To answer what I think the OP might be asking...
We eliminated an entire section of weblinks. These were not exchanges, just legitimately good sources of information.
We also eliminated around 150 syndicated articles, most were about ten years old - from when we first started. The fear was duplicate content.
We've eliminated around 50 more articles that might be perceived as playing to certain key phrases.
We've gone back over nearly all (1,500) articles and de-SEO'd them. This was really just avoiding the repetition of a phrase. The intent was to make the article seem more natural.
We've introduced around 200 new articles in the last two years. We only publish an article if we truly believe it's the best page on the topic found on the web.
No recovery at all.. from around 1 million visitors a month to around 100,000. The site has around 1,400 pages and around 40,000 links to it (GWT), many from .edu, and some from .gov.