We have just started work on a site that was doing quite well for its market previously in the SERPs after about 1 year of not touching it much.
Recently, we have noticed that its under a Google Penalty of sorts. Would appreciate some advice and discussion on this.
Problem and Observations:
1. Site ranks on 1st position and normally(also with site links recently after some recent navigational changes) when searched for <SITENAME>.
2. Site is nowhere to be found when searched with '<SITENAME> <Keyword>' - tested with a lot of different keywords.
3. The exception to (2) is when searched with '<SITENAME> forum' , where the site is in top SERPs for the forum with forum threaded links. Some other keyword to replace 'forum' may also return in a top search position for the site.
4. site: operator search for the domain is normal with 13K results and homepage in first position.
5. Still gets traffic but very little when compared to previously.
1. Because the site is image centric (i.e. showing designs) maybe a keyword over optimization problem. The Main content on homepage and some section pages are for example 40 linked thumbnail images on a page and all 40 may have the same keyword in the ALT tag.
2. Adding of some affiliate links to site although the site always had affiliate links but the ratio has increased during the updating process as there is less user submitted content.
3. Sudden increase of incoming links due to re-opening of site? As the site was quite popular in its market, I suppose the influx of new links compared to the past year may have raised a flag.
Those are my guesses on what may have caused the penalty and would appreciate if someone more knowledgeable than me could give me a few pointers based on the strange observations above.