mcskoufis - 10:32 pm on Sep 7, 2013 (gmt 0)
Haven't had any site hurt from Penguin or Panda, only one site which lost 70% of its organic traffic due to an agency doing some very nasty link building (latin american links for a Greek website of a major international brand).
Got the SEO contract (not a Penguin recovery contract) so what I did was to effectively not do any link building at all and focus on fixing some coding problems and begged for new content - it is hard to get like 10 people from the factory in the country of origin down to the marketing and CRM personnel in Greece.
My content requests were not met, nor my consultation on contacting the sites and trying to get the links removed. (People who are involved in such projects will probably know how hard it is to do your job right.)
Several months ahead the traffic lost was regained! We had some new content in but for products which were replaced by new ones. I think what worked was that we focused on the site and left the link building to occur completely naturally. As with most of those brands, a new product is something that draws attention quick and links (see the new iphone launch and how many links Apple got).
We didn't use the disavow tool as well as I didn't want to inform Google about specific links. We just focused as much as we could on getting the new product content up as best as we could and in effect I didn't do much hands-on work. Just meetings after meetings and got tired indicating the same stuff again and again which the client never approved.
My point is that ok you got hit by Penguin, don't focus too much on what hurt your site. Focus on the future, keep your SEO activity off Google's radar (by making changes that the editorial team would do, not the SEO) and the traffic and rankings will definitely return.
In the case of such a multinational brand, you can't switch domains nomatter how much they got burned.
Needless to say that the site had some very high quality links that no other competitor could get (they had some unique links as well). The previous agency just did a year of crappy link building, but once we showed that this activity was stopped and we got "organic" again Google boosted the site to levels not witnessed before.
I still think we should disavow those bad links as well as make efforts to have them removed but can't get permission from the client, so left as is...
My latest observation is that these links hold the site from performing even better with Google. And I am sure a future Penguin update will hit them again but they don't listen to me, or they are afraid for losing their job etc. (again factors which you have to deal with when working for such a brand)
SUMMING IT UP: Focus on your site and what you do from now on and focus less on disavows and cleaning up bad links.
Some of my thoughts on Google's Penguin: Still it can't trace some clever black hat link building, such as using an army of legitimate looking businesses with different whois records and even LTDs set up for each of them, that don't even operate (calling them and noone answers ever).
While it has made progress with spam, getting to the new techniques discussed the past few months in the Black Hat community will take ages to be fought by Google. Intelligent spammers who play clever still rule the SERPs nomatter how many spam reports Google gets on them.
By the time the next Penguin is live, the advanced techniques now employed by black-hatters will still not be dealt with until Penguin 5. Which is so unfair.
Now if the only links you have are crap, I don't see any chance of recovery... Sorry! It can be harsh if you developed a great site to have it burned from bad link building practices.
* Robert (Charlton) hope this post is acceptable based on what you mention above.