EditorialGuy - 1:58 am on Aug 1, 2013 (gmt 0)
The funny thing is that even quality content and backlinks is no guarantee of ranking half decent anymore with all of the negative SEO going on.
I doubt if it's "negative SEO." It's probably just little changes that, in combination, can have a significant effect.
For example, I know a number of information-site publishers in my sector whose sites date back 10 or 15 years. Most of us have been hit by Panda, and in some cases (such as my own) modest drops in rankings have had a substantial overall effect on traffic.
What changed? Maybe domain age has become less important than it was in the pre-Panda era, and those of us who used to benefit from having long-established sites have lost that extra bit of authority. Or maybe Google has been feeling friendlier toward exact-match domains (I've seen a lot of that in my sector recently), or maybe anchor text in internal links--or internal linking in general--has lost influence on the algorithm. Toss a few of those changes into an update, and the impact could be considerable.