Contrary to many, I have had success after the latest Bourbon update across websites, across domains. Just as much it is important to know what caused failure, I guess it is also important to know how your success came about, so you can try and repeat it.
After the Bourbon update, the websites that were doing well, maintained their positions and the new, sandboxed sites came from oblivion to first page ranks. To my delight, no website was adversly affected and this is the case with about 25 websites from different domains that I handle.
Well, this is what I/we do for any website and there is nothing extraordinary and complex tricks involved in implementation.
Contrary to many who suggest to keep writing new content each day, most of these websites have almost the same content as was a year ago. Few websites are under 10 pages with mostly the details about the company, than the subject. But the content that is there is unique and complete with word stemming, semantics. KW density? didn't bother much.
Just a search engine friendly static websites, with judicious use of CSS and sparing use of ALT text.
3. META Tags
Title attribute gets the maximum importance and description with words from Title in stemmed form and some semantics. Keyword tag: don't have all the words from Title and some new words that are not there in Title. Have an intution, if not for giving weigtage to Keyword tag, to look for over optimization, SEs may use keyword tags. But largely feel it doesn't matter if you use Keyword tag or not.
4. Internal Navigation
Pretty innocent navigation, like Home, About Us, Contact types. Regular use of interlinking between pages from contextual words in content.
Overall, On-Site factors get about 10-20% of importance in our SEO plan.
5. Inbound Links (IBLs)
The major part of the whole plan. Part of the links achieved to websites is done as a 3-way. Part of the links achieved are paid for directory links and the last part is from direct link exchanges.
Never used just keywords as anchor text, but along with the unique company name and randomized a bit. PR is used only to check if Google has indexed the page but relevency of linking page is very important. Regularly try to get links from pages that themselves rank for the target search terms (Easy way of finding relevant, authority pages).
No automation done in linking part, but hard, manual work. Not more than one link per domain in most case.
No. of links isn't a big factor, since for many keywods where we are ranked, our websites have the least no. of IBLs.
Few sites have outbound links to relevant authority sites, few haven't.
6. Other webmaster issues
Employed as per need. Where Google had indexed both canonical versions of websites, employed 301.
Employed 301 from any duplicate sites. Most websites are not registered for more than one year for their domain names. All are on different servers and few are on shared IP and few are on dedicated IP. None on dedicated server. No client sites interlink, so no issues of C-class etc.
[b]Further info on sites[b/]
No 302 hijacks.
Industry varies from Mortgage, to Technology to Shopping, to Travel.
Competition: Ranges from 200,000 to 350 million in Google results.
Keyword popularity: Ranges from 100 to 30,000 as in Overture.
I have tried to compile the featurs which I thought will play a role in success. The inferences are upto you to make, such as LSI, Trustrank, Hilltop and more.
I am sure the analysis will never be comprehensive but hope this will provide some fodder for thought.