How many links did your site naturally gain? Yes it actually happens that other websites will give you an editorially reviewed backlink because they think your site is good enough. If you haven't naturally gained links from relevant websites then it does not matter how many meta tags or reconsideration requests you fill out, your website will perform poorly.
Take a step back and ask yourself:
Why would someone want to link to my website?
What am I offering that is not available on 100 other sites?
What makes my content special enough that people will seek it out?
What am I providing to my community that they want bad enough to manually type in my web address?
Now go back and re-answer the questions honestly without your ego clouding your judgement.
Once you honestly answer those questions, your website will be able to better deal with automated and manual penalties. Until you fix the fundamental issues, the minor improvements are like putting lipstick on a pig. Sure the pig might look nicer with lipstick but it is still just a pig.