Too Rich? Too Thin?
There’s a saying… you can’t be too rich or too thin. Well, when it comes to content it can be too thin, according to Google quality guidelines. So what is considered thin content?
How Many Words Is Considered “Thin?”
My answer is going to probably annoy you. A page’s content should be as long as it needs to fully answer a question.
If it’s a fairly simplistic question, then a relatively short page is sufficient. You don’t need to write War & Peace on your location pages, for instance. For more complex answers, you may find that 1,500 words isn’t enough. It really depends upon your subject matter and your audience.
Here is what Google says in their Design & Content guidelines:
- Your site should have a clear hierarchy (organize content so that it relates to each other) and every page should be reachable from at least one static text link.
- Provide useful information
- Write content that’s clear and accurate about what you do or offer
- Include a reasonable number of links (don’t riddle your content full of internal and external links)
- Use search phrases human users would actually use to find you
Thin Means Little or No Added Value
In this Google Webmasters video, Matt Cutts goes into more detail.
When It Gets Dangerous (or Unhelpful)
Having a few pages with a little content is fine. Having an entire site full of pages that contain 125 words on each is playing with fire, in my opinion. Why do I say that?
- Google’s search algorithm is designed to help human searchers find answers. Search bots need to figure out what you’re website is about in order to properly index it. That’s how your content finds its way onto the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
- There are several indicators that Google favors websites with robust content. For example, the Hummingbird release from 2013 boosted visibility of content that specifically answered questions. There’s an In Depth Article section now on the SERP. See the trend?
- There are two ways Google can punish your site for having thin content. The first is by filtering or dampening your visibility in search via Panda – part of the algorithm targeting content. The second is called a manual action. This is a very serious penalty and can move your site from page one to page 50+. I call this Google Jail; it takes time, money and a lot of effort to bail your website out.
Lengthy Doesn’t Mean Boring Your Reader
Writing pages and posts with meatier content doesn’t mean boring. Writing for the web means using the medium to its best advantage.
Similar to journalism, the top part of the page can summarize what your human visitor will receive if they stick around to read your content. Users tend to scan. That’s why headlines, subheads, bullets and images can organize your information so it’s visually compelling.
When you grab a reader’s attention (letting them know what goodies are included), they will stick around to read the answer to their question. And yes… they will scroll.
Your Content Is Thin When…
- It doesn’t help your audience. Content should educate your human visitors so they better understand something (ahem… answer their question).
- It doesn’t show your brand’s value. Simply recapping (or stealing) someone else’s work doesn’t add value. Having a point of view, synthesizing the information in a new way, and sharing original ideas adds value.
- It’s duplicated on several pages. Reiterating the same thing and/or using the same words across several pages adds no value. If you have an affiliate site, pay particular attention to duplicate content issues.
What do you consider to be thin content?
How can we help?
Launching a website and need help with content hierarchy? Or, are you tweaking your pages and posts to answer search questions?
We are the spectrum group online, and we offer strategic and tactical consulting so you can monetize your online presence. Call us for a complimentary 30-minute consultation to discuss your website’s user experience and translate that into sales.