Are we starting to see some transparency from Google in their responses to reconsideration requests? So far, we've only seen 5 examples of this version of a new response, which denies "manual actions" (read 'manual Google penalties'), suggesting that fixing the issue will auto-correct the ranking losses. We welcome this change because it includes some real information regarding the rank loss, even though we can't tell whether they're acknowledging a penalty with it. This suggests that there is at least one other response that acknowledges 'manual actions' or denies automated actions. Note how the word 'penalty' is not present.
If you've seen a different response, please send it to us in a comment.
Reconsideration request for http://www.xxxxxxx.xxx/: No manual spam actions found
April 22, 2011
Dear site owner or webmaster of http://www.xxxxxxx.xxx/,
We received a request from a site owner to reconsider http://www.xxxxxxx.xxx/ for compliance with Google's Webmaster Guidelines.
We reviewed your site and found no manual actions by the webspam team that might affect your site's ranking in Google. There's no need to file a reconsideration request for your site, because any ranking issues you may be experiencing are not related to a manual action taken by the webspam team.
Of course, there may be other issues with your site that affect your site's ranking. Google's computers determine the order of our search results using a series of formulas known as algorithms. We make hundreds of changes to our search algorithms each year, and we employ more than 200 different signals when ranking pages. As our algorithms change and as the web (including your site) changes, some fluctuation in ranking can happen as we make updates to present the best results to our users.
If you've experienced a change in ranking which you suspect may be more than a simple algorithm change, there are other things you may want to investigate as possible causes, such as a major change to your site's content, content management system, or server architecture. For example, a site may not rank well if your server stops serving pages to Googlebot, or if you've changed the URLs for a large portion of your site's pages. This article has a list of other potential reasons your site may not be doing well in search.
If you're still unable to resolve your issue, please see our Webmaster Help Forum for support.
Google Search Quality Team
This response suggests that this specific rank loss is the result of an algorithmic action, or automated Google penalty, that can be unwound by simply fixing the issue.
We know from previous posts by Matt Cutts & this video that manual penalties come with a clock - a time frame that determines the length of time you'll be punished. From the penalties experienced by our clients, we suspect those time frames somehow line up with the perceived severity of your non-compliance. We've seen the time frame on newly compliant sites range from 90 days to over 6 months.
This is controversial by itself - so you get put in jail for some period of time, even if your rank loss was triggered by an inadvertent error and you've corrected it. We'll be looking at this much more closely now to determine whether that time frame is started from the fix, or from the start of the penalty, and exactly what the time frames may be. We strongly suspect they start once the site is compliant, and a reconsideration request is filed. We doubt a manual action is going to self correct once the site is compliant.
For automated penalties, we suspect you're not getting out until you're compliant, and then have to wait out some additional period before release as the bots update the index.