Our site was hit by the Panda on April 11. Shortly after, we removed (or at least attempted to remove) some thin content from our site by 301 redirecting all of this content to higher level pages. Will this have the same effect as using a 404 and/or using robots "noindex"?
After reading this thread, I am not sure if I should rethink our strategy: [google.com...]
I would use 404s except where you had external inbound links to specific pages on your site and you want to preserve that external inbound linking credit. It doesn't sound like your thin content would have attracted natural inbounds.
I'd remove the 301s and let your server return 404s. As JohnMu explains, that is generally what's expected and won't affect the crawling of the rest of the site.
I've used 410. For me, 301 wasn't even an option because of the way I selected pages for removal. If they had negligible search/entry traffic, negligible navigational traffic, AND had no inbound links, then I considered removing them (and only a handful of pages in total). I don't think you should go overboard. Do it methodically. If a page has any inbound links, especially unsolicited inbounds, I would keep it. Don't assume it's a useless/thin page just because it looks light on content or has ads. Someone out there found it valuable if they linked to it, so just keep it. With all of that in mind, I used 410 and my traffic has been rebounding gradually. I don't think a 301 would be necessary or even helpful in the case of Panda. They want the page(s) improved or removed. I think by removing useless pages that have no IBLs, you are improving your IBL distribution to the remainder of the site.