 pm (utc) on Aug 27, 2013]

[edited by: aakk9999 at 1:49 am (utc) on Aug 28, 2013]


 2:34 pm on Aug 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

The whole site is penalised AFAIK, in ranking terms.

There should be "Affects" data in WMT? Not sure about the Pure Spam penalty though, have seen it for links.

You weren't running anything like exitjunction were you? If you mess with visitors Google will mess with you.


 12:10 am on Aug 28, 2013 (gmt 0)

@Martinibuster I ran many searches for all of the keywords that were being used and any of the likely suspects like "viagra" "insurance" etc.

We have a fairly good spam system in place for new registrants, the spam I found was from several years ago, prior to the new systems being installed.

@pippo we dont have any ads and rarely even link to the outside world unless it's wikipedia or a medical source.

We've just got a response from Google, which was a little cryptic. It basically said that our website had been reviewed and that we can check the manual section, which is now empty. I'm guessing that's a good sign?

[edited by: aakk9999 at 1:49 am (utc) on Aug 28, 2013]

[edited by: phranque at 11:02 pm (utc) on Aug 29, 2013]


 9:00 am on Aug 28, 2013 (gmt 0)

You got hit by an oopsie.


 10:59 am on Aug 28, 2013 (gmt 0)

So one of the biggest and brightest sites on a subject doesn't rank as well, that looks bad upon Google if you ask me. Unfortunately they are the ultimate judge and you've done what can be done so move on, there is no point trying to please Google further.

Since there is a manual penalty I would do exactly what you've done but that's it, your resources are better utilized on bettering your site for users, not for google.


 2:14 pm on Aug 28, 2013 (gmt 0)

According to WMT, the manual penalty has been lifted. Though they didn't mention anything regarding the Penguin hit.

Traffic hasn't changed, but I have no idea what to expect considering this is my first dealing with a manual penalty.

Rather oddly, but I'm sure coincidently, another website on the same WMT account has had a 20% increase in traffic since I received the reply last night. And, even more strangely, the CPC on the ads doubled. I'm sure it's a coincidence, but worth noting.

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