With both manual and algorithmic penalties potentially lurking over your site at any point, ensuring that you comply with the Google guidelines released to aid website creators is vital and we have seen evidence that even sites within those guidelines can be dragged into the mucky world of SERPs penalties.
Although we may have a well-established knowledge of what each of the automated updates are targeting each time that they are rolled into motion (for the most part anyway), there are millions of website owners out there that are less informed, resulting in confusion right across the board.
In a number of Google Webmaster Help discussions, Google's John Mueller pointed out that Google were aware that people were still confused about the penalties that their sites could be under, especially the difference between manual and algorithmic actions being taken against a domain.
Mueller's reply pointed out some minor tips to be able to establish which of the variations of action have been taken against your site, saying:
When a site is algorithmically found to have been compromised, a reconsideration request is unnecessary — it’ll be updated automatically as we recrawl & reindex the content from there, and see that it’s no longer compromised. The normal crawling & indexing can take a bit of time, so unfortunately you’ll need to be a bit patient. In cases where the site was manually found to be compromised, you can still submit a reconsideration request to have it reviewed. You’ll see the difference by checking the manual action feature in Webmaster Tools. We’re looking into ways to make this process a bit clearer, more straightforward & consistent, I realize it’s a bit confusing at the moment.
As well as giving readers this snippet of information he revealed that Google are working towards ways in which they can better clarify the situation for website owners, saying "We're looking into ways to make this process a bit clearer, more straight forward and consistent", going on to admit that he does recognise "it's a bit confusing at the moment".
The prospect of further transparency from Google can only be a positive step for website owners following countless smaller brands failing to recover from their penalty actions placed on their site, forcing a rebrand and suggestions over a further addition to the previously released ‘Manual Actions' in Google Webmaster Tools platform seem like one solution but Google have yet to share how they will combat the confusion.
Note: Google have removed the reconsideration request form that previously existed and have enabled access to this only through their Webmaster Tools ‘Manual Actions’ section.