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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]

8:22 pm on Aug 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Long overdue feature. I hope it cuts down on the questions we get here about "how can I tell if I have a manual penalty?" That's information that Google should have been providing.

The posted example suggests the reports will be very useful in troubleshooting, without tipping off spammers about how to be more secretive. ;)

Example shown is from a notification for "User-generated spam"...
...
Reason

User-generated spam

Pages from this site contain spammy
user-generated content. The problematic content
may appear on forum pages, guestbook pages, or
user profiles. Learn more.

This is the kind of thing that Google can spot much more easily than webmasters can... and it would in fact be nice to have this as a tool, independent of manual penalty action.

From the blog post...
The manual action viewer delivers on a popular feature request. We hope it reassures the vast majority of webmasters who have nothing to worry about. For the small number of people who have real webspam issues to address, we hope this new information helps speed up the troubleshooting.
9:04 pm on Aug 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I've been complaining quite a bit about Google lately. This is the kind of true transparency that will help shut me up :)

Bravo G!
9:17 pm on Aug 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Interesting the 2 different "unnatural links to your site" distinctions. Looks like one is bad and one is not quite so bad but still bad.

I have the not quite so bad one, the "impacts links" distinction which I take to mean that google doesn't like the links, they're telling me they don't like the links, but the action taken is that they devalued the links.
9:27 pm on Aug 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

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It seems unfair to me that people with a manual penalty would get a message explaining why the penalty was imposed, so that they have guidance on how to correct the problem, but people whose sites have an algorithmic penalty don't get a similar message.
9:29 pm on Aug 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I hope we over time see how to get out of a spamfilter, so sites with big value can get back into search results, be cause I think often sites are in a filter without knowing it.
9:47 pm on Aug 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

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aristotle, it's easy to see how they can provide a message for a website that they have taken a manual action against. How could they ever identify all of the websites that have been hit by an algo change?

Also, it's their algorithm, they can change it as they please and really do not owe any explanation to anyone.
10:07 pm on Aug 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

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That's good news!
10:18 pm on Aug 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

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but people whose sites have an algorithmic penalty don't get a similar message.


Spot on. There now seems to be three categories of sites.

1) Big brand (aka authority) sites that are seemingly protected from penalties and algo adjustments.... and Googles own properties.

2) Sites that have used techniques/practices outside of Google's Guidelines, and which have been deemed worthy of a manual penalty. They (and I'm assuming there will be a lot of black hats) will now be helped with feedback on their transgressions with indicators on how to fix things.

3) Sites that have faithfully followed Google's Guidelines and whose only sin was not being able to keep pace with the algo changes. Seems these poor beggars (mostly white hat) are left to flounder around in a sea of uncertainty, mistrust and anger.

Added:

I do agree that it would be impossible to advise every site impacted by algo changes... but that doesn't lessen the anger and frustration of the site owners caught in category 3. I'm reasonably sure that an organisation reputed to have assembled the most PHD's ever, could come up with an even-handed feedback system.

[edited by: austtr at 10:52 pm (utc) on Aug 8, 2013]

10:20 pm on Aug 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

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travelin cat
Yes, I get your points, but I still believe that Google gives special treatment and consideration to people with manual penalties. To show what I mean, consider these two cases:

Case 1. Webmaster spends thousands of dollars buying high PR backlinks even though he or she knows that it's a violation of Google's guidelines. Eventually the webspam team discovers it and imposes a manual penalty, but communicates that the penalty will be lifted if the purchased backlinks are removed.

Case 2. Webmaster has a very informative and user-friendly website about antique widgets. For years most of the articles rank at or near the top of Google's search results for their particular topic. Then suddenly overnight these articles are outranked by hundreds of pages from other sites, the vast majority of which have little or no information about the relevant topic. The webmaster spends months (or even years) trying to figure out why hundreds of virtually worthless pages rank above his or her very informative and highly relevant articles.

In my opinion, this is unfair. Either the backlink buyer shouldn't be given such an easy path to a recovery, or the webmaster whose site has an algorithmic penalty should be told why hundreds of virtually worthless pages rank above his or her very informative pages.

Why can't the algorithm itself auto-generate a message pointing out the reason(s) for a site's low rankings?
11:05 pm on Aug 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I checked my sites, results?
Manual Actions
No manual webspam actions found.
12:38 am on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I agree with Aristotle. While I welcome this ability to check for manual spam actions (which I had none) it would be nice if Google gave us some reasons for the big algo rank changes a site may experience. For example the 30% drop I experienced in April 2012 due to Penguin.
12:38 am on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Matt Cutts spoke in May of WMT showing sample bad links. That must be due soon.

Updated: Just noticed they do this. Still bringing myself up to speed on this important development.
5:09 am on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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A+ Google, when you take manual actions against a site they really should know about it... even if you don't tell them what it is. Some webmasters earn a living online and a secret neutering isn't a good thing for them. Heck even getting gray hair wondering about it detracts from their production time, and more.

