DavidJudge - 11:47 pm on Nov 12, 2012 (gmt 0)
Wow guys, lots of really good suggestions.
I've resubmitted for reconsideration and explained an outline of the areas I checked through.
I didn't include that I was the webmaster though.
Also, based on the responses, I checked for previous versions of the site (a bit of a head slap why I didn't check before) and the closest snapshot I have is from May 2011, where the design was slightly different and included the phrase "Our newsletter is awesome. Spam free..". I'm presuming if it was a manual penalty Google wouldn't de-index for the poor use of words.
Assuming that by "same template" here you're referring to my question about whether they've designed WordPress themes, this sets off some alarm bells.
It's not their own designed theme, but one they've purchased. It looks pretty clean but they do love their plug-ins.
Conceivably, there's enough similarity to sponsored themes that this site been similarly penalized. What's not completely clear is why the indexing withdrawal was gradual, why it appears that no notice was sent, etc. The timing isn't exactly what I'd expect from a Penguinized site, but, as noted, it does correspond to the giveaway ads.
They were running adwords and their ad was suspended. When they enquired with the adwords team they were told the reason the ad was suspended was due to their de-indexing. In many ways it was good they'd received the notification as it least gave them a line in the sand.
it's possible there's something he missed - I know I certainly have had a few 'head slap moments' over the years - but assuming nothing was missed in this case
You know there may be a chance I've missed something basic, but I usually follow a checklist as my memory isn't as good as it used to be ... lol.
The site does have a little over 70 pages of content all varied in length. I checked 15 random pages and I didn't see flags in copyscape.
Conceivably, there's enough similarity to sponsored themes that this site been similarly penalized.
The footer links are to wiki and .gov sites that are I think make sense to have as they offer value to the end user visiting the site.
I am asking them directly if they have ever received a DMCA as it does seem the most logical reason based on everything here. As the last snapshot I have is from May 11, there's nothing I can see between then and now. They may have cleaned it up since earlier this year and I'm looking at a well constructed site.
Keeping that in mind they did have a lot of pages indexed (according to webmaster tools) till they were gradually de-indexed, so the information available shows that the site was of a reasonably good size prior to the violation.