Few weeks ago, this site almost disappeared from Google after some sort of penalty. The rankings of all pages dropped way down in Google search results though none of the pages got removed from Google’s index.
The referral traffic from Google dipped instantly across all pages as evident from this Google Analytics screenshot. Further more, this was a site-wide penalty (not a ban) and it was not because of any changes in Google’s ranking formula.
Google can penalizes websites for exchanging links, selling text ads, writing sponsored posts (without nofollow) or using black hat SEO tricks like hidden text but this blog was probably in compliance with all points mentioned in Webmaster Guidelines.
Naturally, penalty is something to worry about because such a drastic dip in traffic can severely hurt the bottom line. I quickly filed a reconsideration request (pledging innocence) using Google Webmaster Tools and also posted the issue in Google Groups.
This worked and Google reversed the penalty - the traffic quickly got to normal levels as all pages were back to their original rankings in the Google search results.
In case you ever face a similar issue with your own ‘honest’ website, the following template may help you get reinstated - it uses fictional data but you may replace that with your own.
On the 8th of July, my website at www.labnol.org was penalized in Google search results. The site receives around 2,000 visitors from Google on an average but that number has dipped to 350 after the penalty was imposed.
My site has been around since February 2008 and I confirm that I haven’t done anything that may violate Google Webmaster Guidelines - there are no paid reviews, text ads, link exchanges, etc.
I do not employ any black hat SEO techniques or use the service of any SEO company to boost the search rankings of my website in Google.
I am really not sure what triggered the penalty but request you to remove it since I follow all Webmaster guidelines. Should you require any additional information, please do let me know.
Good luck. Just make sure that your site is absolutely clean of any violations before you submit a reconsideration request because in that case, your letter to Google will probably get ignore and you’ll never know about it.