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Google now reports manual webspam actions in WMT

7:45 pm on Aug 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator travelin_cat is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

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."


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

9:22 am on Aug 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member whitey is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

@Shai I posed the question to @1script over here on what, or if, subsequent steps were taken: [webmasterworld.com...]
11:02 am on Aug 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

Robert, Whitey, yes, I remember that thread. I think that theme sponsorships were a real problem for Google for a long time. Users were able to gain massive rankings for hardly any effort and the rate of gain in links was quite steady. It was a problem that I believe they paid particular attention to try and dissuade others from going that route.

As we were not able to remove the source of the links, i.e the download wordpress templates because there were just too many of them, we decided it was best to move to another domain which was a very successful strategy. We did however keep this particular site as it still had good traffic. The company expanded massively as a result of this lesson. It is now one of the top 5 online furniture stores. We built around 12 satellite sites. All unique and niche and they have all been doing really well since. Sometimes, there is just too much dirt on a domain that its just not worth the effort of a clean up operation.

On another note, another client had a problem with Sponsored links but in this case, they were all going to internal pages. This is before the disavow tool was available. Kate just renamed the urls and put a 410 on the old ones. Within 2-3 months, the majority of the links were dropped from Web Master Tools and she then carried out a reconsideration request which was successful. As an aside note, she has a theory with regards to RR that Google likes to say no to the first two and is much more likely to revoke the penalty on the third or fourth attempt. There is no hard evidence for this, just something she noticed dealing with these RR on a daily basis.
11:15 am on Aug 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

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The more people I speak to the more BS peddling this looks to be.

Incorrect links being reported and even in some cases sites that have a horrible link profile don't even have a message.
1:56 pm on Aug 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I have the message in my WMT, I'm very happy because I was so lost after three RR failed.

The message says that there are unnatural links and these may be out of control to the webmaster and so the penalty won't affect to entire website only to linked pages.

Also there is three examples with pages with unnatural links and thanks to these I've found the problem in a widget that our users could put in their webpages.

Sorry for my english.

Thank you
3:14 pm on Aug 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

Ok so I received a manual penalty stating "Unnatural links to your site - impact links. Affecting "some incoming links".

I proceeded to submit a request review after manually reaching out to, as well as disavowing links pointing to my site.

Based on the description that google provides..."some links may be outside of the webmasters control, so for this incident we are taking targeted action on the unnatural links instead of on the sites ranking as a whole," what are your thoughts about this manual penalty?

[edited by: wsc102 at 3:55 pm (utc) on Aug 13, 2013]

3:17 pm on Aug 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Funny, got the manual action message for a site in the new WMT reports. Was the "Unnatural links to your site -- impacts links" action. Did a nuclear disavow, every link in WMT, every link that was ever built for the site (from link builder's reports), disavowed, all of them. Submitted a RR. Received response, "...we still see links to your site that violate our quality guidelines.", no examples of those links were given.

Don't know what else to tell ya google...
3:37 pm on Aug 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

Shepherd...when you get that message you've got to do more than disavow. You have to show evidence that you have tried contacting webmasters to get the links removed and THEN disavow the ones you couldn't remove.
3:44 pm on Aug 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Marie, our list included all 4548 links that were built on our behalf, including and noted 2249 of them that have been removed over the last year and a half by our efforts and noting the unsuccessful attempts to contact the other 2299 links. We showed our work.
3:50 pm on Aug 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

That's frustrating. I've had a couple like that where I feel like I've done all I can and still get declined. Here are some things that often work when I come across this type of situation:

-download your latest links. Even if you haven't been building new links, Google may have just picked up some new ones.
-Make second attempts at contacting webmasters - including whois emails and contact forms
-Make sure everything is documented in Google docs and not another external source as the webspam team may not open it if it's not in Google Docs
-If you do have links that you are keeping because they are natural, it may be a good idea to have a third party look at them to assess whether they really are natural. Often I find that people are spending time contacting site owners for the REALLY spammy links but trying to keep other self made links.
8:11 am on Aug 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

How long do you normally leave between disavowing links (URLs) and submitting a RR? One of the things I'm not sure about is the actual process that happens at Google's end.

Is the fact that the URLs/domains are in the disavow list good enough for the web spam team, or do they need to have gone through the process?

