Back in May of 2012, Penguin wiped my most profitable keyword off the face of the map.
My site is 7 years old.
I have never done any "questionable" link building, outside of the one time I hired a couple of Indian guys off eLance.com to "do my SEO". They got me a few hundred blog comment links. I saw ZERO improvement from it and fired them on the spot after only 1 month.
The site itself (and many of my articles) got links back from various newspapers (unsolicited links....meaning the reporter from the newspaper linked back to my site because they liked what I had to say).
Well, I just checked the keyword that one of my internal pages used to rank so well for. I'm at the bottom of page 2, for a low-to-medium competition keyword. There is close to 10 YouTube spam videos that rank ahead of my one page.
The only thing that I did was remove the very minor "keyword stuffing" that I did to the one page. I also cut back on the affiliate links on that page from 10 to 3. (because each affiliate link is different).
The weird thing is.....is that I never got an "un-natural links" warning in my Google Webmaster Tools.
My site is (kind of) back from the dead! It's still not making any money, but this is a good start.
I sincerely hope Cutts and Crew have dialed back Penguin a bit because I put a lot of labor into my site....and every since Penguin, I have stopped updating it with new content. This site was supporting me (a single father) and my two children via the affiliate links on there. The advertiser is one that does not use Google Adsense so there really is no competition there for Cutts to show prejudice to my site.
So in a show of good faith, I'm going to whip up a 700 word article that I have been meaning to write and I guarantee people will link to this article because of the nature of the subject I'm writing about.
Could this be the sign of things to come? Has Cutts and Crew finally stopped their holy-jihad-vendetta against the mom-and-pop webmaster (read: me) or did some Google Engineer drunkenly hit a "go back" button and come Monday morning when he sobers up and realizes what he did, my rankings will still be in the toilet?