Several times a week I get an email from a concerned site owner who has received a notification from Google that their link based penalty has been revoked, but yet the manual spam actions viewer still shows that a penalty is there.  It appears that there is a disconnect between the timing of penalty notifications and quite often it can take a few days for the spam actions viewer to show you that there is no longer any manual action on your site.  So, when Evan Pryce contacted me with the same question, I referred him to the post that I wrote that explains that the manual spam actions viewer can still show a penalty for a few days after it has been removed.

However, in Evan's case, seven days had passed since he received notification of his client's penalty being removed.  I usually tell people that if you have been waiting for more than a week then you should apply for reconsideration again just in case a mistake has happened.  When Evan went to do so he found that there was no "Request a Review" button on his screen:


Normally you would see a bright red "Request a Review" button below the message.  If this button is missing then there is no way for you to ask the webspam team to have another look at your site's manual action.

What followed from here is very interesting and I thought it would be worthwhile to write about this story in the hopes that it helps others who may fall victim to a mistake on behalf of the webspam team.  Evan agreed and gave me permission to use the images that appear in this story.

A sitewide penalty

Evan Pryce works for Suso Digital and has successfully removed several manual penalties.  He was approached by a large Indian brand which was a several billion dollar company with a large international presence.  This company's website was given a sitewide unnatural links penalty on April 3, 2014, which decimated their traffic.  Here is a screenshot of their search impressions as seen in Webmaster Tools:

Yikes. With a sitewide penalty, often what happens is that a company loses almost their entire search presence including keywords and brand terms.  The financial impact of this penalty was huge.

Evan's team went to work doing a thorough link audit and link removal campaign.  On April 14, 2014 they filed for reconsideration.  They were thrilled to find this message in WMT on April 21:

The feeling of receiving a manual spam action revoked message never gets old.  I love sending that email off to a client to tell them that all of our hard work has succeded!  And I especially love, in the case of sitewide penalties watching the site reappear for brand terms, and often a good number of keywords as well.  Sometimes it does take a couple of days though.

But Evan's client did not return to brand terms.  And after a week of waiting, the site was still nowhere to be seen on Google and losing money daily.

The solution

I suggested to Evan that he contact John Mueller.  John is a Google employee who is excellent at helping  site owners with their Google problems.  Poor John must get so many emails and Google+ messages so I try to only contact him when absolutely necessary.  What I generally recommend is to start a thread in the Google Webmaster Help Forum first.  That way you can explain the situation in detail.  Sometimes a volunteer or Google employee in the forum can help.  But, if not, then you can point John to the forum thread.  Evan sent John a quick email to explain that the penalty had been lifted but that after a week had passed there was no return to rankings and there was no request a review button so he could not ask the web spam team to look again.  John responded to Evan within an hour and said he'd look in to it.  Now....if you contact John he doesn't always respond, but if there is an issue that needs addressing, he'll be sure to bring it to the attention of someone on the team.

Later on that day, here is what the client's manual actions viewer showed:

The penalty was truly lifted.  Within a day the site was ranking well again for brand terms as well as several other terms that had plummeted when the penalty was administered.  You can see here that things are starting to improve:

What happened?

In this case, it appears that the webspam team made a mistake.  Now, it is not uncommon for some sites to see no improvement in rankings after a penalty is lifted, especially if the penalty was a partial match one.  However, the problem here was that the manual spam actions viewer was still showing that the penalty was in place which indicates that the penalty really was not lifted.  In a Webmaster Central Hangout a similar situation was described to John Mueller and he said the following, "The reconsideration got processed.  We saw you did all the right things, but somehow for whatever reason it got stuck on our side.  We sent you a confirmation that the reconsideration request worked out, but we forgot to remove it on our side…Another reconsideration request probably fixes that more or less automatically.”  Reconsideration requests are reviewed by human beings and mistakes certainly can happen.

The scary thing in this case is that Evan had no way to request another review.  If he had not known to contact John, this company would still have no Google presence.

Have a similar story?

Have you been in a situation where the webspam team made a costly mistake?  If so, leave a comment below.