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GWT gives contradictory information regarding manual penalties
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msg:4625167
 6:46 pm on Nov 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

I was asked to look at a site that's suffered badly from the so-called Phantom update (9th May 2013)

First thing I noticed when checking their GWT is that there's an unread message dated end of June (yes, it's end of November now... #rolleyes) saying that a manual spam action has been applied due to a pattern of unnatural links.

That's fair enough because this site's backlink profile is probably the worst I've ever seen...

The puzzling thing is that when I go to Search Traffic -> Manual Actions

it says: "No manual webspam actions found"

I was like "What?"

I've worked on plenty manual actions and seeing more detail on the Search Traffic -> Manual Actions page is always helpful. Mainly because of the little section on the right Some Incoming Links. Examples:

It usually lists 3 or 4 example links that Google considers spammy.

Another thing I find very strange is that
Search Traffic -> Links to Your Site
page shows only 50 links from 4 domains, while this site has literally hundreds of spammy links.

Have you ever encountered a similar glitch? Is this just a random GWT error?

 

mrengine




msg:4625181
 7:28 pm on Nov 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

It usually lists 3 or 4 example links that Google considers spammy.

The links are not necessarily spammy. Google has been confronted on this a number of times where they even publicly admitted they got it wrong. It's best to treat the example links they provide instead as random links displayed from the entire profile. Basically, the examples are worthless because they may or may not be spammy.

I thought all notices in WMT could be dismissed/deleted? If this is true, maybe your customer deleted that message.

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msg:4625222
 9:09 pm on Nov 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

That's funny. The cases I've been working on, I can say they've always been spot on with the examples.

You're right, the messages can be deleted but you can't "edit out" the manual notice that displays on the Manual Actions page. And this is exactly the bit that is missing. Why?

n0tSEO




msg:4625233
 10:02 pm on Nov 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

One possibility is that the manual action expired. You say that the message dates back in June 2013, so the Webspam Team might have reconsidered your client's website during that 5-month time lapse.

There is an interesting case reported by SEORoundTable back in 2011: [seroundtable.com...]

You might want to double check with your client, though.

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msg:4625356
 10:00 am on Nov 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

n0tSEO, that's an interesting case.

Would an expired manual action not mean a slight improvement in traffic? Looking at this client's Analytics, there hasn't been a recovery.

I guess the only thing I can do considering it says "no manual actions" is remove the bad links and hope it doesn't come back...

n0tSEO




msg:4625399
 2:04 pm on Nov 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

adder, removing bad links could help, but look into any potential other issues, too. Even if there is no current manual spam action, there might still be algorithmic penalties that are not allowing for a full recovery.

That may include: a lot of broken links, frequent server downtimes, low social media traffic, a slow performance due to scripts or any other page elements, etc.

Looking into the bigger picture can help more than focusing on backlinks only.

martinibuster




msg:4625407
 2:43 pm on Nov 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

Would an expired manual action not mean a slight improvement in traffic?


Just my opinion. Anecdotal and etcetera.

Short version
I don't think so. It used to, back in the day.

Long version
Several years ago it was common to fix a penalty and the site returned to the SERPs. I know, I've worked on sites for people who came to me for help. But lately, from what I see and have heard about, it seems that fixing "the issues" can sometimes lead to a site ranking where it belongs OR being unable to rank because it doesn't match the kinds of sites now being shown in the SERPs.

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msg:4637900
 1:15 pm on Jan 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

Thanks for all your responses.

So far I've managed to remove quite a lot of links for them and also sorted some technical issues. In case you're wondering, the person who bought all the links and who concealed the warning message from the owner is still employed by the company :)

But now I've got a dilemma:
1. I can still click the link on the original warning message and try to submit a reconsideration request to make sure the missing Manual Action notice is not just a glitch. Because if it's a glitch and the Manual Action is still valid, all further effort would be futile.
2. Pretend there's no manual action or assume it's expired and continue as I normally would - good links, good content, branding signals blah blah blah... etc.
What would you do?

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msg:4651599
 9:21 pm on Mar 5, 2014 (gmt 0)

bump ;)

aakk9999




msg:4651606
 9:59 pm on Mar 5, 2014 (gmt 0)

If you have removed quite a lot of links and sorted technical issues, then why not send reconsideration request? At least you will then find out if there is a manual action or not.

aristotle




msg:4651629
 11:19 pm on Mar 5, 2014 (gmt 0)

I was asked to look at a site that's suffered badly from the so-called Phantom update (9th May 2013)

Is the bad suffering from this "Phantom update" caused by spammy backlinks too? Or have you been doing something else for that?

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msg:4652036
 4:49 pm on Mar 7, 2014 (gmt 0)

@aakk9999, thanks, I might do that. Haven't got much to lose anyway :)

@aristotle, I would assume it was caused by spammy links, although this is a guess because I haven't seen enough Phantomed websites to come to firm conclusions. A couple of Phantomed sites I've seen have also got a history of Panda problems.

By the time they asked me to look at this particular site, there was no evidence of signals that could have triggered Panda, although I find it difficult to talk to these guys
as they keep changing their story :D

The technical issues I refer to in my previous post are largely to do with navigation and usability.

And then there was this Manual Action message. So, to answer your question - yes, I'm almost sure all the problems were caused by spammy backlinks.

Mentat




msg:4652235
 7:16 am on Mar 8, 2014 (gmt 0)

I'm in a similar position with my site.
Same problem with "fixed" manual penalty, 10 000+ domains in disavow file and the ugly Phantom update, that a one year long decline.

In my opinion, the same update was applied on 4th of September.

Some questions:
- is a big site?
- is an old site?
- the design is new, the content is fresh or on the first screen?

aristotle




msg:4652379
 1:16 am on Mar 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

- is a big site?
- is an old site?
- the design is new, the content is fresh or on the first screen?

I don't understand how any of that could be the basis for a penalty.

Mentat




msg:4652536
 9:21 pm on Mar 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

Old sites have old links. Old links are devalued.
Google is a freshness freak.

Old sites have "trust", this trust seems to be removed on 4th of September.

Old sites have old designs, table based, low content/html ratio, bad first screen info etc.

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