For some time now, Google has been sending notifications to site owners about manual webspam actions. But now site owners can now check Google Webmaster Tools at any time to see if they've incurred a manual action, Google has announced.
In the announcement, Google's Distinguished Engineer Matt Cutts said sites that have been affected will have site-wide matches or partial matches in the manual action viewer in Webmaster Tools. A partial match means the action only affected a certain area of the site.
Cutts explained that in the hypothetical example in the image above, "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."
Manual actions are penalties that occur after a Google employee reviews a website and determines that it violates Google's guidelines. These are different than sites that are affected by algorithmic updates, such as Penguin or Panda.
Here's a 2012 Cutts video talking a little more about manual webspam actions, and when a removal versus a demotion can happen:
Cutts said in the announcement that "well under 2 percent of domains we've seen are manually removed for webspam," and that Google hopes the manual action viewer in Webmaster tools "reassures the vast majority of webmasters who have nothing to worry about."
But just how big is 2 percent? Last year at SES San Francisco, Cutts reported Google had seen 30 trillion URLs (not domains, mind you, but that's still massive).
So while 2 percent may not be huge in the big scheme of things, a lot of sites are potentially affected every month by these manual actions. Cutts said Google hopes the new feature will assist those who "have real webspam issues to address" and will help speed up the troubleshooting process.
UPDATE: Google posted the following message on August 9: "Unfortunately we've hit a snag during our feature deployment, so it will be another couple days before the feature is available to everyone. We will post another update once the feature is fully rolled out."