Jennifer Slegg posted an interesting case of a manual action being revoked and then the same day reappearing and then being revoked again. Interestingly enough, another complaint about this popped up this morning on Google Webmaster Help forums.
@marie_haynes explained to Jennifer:
“I have had 3 cases like this so far,” says Haynes. “All three were partial actions for unnatural links. The frustrating thing is that I can’t say for certain whether the manual action was ever removed from the viewer. I have reviewed all of my emails to clients and can’t see one where I say that the manual spam actions viewer was clean. But, I usually don’t send my final bill until I see that the actions viewer shows no manual spam actions. I really think that all three of these had the viewer showing the penalty was clear and then somehow it just reappeared.”
Why would this happen? Could it be the delay in manual actions? We know manual actions are processed twice daily but messages are sent once daily.
Jennifer got a response, well, two, from Google's John Mueller on Google+. John wrote:
This should be pretty rare -- but sometimes it can happen for a good reason. For example, if the webspam team can recognize that a linking issue has been mostly cleaned up, but still sees something that needs to be taken care of, they might switch it to a partial action, so that only those remaining, problematic links are taken care of, without affecting the rest of the site. Usually that's a sign that you're on the right track, that you've convinced the webspam team that a full manual action is no longer necessary.
Without any examples, there's not really much I can do. These processes are constantly being analyzed and improved. Due to these requests being reviewed manually, there is a possibility of edge-cases sometimes going the wrong way (how much is "cleaned up enough"? It's sometimes hard to determine objectively), and even mistakes could happen. That's why it's useful to allow the webmaster (or you -- the experts who have worked with lots of sites on similar issues) to submit another request. It's in our own best interest to help webmasters efficiently solve problems that come up (if they're willing to do that), and there's definitely no "let's confuse webmasters" policy in place :).
So if you have examples, you're welcome to send them my way. The webspam team takes these very seriously. That said, sometimes there's not much more that we can say to escalations, sometimes the webmaster just needs to do more to clean things up.
John received the examples but has not responded since. I am not sure if he will.