MrSavage - 5:43 pm on Sep 20, 2011 (gmt 0)
Troubleshooting isn't simple anymore. Drops in traffic (yes as I described in my situation) aren't one thing. They are not penalties only. Before it was pretty easy. Big drop? You've done something wrong. Post Panda, new Google algo, you can do nothing wrong except for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. You chose unwisely?
I know your situation, I know what you're asking and I've mentioned the prospects in that. If you're site is new, then sandbox could be the issue. The scraping? Possibly. Or it could just simply be a matter that what you were covering is NO LONGER IN THE SHADOWS. When light shines on those keywords, your strategy is no longer effective. The balancing out factors, like keyword domain might have leveled the playing field a bit, but that was then and this is now.
So sudden drops mean either a) you did something wrong or b) you did nothing wrong and the "criteria" to rank for that keyword search changed thanks to Google. In my opinion a shallow or specialized site with singular content will get compared to a site with hundreds of sort of similar pages. It it's within reason, Google will put them ahead of a singular website such as yours. The only piece that doesn't make sense to me is why the sites above you are junk. Are they all? The top SERPS aren't well known? That's the variable that doesn't add up to me.
I would say though on your "experiment" it's a practice that may have worked in the past. I personally will not put any stock, faith or hope in having staying power based on what you're trying to do. If it becomes a subject that matters, Google will open the "range" of sites that it considers relevant. Those sites aren't one trick ponies. One good written article or site about "widget A" to me, will sink far below the well known "quality" site that discusses "widget". Who cares if you're an expert at "widget A"? Google apparently doesn't.
Remember this is my opinion based on my experiences. Take what you want, leave the rest. I'm not into scrutiny so consider this my last contribution to these types of threads. Remember one thing, there is no Google playbook. It doesn't exist. That's why you need to take suggestions as being speculative. It's like calling a car mechanic and asking them to fix your car over the phone.