You misunderstood Suzanneh, SEO101, Travler, Lysis and anyone else that mentioned that.
No, I don't think I misunderstood anything that they said, but they aren't the people I'm referring to when I say "other people" in my post. I'm specifically referring to what people in this thread are discussing when we take a look at our sites and what has happened.
What they suggested was adding rel="nofollow" to suspect paid links (or self-owned links) so they won't cause you issues with Google. That in itself will not provide rank recovery.
At best... nothing will change.
At worse... if such links you added rel="nofollow" to were not previously impacted by PENGUIN you just did that yourself and your results will drop even farther.
Well, then adding nofollow was stupid advice. Is that what you're saying? Because doing so is meaningless if Google has already done what it's going to do and that, in essence, was to add nofollow for me.
I'm sorry to say the cause & effect of DIY SEO when you don't have a clue what you are doing is a huge part of the problem.
I don't disagree with this at all. I'm no expert and don't purport to be. I'm a simple website owner doing what I thought was within Google guidelines and have been caught up in some type of algorithm penalty. Which is the EXACT reason I reached out to the Google webmaster community. Believe me, I won't freaking do that again with the way I was treated. I'll keep the rest of my opinions about that experience to myself since this isn't the forum for them.
Bottom line is still I don't know how anyone without insider information can really know anything about the Penguin algo. That's just logic and common sense. Few (if any) websites have recovered and Google has confirmed itself that no Penguin update has been run since October 2012.
I did what I did with nofollow because applying logic, I can see how my two sites look like a link farm. I think it's a reasonable conclusion that some have mentioned in this thread (incrediBILL comes to mind) that the algo has tagged my site in some way and that is what is stopping a recovery for my lost keywords which - if it can be fixed - won't be fixed until another Penguin update.
So thanks for the advice to keep doing what I'm doing by providing content for my website users which is what you think is the only thing that will make the difference. I'm not entirely sure what you think those of us affected have been doing in the meantime all year long?