A WebmasterWorld thread has an SEO asking if all messages sent to webmasters via Google Webmaster Tools necessarily mean the site was indeed penalized.
You know, when you get one of those messages from Google about problems with your site, such as link issues or similar issues. The message may not specifically say you've had a manual action applied to your site. Even if it does and it says you have bad links to your site and you have a manual action. Does it mean your site's ranking is downgraded in Google?
Often, you will see a 'manual action' lifted and no rebound in rankings is noticed with that.
Often, you will see a message from Google that you have a manual action and no decline in ranking is noticed.
Google can go very granular with Google penalties, which may explain some of it. Also, the links Google penalized you for may have not counted before or after - thus rankings wouldn't change.
Typically, major ranking drops - from what I've seen - happen due to algorithm changes. Most of them are not due to manual actions.
Do you disagree?
Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.