Whitey - 1:08 am on Jul 27, 2010 (gmt 0)
Hand editing results would be impossible , except in serious cases of spam abuse.
Certainly Google uses it's editing techniques alongside it algorithmic systems. Here's my speculation of the sequence :
SERP results and simply sites are flagged for review by editors if :
-traffic patterns and quantities seem unatural
-if traffic doesn't match the theme of the site
-difficult verticals receive a site with a sudden boost
-link patterns and link quality seem unatural
+ adverse user data intelligence e.g. complaints , results not matching , time on site etc etc
Even if my speculation is off the mark, Google surely let's it's algorithmn take care of the systematic side before referring it to several tiers of editors , perhaps within a heirarchy of responsibility. The first level may just be ticking boxes on the site's internal profile. From what i understand , the guidelines for editors are tight , but i do worry about how their discretion might be applied.
Editorially , i think site wide intervention is more common , rather than individual result handling. So that tends to be dished out with penalties , like the minus 50.
The issue of the sites respectability , ie " trust " may play into this. Site's with "trust" seem to escape with a lot of discretion. I think trust is measured by brand and the quality of inbound links.
If you're a nobody and you start to rise enormously with traffic , expect a knock on the door to review your site's condition. Google is going to ask how is this site contributing to good SERP's - but i stress this is for large traffic sites coming out of the blue. Small sites with small traffic may be just subject to the rigours of the algorthimn with no ceditorial considerations.
But clearly , unless Google tell us how they operate their guidelines infinitum , I don't know for sure ... it's just my hunch based on experience and a crystal ball.