If you get a notification for “spammy structured markup,” then you probably have a penalty from Google. In this post, SEO expert Andy Kelly tells how to remove a spammy structured markup penalty fast, based on his own experience helping clients.
You’ll know when Google issues the penalty to your site because you’ll receive an email to that effect. The email will read something like this:
Markup on some pages on this site appears to use techniques such as marking up content that is invisible to users, marking up irrelevant or misleading content, and/or other manipulative behavior that violates Google’s Rich Snippet Quality guidelines.
That message isn’t good news to any webmaster. Pages that run afoul of Google’s guidelines get a manual action. That means they won’t show up in the search engine results pages (SERPs) until the problem is resolved.
If you want to avoid that problem, then avoid putting spammy structured markup on your site.
Here’s what you need to know about markup spam and what you can do to get rid of it.
It’s an Attempt to Mislead Users
Webmasters often use spammy markup to mislead users.
For example, they might include a star rating based on non-existent reviews. That rating gives visitors the impression that there’s social proof on the site when it’s really just manufactured praise.
How do webmasters concoct fake reviews? With schema markup. They code the markup to “inform” Google about positive reviews that don’t exist.
That’s basically a hack, which is why it’s called “spammy markup.”
Obviously, Google doesn’t want to include deceptive websites in its results lists, so the company takes manual actions against deceptive site owners.
There Are Different Offenses
It’s not just fake reviews that webmasters use to try to fool Google. There are numerous examples of spammy markup.
Other offenses include the following:
- Using structured data to markup content that’s invisible to users. Some webmasters hide content with CSS so visitors can’t see it, but the Google bot does “see” it. Of course, now the bot is sophisticated enough to determine which content is hidden.
- Marking up irrelevant or misleading content. Webmasters who try to deceive their audience with marked up data will face a Google penalty.
- Using the wrong markup format. Some webmasters try to manipulate search engines by marking up the wrong type of structured data. For example, the might classify a “Product” as a “Business.”
Getting Rid of Spammy Markup
If you want to avoid getting penalized, you’re going to need to remove spammy structured markup on your site.
How can you find markup spam? Start by looking at the Google Search Console.
Click on the website you want to look at. Then, select “Structured Data” under “Search Appearance” on the left-hand sidebar.
On the main part of the screen, you’ll see a Structured Data report. At the top will be a graph and on the bottom you’ll see a table.
Look for structured data errors. If you see any, then get those cleaned up first.
Next, go through your website personally. Look for items that are using structured markup and make sure it’s compliant with Google’s quality guidelines.
Pay particularly close attention to pages with star ratings. Those should be reviews from living, breathing users who have left their reviews on your site.
Once you’re convinced that your site is free of spammy markup, keep it that way. Establish a strict policy that you’ll only use markup that follows the rules.
Sadly, some WordPress plugins can give you headaches when it comes to structured data. For example, the Rich Reviews plugin puts schema on global areas of the site.
Maybe you’ve already been found guilty of using spammy structured markup by Google and now you face a manual action. In that case, you’re going to need to do more than just follow the steps above to get your site back in the SERPs.
You’ll have to contact Google.with a “reconsideration request.” That’s basically your way of telling Google that your site is now playing by the rules and you’d like people to find it with the search engine again.
If your site isn’t using any more markup spam, then your request should be granted.