I really don't have much to add on finding a cure for these woes except to say....
Google likes to tell you they care about quality standards but I've seen three 10 year old domains drop off the planet with their latest EMD business, which were leaders in their industry. Informational searches are going the way of the "never have to leave the first page" snippets from sources, which essentially relegates content sites. And a whole host of other sites where friends have been whiter than Matt Cutts bathroom towels.
Incidentally I've just been reading Matt Cutt's twitter feed and a) the Google short URLS don't even work and b) just how boring is this guy? Talk about a God complex, threatening (or highlighting) companies websites innability to be read by Chrome. Wrap the guy up in a straight jacket and just put him in a room with eveyone agreeing with him I think it is what he needs.
Based on the comments on some of those Gblog threads I do actually wonder whether these people actually use Google search to perform a search and check the results or that they are so busy focusing on monetizing the services associated with making out that Google is the best, that they are out of the loop. How many times do we now find a page of results - AN ENTIRE PAGE - made up of a single provider. After extensive testing based on the niche you are in, you can expect to see a total of between 35 and 75 different domains being served in 100 results. 37 is not surprisingly the financial niche! Thirty seven domains our of 122 million results. Boy they better be Good and boy are those boys PPCing too, and boy do those guys have the ability to distinguish clicks in the source code of a page of G results. Not. Do no evil...
So it is very easy to recover from these Google updates. Just pay for the ADS. This is all you have to do. P A Y FOR I T!! Then all your problems go away. Now some may say, paying is only half, and they'd be right, but I'm not going to open the whole UX, LP conversion funnel stuff here - it's not my speciality. There's more......if you spend more Google likes you more so you will pay less eventually - This is called "history" or as told in ADwords, the necessity for Google to assess just how effective your ad is OVER TIME....OVER TIME.......WHILE YOU PAY
. As for quality score, well aint that a joke. I consistently his 9.
I've spent the last 2 months reading and playing with Adwords. Playing because frankly after you've spent so long maiming the organic algo results for your clients favour, then PPC is a walk in the park by comparison. You just need to do your research first, be sure of your margins and then go after it. I tried to dig out a post I made 3 or four months back where I joked that Google should actually put a guideline in place to say no optimization was the preferred way, let the algo make the results the best they are, and look where we are now somewhere close to that place.
Here are my recovery steps for whichever type of email you get from Google.
1. Michael was right - I stand by your mighty word sir on bended knee - if you get a "you've been naughty" email from Google in WBT you must take action. I have had 4 cases of bouncing back sites and traffic increases by approximately 20% after the comeback, with an equal dip at the time of the slap.
2. I can't tell you the exact steps that you need to take, because I know have my own method and you just can't publish that online - sorry but there does seem to be this thing that it is useful to publish the technical strategies that work, that is like shooting yourself in the foot.
3. Guidelines for getting back: Analyze backlink profile, look for site that are coming up multiple times in backlink profile. Seek to change those or flag those. You can also do this in WMT by downloading the backlinks. Site wide links seemed to be the flavour of this month - frankly anyone doing the kind of webspam that Matt was citing (even in the latest threat) had become trapped in a DeLorean and gone back to 2001. But he knows that, it's just easier to make a overt citation of that then actually tell people how poor the webspam team were at actually coming up with ways to circumvent their own achilees heel.
4. Don't GROVEL! Put yourself in the shoes of a company that has just taken their business back from an SEO agency. Be objective and busineslike.
My strikerate is 100%, but I know that this is all pretty pointless because in the end Google will reward sites that make Google money.
While this might read like a rant, I'm actually pretty positive on the outlook.
As long as there is Technological Determinism all this is going to continue, but one day we'll wake up again. Sounds like something from the Terminator.