I'm assuming for the URLs/domains to actually be disavowed, googlebot has to recrawl them?
8:05 pm on Aug 15, 2013 (gmt 0)

Blah...The official documentation that came out with the disavow tool said to wait for "some time" between submitting a disavow and filing for reconsideration but John Mueller recently said in a hangout that you don't need to wait at all as long as you let the webspam team know that you have filed a disavow. While it will take weeks (or months) for the disavow to get to all of the sites as they get recrawled, the team just needs to be able to see that you have disavowed the right sites.

If you have a manual action on your site, disavow is definitely not enough. You need to earnestly try to remove as many links as possible and then disavow what's left.
6:46 am on Aug 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Matt Cuts said in one video that you only have to wait 24 hours before to submit a RR.
7:56 am on Aug 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member whitey is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

@ MarieHaynes / chms - can you cite your references if possible, with the time on the videos. I think if you dig deep and beyond, there are contradictions around the traps.

Really, there is a lot of confusion amongst webmasters, some very senior and respected, about exactly what to do if you have a manual action on your site. The confusion is coming from Google not being clear between spokespersons about the directives and the resulting interpretations webmasters are picking up on. It's resulting in a lot of misinformation and time lost with ineffective work.

Some top SEO folks I speak with say don't file an RR. But there's always a hint of doubt when they say it. How can you apply the machete with a cautious toe in the water.

The things we are hearing are from Googler's and some top commentators around the web:

- No need to file RR after disavow if no manual action
- "Ditto" above if the manual action is targeted only
- File RR if you want, it can't hurt and it might help if you want to come clean on all the links Google might have missed and you don't care about.
- File RR if you want, and you might get hurt by the reviewer
- Only file if a manual penalty exists
- Only disavow based on the links in WMT
- Only file RR if you are 100% sure about clean links only
- Don't bother to clean all of your questionable links; it's OK to leave some
- The machete ... maybe apply it and loose everything, or steadily take down the links by rinse and repeat actions which could take ages
- Then how long do folks have to wait to see the effects, some say on the next Penguin refresh, others say the effects will kick in earlier.

..... and so on ( don't ask me to cite them all, please). If Google is managing a transition to help get the message across, with webmasters responding positively, then the messages have really got to be plain and consistent, otherwise folks will loose confidence and go into hiding for another couple of years, and the web will loose the opportunity to build back with lot's of creative diversity en-masse. Google needs good content - it doesn't need polarization of brands and confusion amongst webmasters who are better suited to building rather than fixing, and taking up a good, fair, competitive challenge.

Clearly links were abused in the past. The whole thing was a nightmare to be in, and a nightmare to manage.

But it's way too sloppy communication on the back of a very aggressive Penguin 2.0 and 1.0 penalty application, which have made folks nervous, IMO.

That said, since April/May there have really been positive steps from Google, credit due where credit's earned. I'd like to encourage that. One more level of communication improvement would help. Everyone with good intentions deserves the best and the opportunity to be creative and build great sites. Some encouragement on the other side of the equation would also go a long way to restore that vibrancy.
9:25 am on Aug 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Any theories as to why some messages are accompanied by examples whilst other are not?

We have three sites with the message but non are getting examples.
11:40 am on Aug 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Any theories as to why some messages are accompanied by examples whilst other are not?

Well, we submitted a disavow that included EVERY link we ever built, EVERY link shown in WMT, and Domain: for EVERY domain that had a link. Response was that they still saw bad links, NO Examples. Of course they don't have any examples, we disavowed EVERYTHING!
So, maybe the message with no examples is the automated "we really just want your site ranking" message.
1:11 pm on Aug 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Update: After submitting a second, all encompassing disavow file and RR this week the manual penalty notice has been removed from our WMT, we did not receive a message/response to the RR yet but the notice has been removed.
2:02 pm on Aug 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

@ MarieHaynes / chms - can you cite your references if possible, with the time on the videos. I think if you dig deep and beyond, there are contradictions around the traps.

I'm on the road so I can't easily check the video to confirm the time, but around the 30 minute mark of this video John Mueller says you can submit your disavow immediately with the recon request:


He did say in the most recent webmaster hangout (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tePF1fCLoMs&feature=c4-overview&list=UUthrUiuJUtFSXBUp48D8bAA - sorry I don't have the time reference right now) that if you wanted to be really safe you could submit the disavow 24 hours before the reconsideration, but in reality the webspam team is not going to see your reconsideration request for a couple of days so by that time the disavow will be already in effect. After hearing this I may start submitting the disavow a day in advance just to be sure.
10:14 am on Aug 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

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< moved from another location >
in my WMT-Account, under search traffic, manual actions, there is a "partial match because of unnatural incoming links".

