jsherloc - 6:12 pm on Feb 2, 2012 (gmt 0)
Should we take this as a worrying sign that instead of simply devaluing certain link types/schemes/programs as the years go on, Google will punish you JUST for offsite factors like incoming anchored links?
How many incoming anchored links (these were contextual as well, meaning article/in content links?) were blasted at your site auraoflight?
That scares me that Google would punish a site SOLELY based on offsite factors. What is stopping people from performing negative SEO on their competition in this sense? If this is the case, I would imagine there are thousands of folks experimenting with this by ordering a bunch of mini gigs and freelance SEO jobs full of crap links and blasting their competitors directly with them. I'm actually fairly certain THIS is already happening across the board, what I was NOT certain on was that THIS ALONE could tank your site.
How new is your website? I would imagine domain age plays a role in how much certain types of links can actually harm you, so the older guys probably benefit in the long run from would-be sabotages...but newer websites/webmasters might now have to be concerned not only with Google, but the mass quantity of anchored backlinks anyone can send at their website?
I understand triggering certain filters and what not due to sudden bursts of incoming kw-anchored links appearing unnatural, but I would hope there has to be something majorly "screwy/shady/deception" going on "on-page" in addition to triggering a red flag with for example "unnatural" incoming anchor link distribution to have your whole site go down drastically.
I really feel for you in this type of situation auraoflight, and I just don't know how Google could actually assign a negative value to something a webmaster has ZERO control over in the longrun. Why not simply devalue that specific type of link to 0?
Did Google have a habit of changing your titles/metas in the SERPs at all? How about sitelinks in the SERPs before all of this happening?
How unrelated are the pages currently ranking for the "wrong" pages? Is there any connection you can think of, offsite/onsite that would make google start to gauge context/relevance/anchored links/traffic patterns before and after all of this happened? Are they just showing up for completely the wrong/un-optimized search terms now?