potentialgeek - 9:11 am on Jan 1, 2012 (gmt 0)
> I then reword them, and I mean I rewrote every sentence so that they say the same thing with different words and different expressions, and "poof", the traffic doubles the moment Google respiders them.
How on earth do you still get ranking for words and phrases that no longer exist on your revised page?
I'm inclined to believe a full Panda recovery is a myth. I believe a site can recover, but the recovery requires changes, including noindexing/deleting pages and/or editing kept pages. The killed pages no longer get ranking for anything, obviously, and the edited pages get ranking only for words/phrases in them (with the exception of words/phrases in backlink anchor text). Only pages that were not edited get a full recovery, not an entire site. But even those pages still have to compete with the authority sites ("brands"), and its revised algo, which gives them more ranking power than pre-Panda.
I suspect you only get full ranking back for a page (i.e. every single word, phrase, and long-tail) if you start developing it, not editing it, i.e., leave what you had, and simply add new content below it that takes you over the minimum threshold for shallow/thin content and high enough user value (pictures, videos, links to other sites).
I get the impression since Panda the new approach to web design is doing it right the first time. I used to build pages on the fly. Do a little, upload. Revise, edit, build, etc. Now I do everything from top to bottom and side to side before uploading. The more solid it is the first time Google sees it, the greater the chances Google recognizes it is a quality page. Also, the more editing you do to a page, the more difficult it becomes for Google to recognize you as the original author, instead of a content thief. Make your pages fully ready before they go live: that's my advice for 2012. Plan ahead, take your time, and build them so you never have to touch them again. Measure twice. Cut once.
I believe Google treats most page changes as suspicious. (It's usually an attempt at optimization.) If the changes are many, Google will assume you didn't take the time to do the job right the first time . . . or put you to the back of the line behind people who already wrote pretty much the same thing . . . like a new page.