tedster - 5:55 am on Feb 19, 2011 (gmt 0)
This might be a "whack" from an algo change rather than a penalty. In that case, your previous rankings might not ever return unless something changes about your site. If I were to guess, I'd say one good chance for an algo change would be something we've heard a lot from Google lately - "we changed the way we are scoring backlinks".
We rarely get any detail beyond that, but it seems clear that Google wants to give the most weight to links that are true citations from truly independent sources. The more I think about your description, the more credence I give this possibility - not a penalty but an algo change.
I'm focused on links because that's the angle your original post focused on. However, there may be something else about your content, on-page configuration or site structure that the algo now scores differently. If that's so, we may be seeing comments from others.
I had even read that sites being bulked linked into using Xrumer and Scrapebox drop - and then come back in a stronger position than they started. Does anyone know if this is true - or - as my title says - did I just get google whacked
There is wide variation in black hat results. You can be 100% sure that Google works hard to combat those programs. Those who do black hat also develop a big domain portfolio, since that game needs big networks with churn & burn websites. It's 180 degrees off from what I do.