Early August saw a new feature roll out across Webmaster Tools; Manual Actions. This is functionality that webmasters have long been asking for, a tool that allows you to see if Google has put any manual penalties on your site.
This tool is released as a next stage in Google’s on going war with spam, and no doubt reduces the number of unnecessary re-inclusion requests the Google Web Spam team receives but will be welcomed by all those working in SEO. One of the most frustrating aspects of penalties is the lack of communication or confirmation from Google.
Manual Actions is located under the “search traffic” tab in WMT and comes with two options; site-wide matches and partial matches. Site-wide matches refers to sites that have a web spam penalty on them, however, a quote from Matt Cutts upon release assured webmasters that this is actually a very small amount;
A recent analysis of our index showed that well under 2% of domains we’ve seen are manually removed for web spam
– Matt Cutts, Head of Google’s Webspam Team
The other section is probably the most interesting from an optimisation point of view. The partial matches show is a particular section of your site is in danger. The example given in Matt Cutts’ announcement shows that a lot of spam comments to, say, a forum, could land that page a penalty.
The great thing about this is that you may not have known why this page isn’t ranking and now you do, better still you have the ability to fix it there and then. In fact, after a clean-up and a review request, the guys over at SEO Roundtable have reported that the manual action has been removed within 24 hours.
On a client that I deal with on a day-to-day basis, we were effected by an algorithm update and put under a penalty, after a lot of cleaning and submitting domains to be disavowed I managed to get the penalty lifted. With manual actions it would have been great to see where this penalty was sitting; but it continues to be useful in that it tells me that my job isn’t done yet:
I now know that there are still links that are damaging my sites ability to rank, so I know to jump into a tool and find those toxic links.
On one of my sites, Honest Dating Reviews, I am religiously sticking to best practice and white-hat methods in order to rank, and so far I am pleased to see that I am meeting all their expectations. I can already tell that checking this page, for their all-clear message below, is going to become a greater habit than Facebook for many SEO’s.
Overall it is a great feature. I have no doubt that Google will be doing this to save themselves a lot of time and money trawling through emails from people not knowing why their sites aren’t ranking. But for those SEO’s that are striving for great and effective optimisation, it is a fantastic tool that gives the power to the webmasters in regulating their own sites and getting them up and running again in no time.