Usually, Google will issue warnings like this when webmasters repeatedly take advantage of a loophole or when a pattern of spammy behavior becomes troublesome for them to manage. Ultimately, that behavior does not pay, and when Google cracks down, it usually sends a clear message that it will not be tolerated.
In this case, Google specifically makes reference to an example where individual actions to recover from a previous manual penalty are reverted immediately after the reconsideration request is successful:
However, some websites violate the Webmaster Guidelines repeatedly after successfully going through the reconsideration process. For example, a webmaster who received a Manual Action notification based on an unnatural link to another website may nofollow the link, submit a reconsideration request, then, after successfully being reconsidered, delete the nofollow for the link.
Google states that when the repeated violation is carried out with express intention to spam or otherwise violate the Webmaster Guidelines, then they may take further, more severe action:
Such repeated violations may make a successful reconsideration process more difficult to achieve. Especially when the repeated violation is done with a clear intention to spam, further action may be taken on the website.
What does Google mean by Further Action?
There is currently no indication what further action may be taken on the website, with Gary Illyes unaware of the detail of the article. However, we suspect it might include one or several of the following:
- Closer scrutiny of your website, thus requiring you to do more to be successful in reconsideration
- Longer penalty times
- Removal of the index entirely
- PageRank Drop
We suspect that where the spam is blatant, it is going to be somewhat difficult to recover in any reasonable time frame.
This is not the first time this issue has been raised
Matt Cutts briefly referred to this exact point back in 2013 when referring to a question about the Interflora and how they overcame their ban in just 11 days. Matt Cutts has always said he does not like relating to particular cases and instead give general advice that is relevant to all webmasters. In this case, Matt Cutts went on to talk about how offenders who repeatedly spam will get hit with a stronger penalty than someone who has been caught by their spam filter for the very first time:
Google tends to look at buying and selling links that pass PageRank as a violation of our guidelines and if we see that happening multiple times, repeated times, then the actions that we take get more and more severe [ ...] So we are more willing to take stronger action whenever we see repeated violations.
You can see the full video where he talks about this below:
How Common are the Harsher Penalties?
While we should not read too much into this, John Mehlem (German Google Webmaster Team) indicated when posting a link to the Google article that such cases were "rare":
In some rare cases, there may be a renewed breach of the webmaster guidelines.
That being said, this issue has been around since at least 2013 when talked about by Matt Cutts. We suspect that there are multiple shades of gray here, and it might be a little more common than what John Mehlem lets on.
Simple solution — Adhere to the Webmaster Guidelines
The only sure way to ensure this does not apply to you is to adhere to the Webmaster Guidelines, and if for some reason you do get a manual penalty you should not revert any changes you made to recover from that penalty:
In order to avoid such situations, we recommend that webmasters avoid violating our Webmaster Guidelines, let alone repeating it. We, the Search Quality Team, will continue to protect users by removing spam from our search results.
Update: 22nd September 2015
Former Googler, Pedros Dias, has spoken out about the recent Google Blog Post by saying that the post was unnecessary and puts Google in a "Punisher light" instead of acting as a guide.
I have mixed feelings about this "repeated violations" post. I feel it was unnecessary; it doesn't really benefit anyone. People who engage in that kind of behavior don't really care about this info; plus it puts Google under a "Punisher" light instead of a "guide."
Personally, we do not see any harm in reminding spammers the seriousness of repeat offending, and indeed harsher penalties for repeat offenders is something that is common in all areas of life in any event. Perhaps Google was just trying to head off an increasing trend of people reverting changes made for reconsideration requests.