Let me briefly describe the chain of events that has lead me to start this thread...
My health and beauty blog which I started in 2008 started growing pretty rapidly from April last year. It rose from 50 visits per day from Google to over 1,000 visitors per day from Google alone between April and the middle of August. Some time in the middle of August I changed my design and Google traffic dropped to 300-400 per day. After constant tweaking and improvement I built the Google traffic back up to 800 per day.
On October 13th I believe I was hit by Panda 2.5.2 and Google traffic instantly dropped to 100-140 per day. As you can imagine this was pretty crushing.
After a few weeks sulking to myself I started working on the site again publishing high quality original content and improving the user experience as much as I could. By late Feb / early March 2012 Google traffic had risen to 350 per day. Not the same levels I was used to, but slow and steady growth nonetheless.
Then in mid March I must have taken another hit and Google traffic is now plodding along at 150 per day.
This led to me submitting a Reconsideration Request. I received a reply on March 20th stating:
We've reviewed your site and we still see links to your site that violate our quality guidelines.
Specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site that could be intended to manipulate PageRank. Examples of unnatural linking could include buying links to pass PageRank or participating in link schemes.
Since I've never paid for a link or never participated in link schemes I was a bit confused. Pretty much the only link building method I use is guest posting to high quality blogs and websites in my market. I offer an original article for free and at the end I can include a link back to my blog.
To find out if anyone else could see any unnatural link building I started a discussion at the Warrior Forum which can be seen at the link below.
One forum member, and SEO expert who blogs at PotPieGirl.com, who checked my backlink profile couldn't understand why I had been punished and so Tweeted Matt Cutts sharing her displeasure. I also Tweeted him to let him know which site PotPieGirl was referring to.
To this Tweet, Matt replied:
@JamesPenn I think for the site you mentioned, Panda is going to be the bigger issue to tackle.
So now my site has two problems...
1. Google believes I have paid for links or used shady link building practices
I haven't. Like I said 90% of my link building is from guest posting on high quality blogs. I have content published on some of the most authoritative websites in my niche and always submit high quality original content to each site. I've NEVER paid for a link and never participated in link schemes.
PotPieGirl, who I mentioned previously, believes that I might have been flagged because of a few articles I submitted to EzineArticles.com many years ago. These articles have been picked up by other webmasters and published to their blogs and websites sending me hundreds, maybe even thousands, of links all with the same anchor text. Could this impact my ranking and lead to the "unnatural links" warning I received?
If so, what can I do about it? I thought it would be a good thing that people value my content enough to republish it.
Do you see any problems with my backlink profile?
2. My site has also been hit by Panda
I believe Panda is mainly about on site factors, such as poor quality content. My site is, not just in my opinion, a very high quality website. It has a clean design, it has well written informative, unique and original content that educates.
There was a small amount of content that I published in the early days of the blog that, looking back on it now, wasn't quite as high quality as the current content. I have spent the day deleting those posts.
Could you please offer your honest opinion about my site and suggest any improvements that can be made to comply with Panda?
I DO have affiliate links on some of my posts - mainly to Amazon, but Google states: