Webmasters, many of which have businesses that rely on search rankings, have been wanting Google to do more to communicate with more specificity what is hurting their sites in Google search rankings. The search engine can't seem to do enough to please everybody, but it does continue to launch tools and resources.
Is Google doing enough to communicate issues it has with sites, or does it still need to do more? What exactly should Google be doing? Let us know what you think.
Google has added a new feature to Webmaster Tools called the Manual Action Viewer. This is designed to show webmasters information about when Google's manual webspam team has taken manual action that directly affects their site's ranking in the search engine.
To access the feature, simply click on "Manual Actions" under "Search Traffic" in Webmaster Tools. If Google hasn't taken any action against your site, you should see a message that says "No Manual webspam actions found." Obviously, this is what you want to see.
Google notes that only less than 2% of the domains it sees are actually manually removed for webspam, so the likelihood that you see anything other than the message above seems pretty minimal (that is, of course, if you're not spamming Google).
The company will still notify you when you get a manual spam action, but the feature is just giving you another way to check. Here's what you might see if you did have a manual action taken against you:
"In this hypothetical example, there isn’t a site-wide match, but there is a 'partial match,'" Google's Matt Cutts explains in a post on the Webmaster Central blog. "A partial match means the action applies only to a specific section of a site. In this case, the webmaster has a problem with other people leaving spam on mattcutts.com/forum/. By fixing this common issue, the webmaster can not only help restore his forum's rankings on Google, but also improve the experience for his users. Clicking the "Learn more" link will offer new resources for troubleshooting."
"Once you’ve corrected any violations of Google’s quality guidelines, the next step is to request reconsideration," he adds. "With this new feature, you'll find a simpler and more streamlined reconsideration request process. Now, when you visit the reconsideration request page, you’ll be able to check your site for manual actions, and then request reconsideration only if there’s a manual action applied to your site. If you do have a webspam issue to address, you can do so directly from the Manual Actions page by clicking 'Request a review.'"
As Cutts notes, this new feature is something that Webmasters have been requesting for some time. While he emphasizes that a very small percentage of Webmasters will actually see any actions in the viewer, it is at least a new way to know for sure if Google has indeed taken a manual action.
Reactions in the comments of Google's announcement are a little mixed. Most of the visible comments are praising the tool. One person says they're already putting the feature to good use. Another says, "Finally!"
I say visible comments because many of them say, "Comment deleted. This comment has been removed by the author."
One user says, "If we have followed Matt's advice and Google's guidelines, why would we need this tool? Please give us a tool that can really help us , not distract us."
In addition to the new WMT feature, Google has put out a series of seven new videos to go with its documentation about webspam, explaining what each type really means. Cutts, with the assistance of a few other Googlers, covers unnatural links, think content, hidden text, keyword stuffing, user-generated spam, and pure spam. You can find all of them here.
This is Google's latest attempt to make its documentation more helpful. A couple weeks ago, Google updated its Link Schemes page to discuss article marketing and guest posting, advertorials and press release links.
Of course this is all only applicable to those who have been hit with manual penalties, and is of little comfort to those hit by algorithm changes. If that's your problem, you may want to look into the whole authorship thing, which just might be influencing ranking significantly.
Are Google's most recent "webmaster help" efforts truly helpful to webmasters? Let us know in the comments.