I launched a few "test" sites back in April to see what could happen if I played everything as safe as possible. 3 sites in all. I hired well-known freelancers/experts/professors in various niches to produce great content for these sites. We worked the PR angle really aggressively and most of these sites ended up with between 10 and 15 backlinks each, pretty much 100% brandname/url anchors from great sources.. edu/gov resource pages, interviews on forbes/cnn.com, etc.
Anyway - the sites followed a very strange pattern overall.
At first everything was cool.. these were EMD domains and ranked just fine right out of the gate after the first deep spider. Then things got a little weird. After the initial links started landing the homepages started going away and random subpages started ranking in the 30-60 range for the homepage keywords.
Then everything went back to normal for about a week or 10 days, depending on the site. Then it got weird again :)
During the next couple of weeks there were lots of big drops.. keywords that were in the top 10-20 dropping down to 150 or past 200. It was really surprising the day-to-day drops of hundreds of spots.
Now, starting about 2 weeks ago I started seeing some weird traffic patterns.. the sites wouldn't get any traffic at all during the day. Say, 7am to 7pm, no traffic. Then overnight there'd be a ton of visitors for the target keywords from Google. US traffic too, not overseas. I was getting a lot of the &cd=2 (4, 12, etc) strings appended to the Google referral url, so that seems like a sure bet of testing being conducted.
Over the weekend all 3 sites were completed dropped from the index. None of them pull up via [domain.com], only site:domain.com. No alerts in WMT at all.
Anyone else had any experiences like this? I'm beyond frustrated with this.. I feel like we approached these by-the-book.