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Google now reports manual webspam actions in WMT

     
7:45 pm on Aug 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

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View manual webspam actions in Webmaster Tools

We strive to keep spam out of our users’ search results. This includes both improving our webspam algorithms as well as taking manual action for violations of our quality guidelines. Many webmasters want to see if their sites are affected by a manual webspam action, so today we’re introducing a new feature that should help. The manual action viewer in Webmaster Tools shows information about actions taken by the manual webspam team that directly affect that site’s ranking in Google’s web search results. To try it out, go to Webmaster Tools and click on the “Manual Actions” link under “Search Traffic."

[googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com...]
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[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 8:04 pm (utc) on Aug 8, 2013]
[edit reason] Added title in Google quote [/edit]

2:23 pm on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Yeah, the messages are still listed in the history but there is/was no way to tell if they still active or affecting your site.


I might be wrong, but surely you need to issue an RR, then if the penalty is lifted, Google will send you a message saying that the penalty has been lifted. If the penalty is not lifted, Google send you a message saying it's still there. If you don't issue an RR, then the penalty just stays there.
2:33 pm on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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If you don't issue an RR, then the penalty just stays there.

You don't think manual actions time out or can be removed without a reconsideration request?
2:50 pm on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Well I have a site that was getting 10,000 uniques per day from Google in 2007 then one day they just stopped entirely. I always figured something so dramatic must've been a manual action but apparently not so looks like I'll never quite know what went wrong there.
2:54 pm on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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A site I just started working on received an "Unnatural Links" message in WMT in June, 2012. There has been zero action taken to resolve the problem at this point (working on it), yet this new report is telling me "No manual webspam actions found".

There are definitely some serious linking problems with this site, so the message from June, 2012 seems justified. However, Google traffic has remained fairly level, even since the message was sent. Not sure what to make of this now.
3:09 pm on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Why can't the algorithm itself auto-generate a message pointing out the reason(s) for a site's low rankings?


I can think of two reasons off the top of my head:

1) Google would be foolish to publish its "secret sauce," or to make the algorithm easy for SEOs and spammers to reverse-engineer. (That isn't an issue with manual penalties, which are issued in response to specific violations of Google's published guidelines.)

2) With the algorithm having so many different ranking factors, the answer probably isn't as simple as "You have too many pages with fewer than 200 words" or "You used the word 'widget' on an average of 10.6 times per page. Reduce that number to 9.6 times per page, and we'll tell Panda to go back into his den."
4:17 pm on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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"If you don't control the links pointing to your site, no action is required on your part. From Google's perspective, the links already won't count in ranking. However, if possible, you may wish to remove any artificial links to your site and, if you're able to get the artificial links removed, submit a reconsideration request. If we determine that the links to your site are no longer in violation of our guidelines, we’ll revoke the manual action."

Which doesn't sound very logical. If we get the links removed, then the revoking of the manual action would be pointless, as the manual action was discrediting the links already, not penalising the site, so their removal would only achieve the same as the action.


I agree. This wording is super confusing! From what I've seen though, in every case, if you have this message and apply for reconsideration Google says, "We still see unnatural links to your site". And it's not until you clean up the link profile really well that you get a message saying, "Manual spam action revoked". So, it sounds like sites with this message do need to deal with things even if they get this message.
4:18 pm on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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A site I just started working on received an "Unnatural Links" message in WMT in June, 2012. There has been zero action taken to resolve the problem at this point (working on it), yet this new report is telling me "No manual webspam actions found".

There are definitely some serious linking problems with this site, so the message from June, 2012 seems justified. However, Google traffic has remained fairly level, even since the message was sent. Not sure what to make of this now.


If your message was from June 2012 there is a possibility that your penalty has expired. However, if you are still seeing poor rankings you may also be under an algorithmic issue. Many sites that got a manual message will also be affected by Penguin.
4:24 pm on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I didn't realize manual penalties actually expired. Seems really illogical that Google would let a penalty expire on a site where zero action had been done to correct the problem.
5:37 pm on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I want to see notifications about filters regarding Panda, Pinguin, 950 and so on.. "your site is not 100% loved by currents algo, read again guidelines and try making changes".

