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The "Lenient" GWT Message May Still Mean a Manual Action
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msg:4598139
 5:33 pm on Jul 31, 2013 (gmt 0)

So, back to last July when thousands of webmasters received an unnatural links warning in their GWT. It created a widespread panic but then Google followed up with the so-called "Lenient" message.

It's pretty much an accepted fact that getting the dreaded Unnatural Links Warning message means a manual action has been taken against the site.

Many SEO blogs posted allegations that the "Lenient" message was not an indication of a penalty - simply an automated warning.

I was recently looking at a site that had been receiving treatment for both Panda and Penguin (because basically the owner had no idea as to what caused the drop in rankings). He had also received the message last July, followed up by the more lenient version.

Some of the links pointing to that site were truly atrocious so you can't really blame the owner for thinking this was to do with the "animal" updates (especially as the site traffic seemed to suffer every time a new Panda or Penguin update was rolled out).

Having tried to remove some of the worst links, the owner submitted a reconsideration request. Look, you don't submit a reconsideration request if your site is affected by an algo, do you?! You simply fix the problems hoping that the next update would sort it out.

I've seen plenty of Penguinised sites and they never receive any GWT messages.

What happened 2 weeks later was that he received the standard "We still see links that violate our guidelines etc..." response.

Now, this doesn't prove that the "Lenient" message automatically means a manual action, but it may suggest that it does.

I think there are 3 possibilities with this site:
  1. The "Lenient" message does mean that a manual action has been taken
  2. The manual penalty was applied after the "message mayhem" and has nothing to do with the initial messages
  3. There was no manual action but the reconsideration request triggered a Google employee to go and have a closer look at the site. When previously the site wasn't flagged, it is now.


What do you think? Has anyone got experience with sites having received the "Lenient" message?

 

Planet13




msg:4598183
 8:00 pm on Jul 31, 2013 (gmt 0)

It could be any of all three of your suggestions, in my opinion.

I would be less inclined toward #3 though, unless the traffic drop supports a downturn AFTER the reconsideration request was filed.

But if the drop in traffic was prior to the reconsideration request, then I would tend to dismiss #3 as likely.

"Many SEO blogs posted allegations that the "Lenient" message was not an indication of a penalty - simply an automated warning."

Are you familiar with the Jefferson Bible? If so, I think we need to apply it when reading what certain bloggers write about the google algo.

Really, the traffic chart / ranking charts will probably reveal the closest thing to the truth.

jammy8891




msg:4598350
 8:58 am on Aug 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

Let me speak from experience here. I took on a client a few months ago who had received the widespread Jul WMT message and took no action. Their traffic saw a slight upturn immediately after receiving the message but from then on it was on a downward spiral.

When they started working with me (April 2013) I immediately took the WMT message to mean that they had some bad links and even if the site was not under penalty as such, these links would still be harming performance. After a lot of link removal & disavowal, I submitted a reconsideration request, which failed. The message back was along the line of "Site still violates quality guidelines". A bit more link clean-up, a second reconsideration request, and the message back read "manual spam action revoked".

So the way I understand it is that some manual action had been taken against the site - definitely against some of the spammy links coming in, and also likely against the site in general (basically I believe it was "flagged", with ongoing link devaluation and very close link monitoring). We needed to get this flag removed, hence the link removal and reconsideration request. Anyone who has received this message should definitely do some link clean-up and submit for reconsideration, as it's a pretty blatant warning from Google.

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msg:4601810
 11:50 am on Aug 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

Interesting this: I've since looked at a couple of examples of both sites having received the "bad" messages and the "lenient" messages.

When you go to WMT -> Search Traffic -> Manual Actions

The sites that are only affected by the algo actions (Penguin, Panda) will have this: "No manual web spam actions found." (sorry for stating the obvious!)

The sites with the "bad" message will have received further details under the subtitle "Site-wide Matches"

The sites with the "lenient" message will have "NONE" under the "Site-wide Matches" subtitle but it will have some details under the "Partial Matches" subtitle.

In both cases there are a couple of sample links on the right-hand panel to give you an idea as to what types of links to target.

Surprisingly (or not surprisingly?) I've seen Press Release links in the examples section. Also, the "SEO-friendly" directories.

I think, the message is clear. Matt Cutts has hinted on numerous occasions that using PR sites for SEO purposes is a bad idea.

So, it would be advisable for everyone to go and remove all the old press releases you've submitted. Or at least deactivate the "anchored" links. Here's a good thread if you want to compare your ideas regarding press releases: [webmasterworld.com...]

Lately, I've been deleting any press releases within 1-2 months after the publication date. If you want them archived, that's what the "Media" section on your website is for. (What, you don't have a media section?)

There's no reason for old press releases to hang around. They are valid during the first couple of weeks when you have a chance of a journalist picking it up. After that, simply get rid of it!

Any other experiences with the WMT messages? I'm sure the people on here would appreciate some more input :)
.

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 9:20 pm (utc) on Aug 16, 2013]
[edit reason] fixed typo (as discussed in next post) [/edit]

aakk9999




msg:4601816
 1:16 pm on Aug 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

The sites that are only affected by the algo actions (Penguin, Panda) won't have this: "No manual web spam actions found." (sorry for stating the obvious!)


I am wondering if this is a typo, i.e. should this be:
The sites that are only affected by the algo actions (Penguin, Panda) will have this: "No manual web spam actions found." (sorry for stating the obvious!)

.
Mod's note: I went ahead and fixed the typo aakk9999 notes here, as it makes the entire post easier to read.
.

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 9:23 pm (utc) on Aug 16, 2013]

conroy




msg:4601845
 2:58 pm on Aug 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

So the way I understand it is that some manual action had been taken against the site - definitely against some of the spammy links coming in, and also likely against the site in general (basically I believe it was "flagged", with ongoing link devaluation and very close link monitoring). We needed to get this flag removed, hence the link removal and reconsideration request. Anyone who has received this message should definitely do some link clean-up and submit for reconsideration, as it's a pretty blatant warning from Google.


The problem is, doing all this stuff and then getting the message that the manual action has been revoked doesn't restore any traffic or rankings.

mrengine




msg:4601854
 3:30 pm on Aug 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

Now, this doesn't prove that the "Lenient" message automatically means a manual action, but it may suggest that it does.

I think it supports the theory that all the mixed messages coming out of Google are designed to create confusion.

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msg:4602587
 9:12 pm on Aug 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

@aakk9999 thanks for spotting this! It is indeed a typo :(

@conroy, arm yourself with patience, it does take time.

Planet13




msg:4602802
 3:22 pm on Aug 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

"Their traffic saw a slight upturn immediately after receiving the message but from then on it was on a downward spiral."


Bingo!

The uptrun and then crash is a pretty common pattern for a penalty / algo hit (even without the notification).

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