Hi People. I posted back in the October thread that one of my sites had taken a hit on 20th October (it had gone back 380 places) and that I was making some changes and would report back if they worked.
Well, my site is back ranking where it was.
Because each niche is unique, I think I'd be best off describing the method I used to diagnose my problems, rather than simply say what changes worked for me.
First of all, if the site operator is returning all of your pages, i.e. you are still indexed, then your ranking problems are because you have tripped an automatic on-page filter. It's nothing to do with manual penalties or backlinks.
Next, by definition, the sites ranking in the top ten have passed this on-page filter.
Therefore what I did was to load each of the top ten urls in my browser, viewed source code and counted the tags. i.e. I did a count of all the h1s, h2s, h3s, h4s, a hrefs, strongs, bolds, italics etc, etc. Be thorough when you do you count - i.e. even innocuous internal a hrefs should be counted. The bot is a machine and not a person who can evaluate quality, therefore view things like a bot would. Counting in this manner is tedious, so write a script to do it by all means, just make sure that yoru script includes every possible tag in existence to be checked.
The next step is to view the source on your own page and make a similar count.
When you are done, compare your site with those that are ranking in the top ten. Something will leap out - you've either got too many links or have used some tags too much.
Once you have identified where you are out of line, then reduce this element on your site.
Next you need to get the googlebot to re-spider the pages in question. I found this most frustrating bit - viewing cache, I found the bot was intermitently re-caching individual pages on my site but ignoring the home page. Do what you have to to get the bot's attention - twitter, facebook, google buzz, writing an article linking to your site on one of the heavily spidered directories like Ezine, or getting an authority site to link to you.
Once the bot has re-spidered and picked up your changes, you should come back in the SERPs.
P.S. I recommend keeping a log so that you know every single day what changes have been made, and what the cache date is, so that you can track pinpoint exactly what has made your site move and when it was picked up.
Hope this helps.