I've recently made some huge changes to my website, in an attempt to remove junk from Googles index. I felt a little anxious that the changes may not have the desired effect. But I've always had the view, that if something I do, lowers my rankings, I can undo them and have things return to how they were.
In the past when I've made SEO blunders, undoing the changes has always remedied the drop in traffic and ranks returned to their former glory. i.e my coder recently noindexed my entire website and we dropped 10k visitors a day but after he'd rectified the mistake, traffic quickly returned to normal.
What's been your experience? Have you ever made a mistake, reverted your changes but not regained SERPS? If so, what do you think would be the reason for this?
Does Google have a memory? Does it record past issues, that perhaps reflect on our rankings? I personally think it's more likely, that rankings are based on the current state of your website and web presence.
I've always aired on the side of caution. Built links at a steady pace etc, but I'm not entirely sure it's helped me. My competitors are buying links like they're going out of fashion and benefiting. I think Google often scare mongers or more so sends Matt Cutts out to do it for them.
I guess ultimately what I'm wondering, is it better to air on the side of caution or push the boundaries to learn exactly what you can and cannot get away with. I'm not talking about black hat SEO, but buying links, less caution at the rate in which you buy links, obtaining links from unrelated niches etc.
If Google doesn't have a memory of bad practice, then pushing the boundaries is likely to be more beneficial than sticking 100% to their guidelines, though it would still be important to test and monitor and of course be ethical in your practices.
I imagine leading SEO's are constantly pushing boundaries and not necessarily sticking tightly to Googles code.
Its 5:15am, I realise my post is a little jumbled, but still some food for thought.