Google had been criticized for its lack of communication on penalties, especially with webmasters who submitted reconsideration requests but did not have manual penalties. Previously if a webmaster submitted a complaint but their site did not have a manual penalty, their correspondence was ignored. Now it appears that Google is notifying webmasters who submit re-inclusion requests but do not have manual penalties.
This is a positive step forward, but webmasters should not rush to use the re-inclusion request system as a type of diagnostic in determining whether they have a manual penalty. Google won’t respond overnight, and in the time you wait for a response, you can be running checks and looking at your Webmaster account to try and diagnose the problem.
Here are common signs of a manual penalty:
– Significant loss of rankings (30+ positions) for major keywords
– Site is no longer indexed (make sure you haven’t disallowed the site in Robots or accidentally set a global noindex nofollow in your CMS)
– Significant traffic losses for head terms
I have always believed that if Google issues a manual penalty against your site, it should never come as a surprise. You can’t engage in black-hat or dark gray tactics without assuming some risk of a penalty, even if other sites in your industry are engaging in the same tactics.