>The only logical explanation for recovery for my sites is that there was something in the panda (?) algo that penalized/filtered my sites for popular keyword phrases. This update seems to have corrected that and removed the penalty/filter. Of course, I still have no idea what. <
This is exactly how we feel. It was like for almost every even slightly competitive keyword combination (and our niche has a 10million plus results per search) we had lost ALL authority to rank. Stupid, unrelated terms we would rank ok for. Our site name we always ranked 1 for. And there was one 3-word phrase for our most popular inner page we continued to rank in the top 3 for, but that was IT! Now it is like they are allowing us to rank, nearly as well as two years ago, for our key niche term and combinations.
>maybe we can finally all agree that there have been some "false positives" in the past couple of years, and Google is finally correcting it? <
If you mean "false negatives", I agree completely. It was so frustrating, that somehow I kept feeling like G "just wasn't GETTING the concept of our site." As if they were floundering in trying to find one relatively narrow central theme to cover the entire multi-thousand-page site, and not quite getting it, even though the main keyword appeared at least once on every page. For a totally unrelated example, how does G realize a site is an Italian Food Magazine when there are separate articles ranging from pasta recipes, traveling around the US for the best Italian restaurants, specific grocery shopping and personal gardening? The equivalent in that scenario we would be ranking 1st page for useless (for us) unrelated terms like measuring cups, NY city and fertilizer, but never for "Italian food anything".
The only other thing I could think of was perhaps they thought we were keyword stuffing or intentionally over optimizing and thus locking us out of the main term.
If you look at my first posts on this thread, I thought it was something we did (we've been trying everything) but since lots of others are seeing the same, I may have to chock it up to G algo changes. Although as a couple of others mentioned about "authority" changes and authorship, it IS rather coincidental that we just in the last month (as I mentioned earlier) registered our two primary writers (hundreds of articles each) with G+ and they are now showing with photos. I wonder if anyone else affected by this happened to start with G+ lately and it was enough to put us over the gray edge?
My second conspiratorial theory was that since we just recently this month started adwords ads with the words we used to rank for, that maybe G realized these were the terms we SHOULD be associated with all along since we were willing to pay for them.
site: informational, USA,