If you have user generated content on your website, check out what those users are doing.

Google actually hit Mozilla with a manual spam penalty this week. Keep in mind, Google gives Mozilla a PR9 at this time.

Mozilla’s Penalty

Search Engine Roundtable first noticed the issue with Google’s latest fight against spam.

A web production manager at Mozilla went to the Google forums to seek help in dealing with the penalty. Here is the notice he received:

Google has detected user-generated spam on your site. Typically, this kind of spam is found on forum pages, guestbook pages, or in user profiles.

As a result, Google has applied a manual spam action to your site.

At this time, I haven’t been able to find any spam on the Mozilla domain. And they don’t really have a way for users to generate content on the site.

Figuring Out What is Wrong

After the post, Mozilla received an answer from one of Google’s webmaster trends analysts. He said:

To some extent, we will manually remove any particularly egregious spam from our search results that we find, so some of those pages may not be directly visible in Google’s web-search anymore.

Unfortunately, Google doesn’t really give a specific answer as to why the site was penalized. They said there was spam detected, but didn’t explain the spam to Mozilla, so they won’t know what area of their website they need to monitor and fix.

A similar situation happened to the BBC last month when they received a message about unnatural links. The message was vague, so the BBC went to the forums for advice. It turned out that one page on the website had unnatural links pointing to it and a “granular” action was taken.

So what is a “Granular” Penalty?

Here is what John Mueller from Google said in response to Mozilla:

Keep in mind that we work to be as granular as possible with our manual actions. Personally, I think it’s good to react to a message like that by looking into ways of catching and resolving the cases that get through your existing UGC infrastructure, but in this particular case, this message does not mean that your site on a whole is critically negatively affected in our search results.

So, the entire Mozilla website wasn’t penalized. Only a few pages were affected. It might be one page. It might be a small bunch of pages. But it raises the question about how much a “granular” penalty can affect a website.

Is There Something Wrong with My Site?

If you receive a manual penalty from Google, you will basically have to remove bad links pointing to your site and file a reconsideration request.

Since the notice won’t give details or tell you the exact links that are bad, you will have to use tools to figure it out on your own. But if you were using any kind of spam techniques to get links to your site, you should have a good idea of the links that may be hurting your site.

Contact the website owner and request to have them removed and document your efforts. You can include your efforts in a report to Google.

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