dickbaker - 7:35 pm on May 15, 2011 (gmt 0)
And that's a sharp observation too. It's looking more & more to me that Panda/Google decides what each site is about; determines where in a ranking hierarchy that site belongs (vis-a-vis other contenders in the same niche); then in a complicated query match-to-SERP analysis, assigns the position, with only slight variation up or down. Those variations are impacted by local availability vs online only; surfing history profile; what Google "thinks" we want (as opposed to what we request), etc.
I think that's a very valid idea. Is it all of it? Who knows?
Example. The original (and unique) purpose of my site was and is to give visitors a way to search for widget stores by brands of widgets they sell, as well as other factors. The visitors then get full-page ads for the widget stores.
I've lost my rankings for "Acme widgets", as there's thin content, or maybe some other factor. Maybe Google doesn't think my pages are authorities on Acme widgets.
However, if I do a search for "Acme dealers", I find myself in the #5-#7 spot for several brands. Those brands are the ones I ranked best for pre-Panda when searching for "Acme widgets".
So, Google seems to still be regarding my site as something of an authority on the dealers that sell certain brands of widgets, and to degrees of authority that vary by some other factors. However, Google isn't regarding my site as an authority on the widgets themselves, at least not yet. Or maybe never.
I'm frustrated in these searches for Acme dealers to find a site that's been trying to copy me outranking me at times. In terms of focus, the site is more far less focused than mine. It's a hodge-podge of forums, dealer directory, classifieds, and other things. It's 2500 pages, though, so it's big enough to have been Pandalized. So why wasn't it? By every measure I've seen mentioned so far, it should have been.