When hit with a manual penalty from Google you will rightly spend the x number of following months working to clean up your site of any unnatural links or spammy activity etc in order to file a successful reconsideration request. Many site owners and webmasters are discovering at the moment that once they go to visit the page where they can view the manual penalty they find it is no longer there.
This has purportedly been happening more and more frequently, with some wondering if a mistake has been made by Google along the way. It can seem as if it has been cancelled in error as you don’t receive any notification warning you that the penalty is about to expire. Instead, if you go to view it on Google Webmaster Tools you would go to ‘Search Traffic’, then ‘Manual Actions’ and instead of the details of the penalty being there you get the message, ‘ No manual webspam actions found’. Because there is not more detail many assume it’s in error.
Although it is possible that on very rare occasions an error may have been made somewhere along the way, the fact is that all penalties have an expiration date. This is not to imply however that they can be simply be ignored, with any penalties being removed after a certain period of time, but it can mean that putting work and effort in to cleaning up a site is completed or perhaps partly completed around the time that the penalty and its restrictions have expired.
This could seem frustrating to people who have put time and effort in to cleaning up the site and any issues, it could also be problematic for those who are paid externally to resolve this issue. The fact is though, if your penalty has expired before you have resolved any or all of the issues then it’s likely that you will be picked up for the issues again, in which case it’s also likely that Google will be stricter the second time round seeing as it will look like you are knowingly evading the problem. So the solution is definitely not to ignore any penalty on the understanding that it will one day be removed.
In fact, if it has been ignored then Google will assume that you are doing so wilfully ignoring and have no intention of working with them correctly in which case you will have to do more to resolved the issue and to prove that you ought to be reconsidered.
It can be tricky if you are a webmaster working on behalf of clients who are paying you to resolve the issues that led to the penalty from Google. If it simply expires there may be no way of telling when and what actions were effective or not. If this is the case and you do work in this way it is probably worth writing something in to your initial contract that will cover possible outcomes with manual penalties. So for instance if you have carried out all of the work and the penalty happens to expire on or around that time then you might have it written in the contract that you will get paid as normal. If you have only carried out some of the work when it expires then you may write it in to charge proportionately, up to whatever parts of the work you have carried out.
It does seem to be happening to more people at the moment which may suggest Google had a crackdown during a particular time, in which case more people are seeing them expire at around the same time. It could also just be that there have been more penalties over time and the timings are a coincidence.