You have also mentioned Quuu for article sharing and driving traffic. I have been using Quuu for quite sometime now and I don’t think they’re worth it. While the content does get shared a lot, there are hardly any clicks to the site. Even the clicks that are there, average time is like 0.02 seconds compared to more than 2 minutes for other sources of traffic on my website. I have heard a few guys having a similar experience with Quuu and so, I thought should let you know.
Guest blogging purely for inbound links is a flawed strategy because the value of those links are going down. However, guest blogging for traffic is still an incredibly viable strategy. While that inbound link you get at the end of a guest post doesn’t have as much SEO value as it used to, it still has the value of exposing your content to a new audience.
Now in your reconsideration request make sure you are honest and tell Google everything that the prior agency was up too. Be sure to include all Excel information of removed links and say you are going to make an ongoing effort to remove everything negative. It is common knowledge that Google may not accept your first reconsideration request, so it may take a few times.
Google claims their users click (organic) search results more often than ads, essentially rebutting the research cited above. A 2012 Google study found that 81% of ad impressions and 66% of ad clicks happen when there is no associated organic search result on the first page. Research has shown that searchers may have a bias against ads, unless the ads are relevant to the searcher's need or intent 
Google is still the most popular website on the internet. Google is mostly recognized as a search engine and their main goal is to provide the best quality web search experience for its users. That's why Google algorithm has a list of requirements and rules for ranking search results. They want to provide the most accurate and quality answers to every specific requests by its users. You already understand that competition on the internet is huge. SEO is still one of the top ways of driving natural traffic to websites but it became hard as hell to get your page to the the leading positions in search results for your focus keywords. And the harsh truth - 90% of all the attention goes to first two pages of results, and 70% of that 90% stays only on first page. So SEO is a long term strategy and you should focus on creating valuable content for your visitors because it is the key factor for SEO and content marketing is the base of most of other organic traffic strategies.
Hi Matt, realizing now how difficult it is to run a blog, trying to promote it and carry on with your daily activities. I would say it's a full time job. Once you thing you done learning about something, something else is coming :). My blog is about preparing for an ironman so I need to add the training on top of it. Thanks a lot for sharing this article with us so we can keep focus!!!