Up unitl April 2012 I had one of the best ranked websites in my niche. I thought that I had done everything the "white hat". I personally wrote over 100 high quality articles and created an article directory on my website for those articles.
I also disseminated modified versions of those articles on popular article directory websites.
And I added a separate article directory on my website for articles in my niche and related niches written by others. This article directory does have banner ads for my own products, but that's it.
I didn't pay for any links, and I didn't sell any links.
I've never received an unnatural linking email from Google or any other search engine.
Right now I have less than 1/3rd the traffic that I had in 2012.
I understand that the articles published in the free article directories may be hurting my ranking at this point, and other than spending a few hundred hours to delete those articles I don't think that there is anything that I can do about it. And in addition, I'm not sure that deleting those articles will make any difference.
My Question: I would like to know other's opinions as to whether removing the article directory (which contains other people's articles and my own banner ads) would be a positive move. Only 1.1% of the traffic that hits this directory flows through to my sales pages.
Any other solid advice would also be appreciated.