So a while ago I got a few of my sites penalized. -50 penalty across all keywords and pages. These are 100% whitehat sites with awesome content (unique, informative, in-depth). I was ranking #1 for my main keywords and on 1st page for any other keyword you can imagine that is related to my niche. I was ranking #5 for the category root domain (e.g. like "cell phones" if I would be in cell phones niche). Obviously I thought there's a bug in Google's automated system so filed for a reconsideration request. I was sure once a human reviews my sites they will get back. To my amazement, after 1 week (it takes 1-2 weeks to get a response for a reconsideration request) i get the standard response that my sites are not in compliance with Google's guidelines. I was shocked. Checked and rechecked everything. Everything was just fine. I don't even have spammy links. No XRumer, no ScrapeBox, no nothing. All are natural links created by people who found my sites a good resource. I haven't done any SEO on these sites for the past 3 years or more. There are tens of splogs, autoblogs, thin afiliate sites, microniche sites that linked to me as an authority to avoid footprints (they linked to the other big sites as well). Anyway, since the reconsideration request failed, the only idea I had was to remove my sitewide footer links (though my competitors have footer links too). I was crosslinking from footer several of my sites and linking to some of my link partners. Weird thing was that some of my sites I had interlinked from the footer weren't penalized (these were low traffic sites that weren't ranking well or bringing money). From the 3 sites penalized, 2 were ranking great and one wasn't because I didn't worked much on it to get it rank. So, I file a reconsideration request again, after I remove all those footer links, all my "links/resources" pages. After one week, I get the same reply that my sites are against Google's guidelines. So there is no way you would think the sites are somehow doing anything dark. They are good, useful sites. As a matter of fact huge sites like cNet were ranking below me and copied ideas from my sites. They even left comments on my sites saying stuff like "the guide on cNet is much better" They rewrote their buying guides like 4 times because at first they sucked and mine were very good and in-depth. The idea is, they were ranking below me for a bunch of keywords. So I got this crazy idea. What if my sites got hit exactly because I was ranking above some big player? I mean there is no way to prove this but it is a plausible explanation. I mean cNet is making millions of dollars monthly and my site was making just a few thousand dollars. But this is exactly my point. They buy adwords worth of millions each month. Maybe I was a nuisance so they just called their guy at Google/adwords and said "hey this little site pisses us off, can you do something about it?". Yeah it is kinda like a conspiracy theory, but it is actually the one that makes sense most. While now I rank somewhere around #50-70 for every single keyword, and there are lots of crappy thin affiliate sites, microniche sites, splogs, autoblogs, etc. ranking above me, no such site ranks #1-5. Now, #1-5 is ruled by 2 big sites (1 is cNet), generally with double listing. I would just get over it and start new domains and develop new sites but I am pissed by the thought that after 1 year of work, they will end up penalized as well. So to those who say to play by the rules, be white hat as Snow White and all that Matt Cutts bullshit, I tell you GET REAL! I had great sites with great content and I played by the rules, but I still got hit. I really think if a site big enough wants you down, Google will get you down. I hope I will come back and edit the post and say I was naive to think Google isn't honest. I hope I file a reconsideration request and it gets accepted. Realistically, I don't believe that will happen though. Lessons learned: Do not use a Gmail account. If your PayPal email is @gmail.com or you use a Gmail email for your host, registrar, etc. they know every domain and host you have and what you buy and everything. Do not use Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools or any Google product or service. Do not keep sites on same host/IP. As a matter of fact make your sites so they don't seem related in any way besides all being on 1st page in Google. Don't just use a SEO Host company, they leave footprints too. If you want to build networks of sites just buy shared hosting from a bunch of places. It is a lot more expensive than the cheap $1/mo seo hosts but it is untrackable. Plus, if your seo host company goes belly up you end up with 300 sites down at the same time. What bigger footprint than that can you leave?! Btw, I hevn't really used blog/site networks to grow these sites of mine that got penalized. As I said, those were 100% white hat and had natural growth. Do not use AdSense. Yeah it is great to cover expenses on low traffic sites but it is like putting all your eggs in one basket and tying the basket on a scared donkey's leg. Don't expect to last forever. If most of your traffic comes from Google, either find a way to get more than 80% traffic from other sources, or sell your sites as soon as you can prove they are profitable. If I would have sold my sites I would have got $20-40k for them (1-2 years proffit). That's potential money. It is not real unfortunately because I haven't sold them. I would have never even dreamed I would get hit with such great whitehat sites. Always diversify your traffic sources. Forums about your niche, youtube, facebook, twitter, StumbleUpon and social sites, anything that you can. Get into a niche where it pays to pay for traffic. If you pay for traffic (e.g. AdWords) and you don't make a profit still, that niche, the affiliate program you use or both the niche and affiliate program are not good enough. Don't hang on to a niche or an affiliate program because you're used to it. I was using AdSense (20%) + Amazon (80%) and both suck. If I would use PPC to buy traffic, I wouldn't make a profit because Amazon commissions are crap. Compare Amazon where you get 4% of what the user pays to porn sites where user pays $20 and you make $100. Realize that no matter how shitty the situation looks, it is an opportunity. You may refuse to see the opportunity but it is there. Take that opportunity and act on the fact you have nothing left. When you have nothing left (or to loose) in an area, you have no ties. You are free! Free to do something better. Don't play by the rules. Playing by the rules => you're the first to die.