This sounds like our weekly “I’ve been penalized by Google” thread that turns out to be a misunderstanding of how Google ranks pages.
You probably have not been penalized. Most of these threads end with the realization that you simply haven’t earned those rankings yet.
I know, I know.. next, you will say “but my page was ranked at position X and then it suddenly dropped”. Then we will say that it was just QDF (Query Deserves Freshness) that temporarily boosted your page’s rankings and after the temporary boost wore off your page has now sunk to it’s truly earned rankings.
You may ask “What if I have held those rankings for the past X number of years?” In that case, it’s probably not QDF, so let us know if that’s the case!
Google doesn’t penalize on a keyword by keyword basis. They only penalize you if you violate their Webmaster Guidelines, and the penalty is the complete removal from their index. You don’t drop rankings for one particular keyword, you disappear completely from any and all search queries.
So how do you tell if you have really been penalized by Google? It’s easy, just do a search using the “site:” operator followed by your domain name. If any results are returned then your website has not been penalized.
This is where these threads usually end, with the recommendation that you go out and earn those rankings by using solid promotional techniques.
This happens so frequently on this forum I think we should create a new term for it: The QDF Mind Trick. Like the Jedi mind trick from the movie Star Wars (“Theses aren’t the droids you’re looking for”) These aren’t the rankings, you’ve earned. You can go about your business. Move along!