I've posted before about how our homepage has been booted beyond the depths of hell in the rankings for any keywords except our brand. This started several years ago. At first we just didn't rank well for our keywords (page 60 or so - so basically not ranking at all, but still we were there), then we started bouncing in and out of the SERPS, but for the last year now we're nowhere to be found and have stayed there.
I've had this feeling that something negative was out there hurting us that I hadn't found - until (possibly) today.
I discovered 139 articles on one of those article submission sites all by the same author, all articles pointing to our homepage with various, but mostly repeating, anchor text. The articles are mildly relevant to our content but look to actually contain some of our content, just spun a bit and enhanced. They look to have been submitted in 2009, which was when our homepage really started bouncing in and out of the SERPS. Of course, these articles have been scraped and have wound up elsewhere as well (which is actually how I discovered them today). This author's topics aren't very varied - most of his articles are for a different niche and the ONLY articles he's written in my niche are linking to my site. Smells very deliberate to me.
So, my questions are:
1) Could this be the cause of our ranking issues? 139 links (on the one site) out of our total 350K backlink profile seems like it should be insignificant. I've never received a WMT warning about links.
2) On principle, I'm not cool with having my brand on these articles. Has anyone ever gotten one of these types of sites (it's a well known one) to remove a link? Or in my case 139 links? Since I'm not the author of the articles I'm not sure what my recourse is.
Or, am I just grasping at straws again in trying to find our ranking issues? (I'm running out of straws!)