diberry - 5:52 pm on Nov 28, 2012 (gmt 0)
Over the past few months, I've examined my site extremely closely and found a few things that are spammy out of ignorance or carelessness, not an attempt to game Google.
--A near duplicate page. This is such a head-slapper, but I had written an article about a personal experience one year, and a couple of years later forgotten I wrote the first one and thought "Oh, that would make a great article."
--A link out (from my former top performing page) to a nice page from a site that I realize in hindsight was heavily targeting a particular lucrative keyphrase. Looking back in my stats, I realize now I was ranking a tiny bit on that keyphrase myself, so that would totally look like spam to Google. (And Bing, apparently - they later dropped the page too.) This was all done totally innocently on my part - I never wanted to rank for that keyphrase. This page was totally missing from the index before I changed it 20 days ago, and already it's back - hundreds of positions down, but still, it's back.
--I've found a few pages where I repeated keywords too frequently. This again wasn't deliberate keyword-stuffing, a practice I always abhorred even when white hats urged me to do it - it was simply lazy writing from a time period when I was preoccupied by a personal issue. I've replaced/removed most of the repetitions of the keywords.
BTW, if you can't understand why Google Penguin-slapped your site, start by examining any pages that Bing, too, has dropped significantly. Most of my pages do great in Bing, so when I see one that BOTH engines are rejecting, I ASSUME there's something wrong with it and keep studying until I find it. That's how I worked out a lot of this.
I've also learned a lot about reading my stats, and that enabled me to determine the following:
--I was initially hit by Penguin 1.0.
--Then the Panda refresh on 8/20. (Can you be hit by a refresh without having been hit by Panda initially? I see no indications I was ever hit by Panda before this.)
--The 9/27 Panda update hurt me further.
--I'm up 17% since the 11/6 Panda update.
So the steps I've taken seem to have done at least some good.
I am convinced you can now "spam" without knowing it, based on that outbound link I'm convinced hurt me. This was a really subtle thing, and it wasn't impacting user experience - the site I linked to was perfectly useful and nice to visit. It was only spam in the SEs' eyes.
So be forewarned. I was pretty ignorant of SEO before Penguin, and thought that would protect me from ever being seen as a spammer. Instead, ironically, learning SEO is what's enabling me not to be seen as a spammer. The advice so frequently given about "just give users what they want" is insufficient, if well-meant; nowadays you can "just give users what they want" AND accidentally send Google a negative signal, because the negative signals are much broader than they used to be.