My site has been removed from the Google search index and when I check the Search Console I see a manual action flag identifying a problem with my site. What do I need to do to get my site back into the Google index and how long will it take.

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What is needed in this matter after fixing the problems on your site is what Google calls a "Reconsideration Request".

To begin with a reconsideration request is a request to have Google review a manual action they have taken against your site for a violation of Google's webmaster terms after you have fixed the offending issues.

Timeline: Many times I have been asked how long this process will take and how long until the site is back in the index and the simple answer is that it can vary. The actual decision by Google once you have completed all the required fixes could take anywhere from a few days to a week and a half. A good rule of thumb to follow is that once the request has been approved wait until the flag is removed from the Search Console, then allow a similar amount of time to how fast your site is normally crawled and reindexed into the Google SERP and that is an approximate timeline for you. There is nothing that Google is able to do to speed up the process nor is there anything else you can do if you have done everything else in this guide to speed it up either.

What Do I Do To Submit a Reconsideration Request
To submit a reconsideration request the following steps should be followed...

  1. Sign into your Search Console account
  2. Verify all versions of your site to ensure you have complete and accurate data on your web properties
  3. Check the manual actions section to verify that Google has in fact taken any manual actions on your site
  4. Check the Security Issues section in your Search Console for any other issues which may be affecting your site
  5. Click on the "Request a Review" link to ask Google to reconsider your site

What Is The Reconsideration Process
The reconsideration process starts from the time a manual action notice is sent to the webmaster until the point that Google completes its assessment of if the issues with the site have been addressed sufficiently. The process can vary in minor ways depending on the type of manual action and the reason for the manual action but the general process Google follows is...

  1. You receive a manual action notification and fix the issues mentioned.
  2. You document your reconsideration request (see documentation tips below).
  3. You address any additional issues (see common mistakes below).
  4. You submit the reconsideration request in Search Console.
  5. You receive an acknowledgement from Google (it may take a few days for your request to be processed).
  6. Your request is either rejected or approved.

If your request is approved by Google then the manual action will be removed from your site.

You should bear in mind that reconsideration requests are handled by real people so good documentation will help the process along and help the reviewer understand the steps you have taken to address the issues.

A good reconsideration request should do three things...

  1. Explain the exact quality issues affecting your site
  2. Describe the steps you have taken to rectify the issues
  3. Document the outcome of your efforts

You should also provide links to pages on your site that show your cleanup efforts. Some tips for specific issues are...

  1. Manipulation of Backlinks - Provide a list of the links that you have taken action on. You should make every effort to remove the offending links before using the disavow tool. Simply using the disavow tool on the offending backlinks with no effort to remove un-needed ones may lead to a rejection of your request.
  2. Selling Links on Your Site - You should provide examples of pages where the rel=nofollow tag has been added to the violating links or the links have been removed. It is important to note that if this is the issue you should make every effort not only to clean up the reported offending links but all the other same types of links on your site.
  3. Scraped Content - You should provide examples of the bad pages that you have removed and good pages with useful and genuine content that you have added to your site.
  4. Newly Purchased Domain - If you have purchased a domain that belonged to another site previously and you believe that the manual flag was caused by the previous site then you should use the reconsideration request form to advise Google that you have recently purchased the domain and that it now adheres to the webmaster guidelines. Make sure that when you do this you actually have a site accessible by the domain and that it does in fact meet the guidelines otherwise the review may be rejected.

Common Errors in Reconsideration Requests

The following is an extensive but not exhaustive list of some of the more common errors when filing a reconsideration request.

  1. Not Using the Disavow Tool Correctly - The disavow tool should be used only where appropriate. If you can remove an offending backlink then you should do so. Adding all backlinks to the disavow tool is not considered in line with Google's good faith removal guideline and will not be enough to to make the request successful. Your first point of call should be to contact the webmaster of the backlinking site and request the removal of the offending backlink. If that fails then use the disavow tool and be sure to document in the review request the attempts made to have the offending backlink removed. If there are multiple links on the offending backlinking site and you can not get them to remove the links then when using the disavow tool you should use the domain: operator to disavow the whole domain as a convenience. You should also make sure that if the disavow tool does have to be used not to disavow organic backlinks as this can affect the SERP ranking if your site negatively.
  2. Not Using Fetch as Google While Cleaning Hacked Content - Often there is cloaked content when a site has been hacked, which means that search engine spiders see different content that what is being shown to the sites visitors. One way to see if the site has been compromised is to use the fetch as google tool to see the same content that Google crawlers see. Often review requests have been rejected in the past as the underlying issue has not been resolved and the Google crawler still sees spammy content even if the developer using a browser can not see the spammy content.
  3. Submitting Reconsideration Requests for Empty Sites - This would seem like a given but a large number of reconsideration requests are rejected as the site in question is an empty site of some description. Sites that are not ready for reconsideration are sites that are still under development, such as empty sites, blank pages, or many pages with little to no content, parked domains that don't actually have any content and are simply acting as a placeholder or redirect to a different domain, and sites that are inaccessible due to network or server errors. The general rule of thumb to follow is that you should not lodge a reconsideration request if your site is not ready for production and ready for the world at large to get use of it.

As a catch all rule for all reconsideration requests you should make sure that you are not violating Googe's quality guidelines before you submit a reconsideration request.

If your reconsideration request is rejected by Google that doesn't mean that it will always be rejected, it simply means that there is still an issue with your site. You should go back to the manual action notice and make sure to fix all of the issues identified through the notice, not just on any sample links documented, but on all pages throughout your whole site, before submitting another reconsideration request.

NB: I have seen circumstances before where webmasters, for whatever reason, have been creating or redeveloping their site on the production server under the main domain name and have continued to allow access to the domain during the work. In some cases that I have noted a manual action was placed against the domain as the site effectively violated the Google Quality Guidelines even though the site was under development and wasn't being targeted to end users. In this situation the webmasters had to go through the whole Reconsideration Request process before the site could be added back to the Google index after development work was done. A good practice in this situation is to replace your site with a coming soon page, or password protect the site, and if those options are unavailable, add a robots.txt file to block all crawlers until your site is finished. It is always best not to do development work on the publicly accessible production site while members of the public can access the pages being developed. Remember, if a member of the public can access a page so to can the Google crawler.

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