I agree with Aristotle that seems unfair to notify only manual actions that are much severe guideline violations.

I am sure that some sites are affected by 950, Panda and so on and they do not know about it. For example, a store contract a SEO firm to help increase rankings, SEO firm buy links, site is penalized and store owner without seo knowledge think all is ok and belive what SEO firm tell them.
6:37 pm on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I was all excited to see the manual actions link in my webmasters account, then when I clicked I got a error not found. Went back and that link is no longer there. Cleared cache, logged out and back in but that "manual actions" link is no longer there...I even tried going to the page manually but still get page doesn't exist.
6:39 pm on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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A site I just started working on received an "Unnatural Links" message in WMT in June, 2012. There has been zero action taken to resolve the problem at this point (working on it), yet this new report is telling me "No manual webspam actions found".

It might have been the "other" unnatural links message where it appears (I might be wrong here) Google only takes action against the value of the link: Unnatural Links to site - impacts links [youtube.com].
7:15 pm on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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It does appear that the manual actions feature has been removed. I suspect this is temporary, but perhaps it was a limited time only offer:)
7:23 pm on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Yes, the option has disappeared. I checked WMT yesterday and the menu option was there, under "Search Traffic" side menu, but now it has gone.

It is probably a glitch.
7:27 pm on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I'm hoping that they temporarily took it down so they could fix it so that more sites get examples of unnatural links. :)
8:56 pm on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I agree with Aristotle that seems unfair to notify only manual actions that are much severe guideline violations.


Think of the uproar that would ensue if everybody who lost rankings and traffic got a message that said:

"You haven't violated any guidelines--we just think your site sucks."
9:00 pm on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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An update from the Google post:

"Update (12:50pm PT, August 9th): Unfortunately we've hit a snag during our feature deployment, so it will be another couple days before the feature is available to everyone. We will post another update once the feature is fully rolled out."

[googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com...]
9:09 pm on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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"You haven't violated any guidelines--we just think your site sucks."

Or, "Here's the keys to the algorithm, have at it. But remember, there's only room for 10 blue links on the first page so there are still gonna' be sites that we just think suck."
10:53 pm on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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To Do: Matt uploaded 8 new link and spam related videos to youtube today.

This is a significant communication from Matt Cutts' team:
Manual Actions

Cloaking and/or sneaky redirects
Hacked site
Hidden text and/or keyword stuffing
Pure spam
Spammy freehosts
Thin content with little or no added value
Unnatural links from your site
Unnatural links to your site
Unnatural links to your site—impacts links
User-generated spam
[support.google.com...]
Many of these probably deserve their own thread as there is a lot of insight into Google's thinking that could help webmasters.

The big + for me is that Google is making good use of WMT as a verified communication tool, where systematic dialogue is being extended to webmasters. One day, I do hope that Google can take this to the next step and provide more granular guidance on the overriding factors causing algorithmic penalties.

Google has some significant business threats to deal with, such as mobile [ decreased advertising revenue ], apps [ some, remove the need to compare on search ] etc. etc. By encouraging webmasters to reinvest in their sites, and encourage diversity of content and UI, good quality sites can emerge on a larger scale than by polarising choices to a few brands in each niche.

Google really has been incredibly aggressive in getting "it's message across" to this point by issuing very harsh penalties over the last couple of years that have probably decimated the chances of webmasters reinvesting en-masse with confidence, but the quality of these commentaries starting from around April / May is a significant improvement.

+1 Google, but still think the algorithmic actions without real granular explanation need an improved level of communication if Google wants diversity away from pure brand plays and energetic encouragement in it's SERP's.

Google search needs good quality diversity by encouraging webmasters to build great websites ( not killing them off ). Better balance is required, but hats off to the recent efforts.
11:26 pm on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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This is a superb set of articles and videos, Whitey, that are extremely clear, well organized, and easy to follow.

I was in the process of going through some of the material when I saw your post. There's a lot of material there. Yes, most do deserve separate threads.