Sigh... breathing deeply....wondering...

Unfortunately I can't see any examples. Shouldn't there be always one or two examples? Where exactly should they be, may be I'm blind?

[edited by: aakk9999 at 6:58 pm (utc) on Aug 18, 2013]
[edit reason] Moved post to this thread [/edit]

2:19 pm on Aug 20, 2013 (gmt 0)


Can I presume that the links shown in "Links to Your Site" are "Natural" or both "Natural" and "Unnatural" according to Google?

(maybe a stupid question)
3:36 pm on Aug 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

@deeper - It seems that in rare cases, they show samples. 1/6 in our case. However, we did receive samples when a reconsideration request was denied 2 days ago. Again, not sure if all negative notices will contain these.

@Mr_Bing - they show both the good and the bad.
7:27 pm on Aug 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Then I will ask politely for examples in my RR.

An example really would have been helpful, because the only unnatural links I know have already been removed in the past (almost 90%) and therefore Pinguin2 set me free three months ago. Now a second struck again? The links were reduced from about 500 Domains to 60 now. 60 are still too much and my recover was just a chance or accident? Strange.
11:51 pm on Aug 26, 2013 (gmt 0)

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O.K., the notification has been removed, but what about your ranking now? What has changed?
12:53 am on Aug 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

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@deeper, overall no, but for some keywords, presumably the one's that were targeted by the manual action, we have seen rankings improve for this site.
Not to anywhere near where they were before penalties but signs of life. 1 keyword went from not in the top 1000 to #40.
8:12 am on Aug 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

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According to the experience of you and others (including myself), the "...impacts links" penalty obviously is a real manual ranking penalty and NOT ONLY a "targeted action against certain links" by devaluating them.

The explanation of Google sounds like "we devalued some links and ONLY THIS may influence your ranking".

Google is so keen on stressing to not penalize the whole site and devalueing certain KWs that the main thing gets lost and misunderstood: There is definite manual ranking penalty. They really should clear that up.

In my case it is the main KW of the whole site and only the homepage went with it in SERPS-nirvana.
6:04 pm on Aug 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I used the machete aproach to disavow links after the unnatural links penalty. 3 RR's later and a huge effort to contact as many sites that had contact information (most spammy sites don't) and Google still sees unnatural links to my site. It seems the disavowal file is not good for much really.

They were kind enough in the last message to give me 3 examples of links which they consider spammy. Forum profile links and article links with keywords in the anchor. Funny thing is that none of these links were in the backlinks you can download in WMT, so the assumption that Google only uses the links they show you is false.

I'm majorly screwed because the ones that generated these links (an SEO company) is not giving me the logins to these forum profile accounts so I can't get them removed :(
6:22 pm on Aug 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Forum profile links? What exactly makes them spammy, the great number, KW-anchor?

The SEO company should remove the links. May be with the help of some money, whose idea were the forum links?
6:56 pm on Aug 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

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The forum profile links have keywords in them...they look spammy. I disavowed all the of the ones I found since you cannot get rid of them without logging into the profiles.

I agree the SEO company should remove the links, but they are just not responding. As to whose idea it was, well certainly not mine, I didn't even know that kind of thing was considered "link building". I always thought profile links and signature links were ignored anyway.
6:59 pm on Aug 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I used the machete aproach to disavow links

the links they gave you as an example, were they included in your disavow file? If not then it really wasn't a "machete" attempt.

I would contact the seo company and get a list of all the links they created (didn't they already give this to you when they were doing the work?) and integrate that list into the disavow file.
8:19 pm on Aug 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

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The links they gave me in the RR reply were not in the disavow file because I based this on the backlinks from WMT, and the links they provided were not in the backlinks found in WMT. That is the point I am trying to make - they were different. So there are links that count that are not found in WMT despite the Google guys saying that the links provided on WMT would be enough to base a cleanup.

Regarding the SEO company, they never gave me a list of links they created I'm having a hard time getting a reply nowadays at the best of times.
9:59 pm on Aug 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Sounds like you're going to have a hard way to go. We always required lists from our link builders as verification of work done, thank goodness we did, made the disavow much easier.

Sounds like you're going to need to try and pull as many links as possible for third party sources if you want to continue with the disavow/rr path.

Google guys saying that the links provided on WMT would be enough to base a cleanup.

They've already been called out on that bit of misinformation.
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