tedster - 6:49 pm on Nov 18, 2011 (gmt 0)
Thanks for the research and the report - I'll bet it was a strange trip!
If I were to summarize how I now understand Panda's target, it is aiming to demote pages/sites that are primarily built to rank rather than primarily built to serve their public. These are pages that avoid being spam but they really don't deliver quality either. They are often the sort of "bare minimum" site that has a lot of search engine savvy but in the end leave you saying "where's the beef?"
So there were only four full recoverys in the bunch so far [out of 31], but that beats none.
That feels about right to me. The biggest obstacle most Pandalized sites face is the assumption that they were "wrongly" demoted. Once they accept the fact that this new algorithm component doesn't like their site, they get serious about understanding it at only then do they stand a chance of recovering their traffic. And that only happens if they change their understanding of what a website needs to be.
Of the sites that I know recovered, there are several different patterns for the fix:
1. Some sites did a very thorough inventory and removed a lot of marginal content. Often these sites also beefed up their quality pages.
2. Some larger dynamic sites used noindex for a pile of stub pages.
3. Some recovered sites fixed serious technical issues - such as major canonical snafus that caused ten times the number of URLs to be indexed as there were actual pages.
4. In one case a major DMCA campaign to remove scraped versions of their content seemed to do the job.
So far I have not run into anyone who recovered by changing their template/layout but nothing else. With all the talk about ads and "above the fold" content this seemed surprising at first. But thinking a bit more about it, even with the layout change the content probably started out shallow in the first place.
For years I've heard Adsense players talking about making their pages "slippery" rather than "sticky". That sounds like a recipe for shallow content to me, no matter how you structure the top of the page visually.