Various sites out there have suffered the wrath of a manually imposed ranking penalty, enforced by a human member of staff over at Google.

This can be a real problem, since while using SEO and link building to climb to the top of the organic results on Google’s SERPs is tough in itself, your position is largely down to hard word and the whims of the algorithms, which means you have the ability to climb naturally and fall back down again, if you let your guard slip.

On the other hand, if Google blacklists your site by hand, no amount of optimisation or legitimate link building will get you back into the big leagues, at least in theory. This is a premise that Google itself has been attempting to demystify and partially debunk of late.

A thread that has cropped up over on the Google Webmaster Central forum in the last few days, has generated an interesting debate about this particular subject, with Google analyst, John Mueller, weighing in on the debate to give some clarity straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were.

Mr Mueller was addressing an individual on the forum who runs a site that has been penalised manually by Google and which he had, subsequently, appealed to get reconsidered by the search giant four times in a row, with four denials handed down from on high.

Mr Mueller explained that the site in question was manually penalised as a direct result of unnatural links being detected within it, many of which are apparently still in place, resulting in its continued disbarment by Google.

However, the most interesting point which was raised in the discussion was that the penalisation alone was not, in Mr Mueller’s expert opinion, the only thing that was preventing the sample site from climbing up the organic ranks.

He expressly said that there are other more pressing issues which need to be considered as key burdens on the site’s current performance, pointing to the fact that more than 200 separate factors are considered when Google crawls sites, indexes their contents and then determines an appropriate rank for their pages.

He said that the site owner was in this case getting too caught up in the idea that his rank was so low because of the manual penalty applied by Google, when, in fact, this was distracting him from the real issues.

Mr Mueller’s message was ultimately the same one which is regularly handed down by Google to the leagues of site owners out there; try to make your site as user-friendly, interesting and relevant as possible, if you want it to naturally reach a top position on the SERPs.

The fact that a manual penalty is not the millstone that many perceive it to be, is something to take to heart, because it means that proper application of SEO practises and a focus on quality of content and links will help even those sites that have been put in Google’s bad books to improve their situations.