Fixing Google Manual Action: Spammy Structured Markup


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Spam is everywhere on the internet. Everywhere. But is it also hiding in your code?

Some of us ignore spam, some of us curse it and move on. Some of us (*cough* Google *cough*), spend a lot of resources in hunting down as many spammy bits of data as possible and taking them down.

If your website has spam or spam-like characteristics, it may trigger a closer look from Google and might even get you a Google violation. Google watches carefully for spam or spam-like behavior and delivers penalties to websites that violate their webmaster quality guidelines. As we’ve discussed in our Google Manual Action series thus far, this is called Google Manual Action and can apply to a few different types of spam-like behavior.

The plan isn’t for Google to destroy legitimate websites, but to maintain sensitivity to spam so that the visitors using their search engine can get the content they need without the gross harassment spam so eagerly provides.

One of the penalties that you may receive is Google Manual Action for spammy structured markup. The Manual Action can be in regards to a partial match, in which case only part of your website has spammy material; or site-wide, which means your entire website is affected. Google can also bump your website down in the search rankings or even remove it entirely. If you do get bumped down in rankings, you’ll also receive an email explanation.

Google Manual Actions for Spammy Structured Markup is a violation that’s not worthy of your time or effort, so let’s discuss exactly what it is and how to fix it or avoid doing it in the first place.

What is Google Manual Action: Spammy Structured Markup?

Businesswoman is protected with shield by letters
When you are over spam, sometimes you have to become a Spam Bender.

If a website manipulates their structured data in order to get more clicks on a search engine results page (or SERP), the website will probably get a violation from Google for spammy structured markup, also sometimes called spammy structured data. A website may use structured data in a format like JSON-LD, Microdata, or RDFa to markup content that will show directly in the search engine rather than waiting until the user has clicked on/gone to the full web page. A website with structured data may also have content show up as Rich Snippets in Google results.

But if it’s spammy structured markup, the content that is shown in the markup in the search engine is not backed up by legitimate content or the content that the user is expecting to get from their click. It is somewhat rare because only websites with structured data are in danger, and there are comparatively few websites that use structured data.

That’s a pretty generalized description, so let’s get even more specific.

What are the specific ways you may get a Google Manual Action Spammy Structured Markup?

7 Types of Spammy Structured Markup That Can Ruin Your Website

HTML web code on monitor
Look at those nefarious characters! PS: We’re just kidding. MOST code is benign.
  1. Spammy review markup: You are using structured data that shows review markup for a product, service, or event but it doesn’t have any actual reviews or testimonials from human users. Google has some specific guidelines for using reviews on your website.
  2. Spammy offers or event markup: You are using structured data that displays special offers or event markup, but it’s only ads, not actual content.
  3. Product markup or review markup for adult content: Google doesn’t want adult content showing up directly in the search engine.
  4. Person markup on keywords: Instead of markup for a real person, you’re displaying person markup on a brand or keywords so that users get lured in by the person and then receive completely unrelated content.
  5. Recipe markup for keywords: You are using structured data that shows recipe markup, but it’s just for keywords rather than an actual recipe.
  6. Promotional content in event markup: Instead of putting relevant information in the markup for an event, like prices or call to purchase, there is only promotional content displayed there instead. This might seem legitimate, but it’s not; it is subtly misleading because users searching for that event will get your promotional ads instead of real information.
  7. Misdirection in structured data: You’re not making the markup content readily available to users, but instead giving them ad after ad or other content that they didn’t ask for.

What these types of spammy structured markup have in common is that they promise something slightly or very different from the actual content behind the markup. Google always frowns on any attempt to mislead or deceive the user, or gives them different content than what was advertised/claimed in the search engine. All of these types of structured markup might get you more clicks and traffic, but it is dishonest and Google “don’t play that way.”

[bctt tweet=”Google is unabashedly clear in its structured data guidelines. Use them or reap the violations. ” username=”DominateWithSEO”]

Review the guidelines if you’re unsure.

Knock Knock: Housekeeping!

Worker janitor Mopping Floor In Office with trolley
“Floor’s wet!”

So now what? If your website has some of these mentioned spammy types on it, or you received a violation but you’re still not sure why, what should you do next?

  • Check Google’s quality guidelines on structured data. Make a note of anything that sounds like it might apply to your website.
  • Check your code on your website and make sure it is all set up accurately for the markup content.
  • Test your website using the structured data testing tool. This enables you to either enter your URL or a code snippet. If you enter a URL, the tool will give you an analysis on the website as a whole. If you are only using a small amount of structured data or you’ve found some code that looks wrong, you can enter it as a code snippet, and the tool will check that.
  • Fix any problems you find.

Once you’ve fixed or removed any sections that are violating Google’s guidelines, you can request that Google reviews your website again. Your website will be back on Google’s good side before you know it.

If you’re not adept with your website’s code, you don’t know how to make adjustments to structured data, or you simply don’t want to put the time and effort into a website overhaul, you might want to work with us. We’re an experienced digital marketing agency that can help with any website development, content creation or other aspects of online branding. Check out our website and contact us to see how we can help you dominate your competition.

More in Our Google Manual Actions Series

Unnatural Links to Your Site

Unnatural Links from Your Site

Cloaking and Sneaky Redirects

Hacked Site

Pure Spam

Spammy Structured Markup

User-generated Spam

Spammy Freehosts

Hidden Text and/or Keyword Stuffing

And more coming soon!

About the Author

Sam Romain

Sam Romain

Digital marketing expert, data interpreter, and adventurous entrepreneur empowering businesses while fearlessly embracing the wild frontiers of fatherhood and community engagement.

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