SocietyRoyalle - 11:11 pm on Oct 1, 2011 (gmt 0)
We do have ads above the fold and they do push some of the content down. We have up to 7 advertisements on a page including one each of 728x90 and 300x250 and up to four small non stanard 120x40 units, and one Adsense link unit - all except for the Adsense link unit are served using DFP (so Google knows we have all these ads). We don't believe advertising played much of a role in why we were Pandalized. But we did make the effort to bring as much content as possible above the fold. About the only other notable thing with our advertising is that most of it is sold in house - only a very small % of our inventory goes to Adsense.
We believe our recovery was primarily due to the removal of over 300K pages with very thin user generated content - sometimes as little as one sentence. Where possible we merged multiple pages into a single page and 301 redirected the removed URLs.
Prior to the latest Panda update Google had detected over 80% of the changes in our URL structure.
Our traffic had been growing slowing over the last 2 months, but this had nothing to do with Panda, but rather our social media and brand marketing efforts which saw us gaining traffic from non-search sources. Tip: writing high quality controversial articles is a good way to get Social Mentions, forum links etc.
In our long tail Google traffic the average time on page went up after the changes, but so did the bounce rate. In other words once we restructured our content the visitors were more polarized into ones who found our content engaging and those who immediately hit the back button.
Our major SERPs returned instantly with the latest Panda run - it was instant the moment the penalty was lifted.
Our belief is that the massive increase in our content to URL ratio was the primary cause for removing the Panda penalty.
We haven't stopped improving our site - we are going to remove and restructure at least another 30,000 URLs. We are going to continue our high quality unique content production. By unique I don't simply mean writing about the same things as our competitors with slightly different words, I mean writing about topics our competitors haven't even written or thought about. Being a news site in a niche area we will sometimes have to cover the big news items everyone is writing about - so when we do that we try to find a unique angle on the story where possible and try to source original content by doing some basic journalism and contacting the sources for comment.
We will continue to build our brand via social marketing, and perhaps even some advertising.
All of this is labor intensive - there's no easy way to generate quality.