After the last Penguin update (at least I think it was after that) my site made a slight recovery and started getting between 30 to 40 percent more traffic. All long tail stuff, but very welcome all the same.
I notice that some terms still seem to penalised in varying degrees/ Some terms are pag 1 so I assume no penalty, some are page 3 or 4 and don't seem to be able to get beyond that. Some are page 5 and some are page 7 for the worst affected terms. I think that given time they too will be released from whatever holds them back and will improve. That's what I'm hoping.
I do believe that there is still a penalty applied and I will attempt to explain why.
The Penguin hit site recently made some national and international newspapers and magazine and subsequently go some direct links from some very authoritative sites and ranks 4th for the term that represents that event.
Another, newer site of mine has a similar unique content and no high powered newspaper / magazine links and it ranks #1.
This seems to suggest to me that no matter what links I get to that site it's still going to be held back until the penalty is lifted or times out.
Has any other Penguin hit sites experienced something like this? Diberry and I discussed this and seems to have a similar incremental release but this sort of proves to me that an actual penalty is in place and not just links / link juice being ignored etc.