smithaa02 - 1:16 pm on Oct 6, 2012 (gmt 0)
For our site, we got heavily penalized on April 24th and got a decent bump up (but still were penalized) on May 26th. We were hit for one keyword phrase on our home page (other phrases/pages ok). This to me is pretty cut and dry evidence we were hit by Penguin. We (or rather our foolish SEO company) did link build for this phrase/home page.
Over the summer, we remove 1000's of links and really IMO do as much as any webmaster twisting his SEO's company's arm can do to remove artificial backlinks. I don't think we could have done much better and was quite proud of the work we did.
Now we have the much anticipated data refresh for those of us that cleaned up links...and nothing. To me this is evidence that you CAN'T recover a penguin'ized site by removing bad links. If Cutts feels that a site that link builds deserves this type of death penalty, than he should clearly state this is the case. The ambiguity creates so much wasted time and effort for so many webmasters. A LOT of people felt you could recover a site by removing bad links...and many top SEO experts (like Matt's friend Danny Sullivan) pushed this idea...and Matt really did nothing to contradict them.
If the ultimate cure is to create a new website for sites penalized by Penguin...that Matt needs to be explicitly state that this is the only option. Granted this is not easy for so many of us. Our site was a solid one of over 15 years...and not a throw-away, emd, affiliate, basement run site by a some geek in India. Our decently sized company served the community and had/have strong offline promotion of our website. For us, creating a new website is very difficult.
We only link built when our competitor did (with two SEO companies) to pass us and google did not respond to our spam complaints with explicit evidence of their link building. To this day with the third iteration of Penguin, they have yet to be penalized and still hold onto the top spot (plus 'some' thanks to clustering) despite their cheating ways.
To link spammers, Cutts seems to be saying...don't take down your link networks! Because they are either penalized beyond repair and there is nothing you can do. Or it could be that you think they are a source for your penalty when they aren't. The logical conclusion for spammers is to now keep up their spammy link networks because now it has been shown that removing bad links can never help (unless you are WPMU and get enough media attention to warrant a special exception review/whitelistng).
So frustrating :( Rant over. If anybody did remove artificial links to your site and did recover, please share your story :)