mhansen - 3:01 pm on Oct 25, 2012 (gmt 0)
I feel that the "link in-itself" is much less important that the manipulative intent of the anchor text. I also feel that the links are devalued, and it's the anchor text and resulting page/site that is penalized for that specific query.
We lost a good bit of our Google traffic on April 24th like most others hit with Penguin. The site however still gets a good bit of G referrals for specific pages that were never linked to, or we rarely marketed, resulting in backlinks. We DID actively market the specific pages that were hit. They were the main sections of our site. We did not buy links, or participate in link schemes, but we did write, market, and distribute great content that led traffic to those pages. We also used descriptive anchor text that described the pages, and it was we wanted the pages to rank better for. (Isn't this a "best practice" in Googles' own SEO starter guide [static.googleusercontent.com]? Pgs 16-17)
As we scoured our link profile to clean it back up, we found the anchor text to be our main issue, versus the link itself. If the page was about "Widget Price Comparisons" and our backlink profile, even on authority pages, contained the descriptive anchor text that matched the content on the page it was pushed to the "end of results", where it still sits today.
Our hardest hit sections contained the least amount of anchor text diversity, and although they are still found, it's usually at the end of results. Searching for specific text strings on the pages does not return them until end of results, so the penalty is two-fold, anchor text related AND page or site related.
My feeling is that Google has devalued the links... however, they have also devalued the anchor text phrases that were contained in those links, and applied a penalty or filter to the page AND site they linked to.
The filtering is NOT seen in third party sites that use Google Custom Search. (Check your site in Foxstart.com, or any other Google custom search driven site) On our site, I can fire off a query that used to rank #1 in Google, now ranks on "end of results" in Google, but still shows in its original placement in Google custom search driven sites.
To me, this means Google has:
1 - Ignored the Poor Quality Backlinks, or the site would also not show via custom search engines.
2 - Still Considers the PAGE and SITE very relevant since it ranks in other Google provided result engines. (Google custom search) In addition, changes made to pages just last week, are already reflected in custom search engines, so it's not an old dataset.
3 - Google is maintaining a record of, and penalizing or filtering the "Anchor Text" of the links and resulting pages it feels were done with "manipulative intent" (aka SEO).
4 - Upon the search query being fired off in Google, it scrubs the results against the list of sites it feels tried to manipulate it's rank position, and moves them to the "end of results".
Obviously, the penalty or filter is longer than 6 months, since nobody is reporting significant penguin recoveries this week after 6 months has come and gone. It could be that the filtering stays in effect until the next Penguin refresh, which was a theory elsewhere.