I clap my hands at this change, long overdue!

It seems unfair to me that people with a manual penalty would get a message explaining why the penalty was imposed, so that they have guidance on how to correct the problem, but people whose sites have an algorithmic penalty don't get a similar message.
I disagree, algorithmic functions are not penalties and I equate the algorithm to the playing field. If everyone is on the same field then I am OK with that. I wasn't OK with everyone thinking they were on the same field when some were manually acted upon and had no idea they could no longer rank for specific words or phrases.
5:36 am on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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GWT shows partial manual penalty on my site. The links it shows are coming from blogspot. All links are from scrapers, they even scrapped my website logo, navigation and copyright text! AND they penalized my site for this action! What a rubbish algorithm they have created! I have no clue how to remove links from Blogspot? Any suggestion?
6:27 am on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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If the links are from within scraped content, send a DMCA asking for the scraped content to be taken down.
9:18 am on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Okay, so a Partial Matches action listed in a couple of our clients' GWT accounts says:

"Unnatural links to your site—impacts links
Google has detected a pattern of unnatural artificial, deceptive, or manipulative links pointing to pages on this site. Some links may be outside of the webmaster’s control, so for this incident we are taking targeted action on the unnatural links instead of on the site’s ranking as a whole."

Which is not a penalty on the site, but a discrediting of the links, which given how crappy some of the links are, doesn't sound much like a penalty to me. And then if you follow the 'learn more' link to further info on the links you see:

"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.

Action does not equal penalty, it seems. Hmm. Watching this space...
9:27 am on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I'm with SteveJohnston on the parsing of the test - my new (as of 12h ago) understanding of a suspicious link penalty is that all the RR could achieve is to lift a "google-side nofollow" from links they've marked as spam which maybe aren't.

In other words, all these people hiring LinkDetox etc are wasting their money. Google's cut out your fake links and you are where you deserve to be. The net result of all those thousands of hours writing emails to Bulgarian DMOZ clones is pretty much.. zip?
10:01 am on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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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 was thinking that to until I watched the video. At some point (3:20) MC says "...so you might not be able to rank for the phrases that you expected to be able to rank for".
This tells me that, keywords/pages are being squeezed manually.
10:09 am on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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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.

Action does not equal penalty, it seems. Hmm. Watching this space...


I had a client receive the 'targeted action' message too. I took it as a penalty, conducted link removal and submitted a reconsideration request. I'm of the opinion that if Google suggests you should remove links & submit for reconsideration, then you probably should!
10:09 am on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I was thinking that to until I watched the video. At some point (3:20) MC says "...so you might not be able to rank for the phrases that you expected to be able to rank for".


That might mean that keywords are being squeezed, or it might simply mean that, because those links aren't counted, you won't get the search performance for those phrases you were expecting.

I'm still confused.
10:24 am on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Google has detected a pattern of unnatural artificial, deceptive, or manipulative links pointing to pages on this site. Some links may be outside of the webmaster’s control, so for this incident we are taking targeted action on the unnatural links instead of on the site’s ranking as a whole."

"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."


So is the action on the links, or on the pages they link to, or on the keywords the links are abusing?

I'm just glad this is all theoretical to me ;)
10:49 am on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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so you might not be able to rank for the phrases that you expected to be able to rank for
Deja-vu, Google has been snipping anchor text when snipping links since at least 2007 so if you can get rid of links that Google says were devalued I'd go ahead and do it, if for no other reason than to protect your ability to rank for specific keywords.

To Do: Matt uploaded 8 new link and spam related videos to youtube today.
11:03 am on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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This new feature seems to be redundant given Google send you a message about manual penalties anyway (and when they're lifted).
11:34 am on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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This new feature seems to be redundant

I don't know, we have 2 sites that still had manual actions that we thought had dropped off because they were no longer listed in WMT, until now.
11:38 am on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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No longer listed? You mean the messages you get in WMT were no longer listed? You may have deleted them or something.
11:47 am on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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This new feature seems to be redundant


The feature is very handy for finding "old" manual penalties, from before Google started sending out notifications.

Also, it helps identify the type of manual penalty.

I'd say it's pretty good.
11:58 am on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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This feature is to stop people sending in RRs just to find out if there is a penalty. It's useful.
12:38 pm on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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No longer listed? You mean the messages you get in WMT were no longer listed?


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.
2:08 pm on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I haven't been Google's greatest fan for a few years now, but credit where credit is due - this is a BIG step in the right direction.

I've already found that some sites I was convinced had a manual penalty, don't have one, and got some more detail on some sites with an old penalty that pre-dates Google sending out messages.

At the very least it saves us pinging Google with a reconsideration request to find out if a particular domain has a penalty.

This is a great new feature - Thanks Google.
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