Mod's note: Let me add a note here to head off a rush to post, as I envision a lot of scraping of Google and blog material with inadequate attribution, bad titles, and commentary insufficient to set the stage for a discussion. That would be inappropriate for this topic.

So I'll note in advance that first post in each category may not be what we publish. Please take time to craft a thoughtful introduction to each topic. Thanks.
11:41 pm on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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google needed to do this. Most reconsideration requests are for algorithmic adjustments or nothing at all. They probably did this to cut down on all the reconsideration requests. 3 out of the 12 clients I work with regularly submit reconsideration requests against my advice thinking that if they keep doing it, they will somehow magically recover their traffic from 3 years ago. I can see there are probably a lot of webmasters that are like that.
5:05 am on Aug 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

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That feature is not available to me in wmt. I've looked everywhere. Anyone else simply lacking this feature?
6:23 am on Aug 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

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raseone - As Dymero posted about 5 or 6 posts up, Google has added an update to its announcement....

"Update (12:50pm PT, August 9th): Unfortunately we've hit a snag during our feature deployment, so it will be another couple days before the feature is available to everyone. We will post another update once the feature is fully rolled out."
6:25 am on Aug 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

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It seems to me there have been a few moves lately toward more transparency on Google's part, and I'm glad to see that happening. WMT has gained a few useful new features in the last year which not only reveal how Google sees your site, but can highlight things like bad code you might not realize you have (if you're not a coder, and rely on others to design your sites).
11:20 am on Aug 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

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we've hit a snag during our feature deployment, so it will be another couple days


This is interesting, would love to know what that snag was, couple of days to fix?
2:00 pm on Aug 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

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"You haven't violated any guidelines--we just think your site sucks."

That's a total and intentional mis-representation of what I described. Here's an honest example of what I had in mind:

"Your site is great, but we demoted it because keywords are overused in the anchor text of the internal links"
3:04 pm on Aug 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Aristotle, I wonder how many algorithmic issues are actually that easy to summarize, though. I think a lot of times it would be more like, "Your page had a couple more outbound links than we liked, plus we thought 10 other sites had fresher information, also 7 of those ten were sites we really trust and we're not as sure about your site which is not to say we don't trust you just we don't know you that well yet and also your page had stock photos and 6 of the ones above you had originals while the others that had stock photos at least had the advantage of being 20 year old domains."

Which is really not very actionable information.
3:24 pm on Aug 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

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It would be very difficult for Google to give a message for algorithmic issues since these are often dependent on a particular keyword.

Think about keywords stuffing - your drop is for a particular keyword that brings you much traffic. I think it would be impracticable for Google to report "Your site has now been demoted for 'blue widgets' because of keywords stuffing".

Because whilst the site may have dropped for "blue widgets", the rankings may remain the same for other keyphrases. This means the message would have to be keyword&site dependent and there are too many combinations of these to be practical to report.
3:37 pm on Aug 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

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If you don't issue an RR, then the penalty just stays there.


You don't think manual actions time out or can be removed without a reconsideration request?


Not for unnatural link penalties. If you don't do anything, the penalty will simply remain there.
4:49 pm on Aug 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

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"Your site is great, but we demoted it because keywords are overused in the anchor text of the internal links"

So you want Google to tell you exactly how its algorithm works?

It would be very difficult for Google to give a message for algorithmic issues since these are often dependent on a particular keyword.

Not just very difficult, something it would never, ever do. The algo is Google's treasure.
5:32 pm on Aug 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

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It would be very difficult for Google to give a message for algorithmic issues since these are often dependent on a particular keyword.


Yes, and Panda and Penguin aren't about specific "algorithmic issues," they're about broader issues (such as quality, in the case of Panda). The algorithm is just a means to an end.

Manual penalty = "You violated this specific guideline."

Algorithmic downranking = "We fed a bunch of signals into our black box, and your ranking reflects what the little man in the black box thought of your site."

Telling you what rule you violated, and getting you to stop violating that rule, helps Google provide users with a better search experience.

Telling you how to fool the little man in the black box isn't going to help Google provide users with a better search experience.
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