How to check if a website has a manual or algorithmic filter?

30 January 2015

Are you the owner of a website or online store? Have you noticed a drop in your position in natural search results? Or maybe fewer and fewer Internet users come to your website from Google? It is possible that a filter has been imposed on your website.

For a long time, in my work I have often dealt with websites that have been penalized by Google. Owners who do not conduct SEO activities themselves but outsource them to companies/third parties are often unaware of the condition of their websites. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness and basic knowledge is sometimes exploited by companies. During the last training that I had the opportunity to conduct, the participant quoted a comment from a positioning company, which explained the imposition of a filter on the website in this way: "This is a normal situation, most companies have the same problem after the last Penguin update." My only response was a recommendation to change the SEO company.

I hope that the following description will dispel your doubts regarding a possible penalty imposed on your website.

Filter in Google? what is it?

The filter is a kind of penalty imposed on the website for non-compliance with Google guidelines. It involves a drop in the website's position, sometimes only for a few phrases, sometimes for all of them. Additionally, keywords may drop 20-30 positions down or the website may not appear at all in natural search results for selected terms. As we know, lower positions are also associated with drops in traffic. Sometimes traffic may drop across the entire website, which we can see in the graph in Google Analytics in the free traffic section. There are also situations when the number of visits decreases only on specific sections of the website, e.g. on category pages. All these possibilities mean that it is often impossible to diagnose the filter at first glance and we need to delve deeper into the data we have.

Currently, probably the most common reason for applying filters are unnatural links directing to the website.

Manual and algorithmic filter? what's the difference?

When searching for information about Google penalties, you will certainly come across terms such as: algorithmic filter and manual filter. As the name suggests, an algorithmic filter is a penalty that affects us from the search engine algorithm. There is no human intervention here, simply when updating the algorithm, e.g. Panda or Penguin, Google decides which website will be punished and which will not. The manual filter is a penalty imposed by a Google Search Quality Team employee. What else distinguishes them from each other? It is much more difficult to get rid of a penalty imposed automatically, and it is only possible during a given update.

How to check if Google has applied a filter to my website?

Having the basics explained, we can start analyzing our website. I suggest you start checking with Google Webmaster Tools. In just a few clicks you will find out whether a manual filter has been applied to your website. To do this, go to theSearch traffic -> tab. Manual operations. If you see information like the one in the graphic below, relax. This means that your website has no manual penalty.

However, you should not be happy if you see something different in this section, e.g.

This means that a GQT employee has decided to punish your website for violating Google guidelines. The good news for you will be that you will be given the reason for this state of affairs. This will undoubtedly make it easier for you to get rid of the penalty. Further considering the first case, in which we do not have a manual filter, it is good to analyze the data on organic traffic in Google Analytics, which is available in theAcquisition -> tab. Free. This allows you to observe possible declines in the number of visits to a given website.

Of course, this is not the end, a drop in traffic does not necessarily mean a filter. Having a specific date for the drop in traffic, we must consider whether any changes were made to our website at that moment, such as changing the cms, changing URL addresses, deleting parts of the website, etc. These actions could also cause this state of affairs . For the purposes of the article, let's assume that no major changes were made at the time of the decline.

The next step is to compare the date on which the declines are visible with the dates of implementation of specific updates to the search algorithm. We can use the list from or the free tool This tool collects data on organic traffic on our website available in Google Analytics and compares it with the dates of implementation of all changes in the algorithm.

The problem begins when our website is not connected to Google Analytics and therefore we do not have any historical data on the number of visits. Unfortunately, even if you add the site to GA now, you will not have historical data.

Is there anything that can be done in this case?

Another solution that can be used is to use the tool, which presents data on the so-called SEO Visibility. This coefficient is determined based on the positions occupied by a given website for the monitored keywords and their popularity. The blue line in the charts below presents SEO Visibility values, the green line is information about visibility in paid search results.

As you can see, we can easily notice the drops in visibility that took place in May 2013, which may be the result of applying a filter. Sometimes the declines will be more drastic.

Google Webmaster Tools

In addition to information about manual penalties imposed on the website, in GWT you will also find information about traffic from natural search results and average positions of the website. To do this, go to theSearch traffic -> tab. Search terms

The big disadvantage in this case will be only 90 days of history, unfortunately you won't be able to go back further. However, if the situation is new, you will easily extract valuable information from the data presented there. You can compare two periods, thanks to which you will obtain data on decreases or increases in the number of website views and clicks.


Before making any conclusions, consider whether the declines in the number of clicks and impressions are not caused by the seasonality of your business.

In addition, by sorting phrases according to changes in their average positions, you can check whether there have been any significant position fluctuations on the website.

Position monitoring

Probably many people will think that the last filter detection option should be placed at the very beginning of the article. Namely, it is about position drops for monitored keywords. So, if you use tools that monitor your website's position in Google, be sure to log in to the panel and check whether you have noticed any visible negative changes. If positioning reports are sent to you by a positioning company, dig them out in your e-mails and compare all months of your cooperation.

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