goodroi - 11:42 am on Jun 27, 2012 (gmt 0)
I am sorry to hear about your problems. I would not spend time trying to contact Google, instead I would focus my efforts on fixing your links.
As webmasters we do have some control over who links to us. SEO consultants charge so much for quality link development because the good ones can greatly influence who will link to a site.
I am a bit concerned over this:
We ran a student promotion a few years ago which got us mentioned on a lot of university sites which resulted in backlinks, so never had to.
What did the anchor text distribution look like? Often when your run a contest people use the contest name as the anchor text and that might make your anchor text from these links look unnatural. Also if you sell widgets and all of your backlinks come from university sites not related to widgets that can also make the links seem unnatural.
As for the blog links, who knows were they came from. I have had many clients that forgot they bought links years ago or that an old summer intern took a short cut. It is very rare for a competitor to buy links and try to poison a website. It is possible but very rare. Much more often there is a simpler explanation.
I would spend more time on building quality backlinks. Go after relevant websites, make sure the anchor text is evenly distributed and show steady link growth overtime. This will decrease the percentage of bad links in your link profile which can help. Good luck.